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Written by Puff Staff

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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sabor havana
Rob Shibata finds cigar store paradise when checking out Jorge “Big George” Valdes Sabor Havana Cigar Store in Doral, Florida.

Sabor Havana Doral - Store Front

Miami is a city known to cigar enthusiasts. Many cigar companies are based in Miami and most of the Dominican, Honduran and Nicaraguan cigars we smoke are distributed through the port of Miami. There are even a few brands still made in Miami’s Little Havana. The cigar industry is alive and well in Miami, including retailing.

I recently visited one of the fastest growing cigar retailers in the Miami area, Sabor Havana. Sabor Havana has grown from their original store in Kendall to four stores in Palm Beach Gardens, Doral, and their newest location in upscale Coral Gables (formerly Bill’s Pipe and Cigars). Company owner George Valdes is on a roll.

The Doral store is located near the Doral Country Club and Miami Int’l Airport at 2600 N.W. 87th St. #3, just a block off 25th Ave, 2 blocks from the Palmetto Freeway.

At first glance Sabor Havana may look like any other cigar store. The Doral store is about 2,000 square feet with tiled floor, high ceiling, and a mezzanine that overlooks the store. The mezzanine appears to be used for back office work since the entire floor of the store is used for cigars and cigar accessories. The back of the store, under the mezzanine, has a cigar lounge and wine store. I find out that the store is not allowed to serve liquor, but they seem to be doing a brisk business selling wine by the bottle.

I meet the manager, George Garcia or “Little George” as he is known. “That’s to avoid confusion between me and the boss, George Valdes.” States Little George.

The side walls are solid with shelves of cigars with the register and accessories in the center of the store. There are always two or three patrons in the store during the time I was there. All the major brands are represented in the store including higher end lines such as the Padron Anniversario, Ashton VSG, and Fuente Opus X. Little George told me there was no limit for the “scarce stuff”. “If we know someone wants something, we can always set it aside and give them a call” says little George.

Sabor Havana Doral - Inside Store

I have been in many cigar stores, but there is something different about this store. What is it? Then it strikes me, there are no humidor wall units common in other cigar stores. As I make a comment to Little George about the lack of humidors, he replies with a smile. “Hey, this is Miami man; we’ve got almost perfect humidity all year round. We just need to control the temperature. If the humidity gets low, we just open the door.” The whole store is a walk in humidor.

Cigar retailers in other parts of the country would be jealous. First there is no physical barrier between the customers and the cigars. Although a glass door does not seem like much of a barrier, retail research has shown that glass doors are a big barrier. That is why supermarkets have their refrigerated cases open. They could save a lot of money by enclosing the refrigerated retail shelving used for produce and dairy products. However, market research shows the negative impact on the buying public. Sabor Havana is able to enjoy the same consumer efficiency that supermarkets use.

I’m surprised to see that the pricing for all the cigars, including “the scarce stuff” is suggested retail. Many retailers use suggested retail (plus local taxes) for the everyday cigars and increase the prices dramatically for the “scarce stuff”. I watched as cigar enthusiasts of all experience levels are able to happily enjoy Padron Anniversarios and still afford to take a few cigars home.

As evening falls, the number of customers entering the store increases. Many customers know each other by name and talk as they walk along the shelves of cigars, pointing out new cigars as they go. Other regular customers go up to “new” customers who seem to be by themselves and try to be helpful. Several Sabor Havana customers asked me if I need suggestions for a cigar or help finding one. More people arrive and soon the store is filling up with the familiar odor of cigar smoke. Happily, I did not detect the worst odor that some cigar stores have, cigar snobbery.

Soon there are maybe 30 people spread out across the store smoking, talking, laughing, and generally enjoying themselves. It is a spontaneous herf. Suddenly a stack of 8 or 10 pizza boxes appear and customers start serving each other. As the night wears on, ashtrays are filled and emptied repeatedly. Many of the customers are having their own cigar tasting alone or in small groups. Many of the brands sampled eventually end up at the register to go home with customers. Most people I observed were buying about 6 or 8 cigars. Customers thanked the staff and one another or their helpfulness as they left.

Smoking Lounge

“Is it like this every night?” I asked owner George Valdes who arrived just as things picked up. “We’re pretty steady on most nights, but today is Thursday so we’re pretty busy” I asked what is so special about Thursday nights. “Oh, the cigar club guys all come in on Thursday nights.” he said with a smile. “They have all gotten to know each other and they’re all really excited about cigars and kind of create their own cigar functions spontaneously. We just provide a place for them to get together with other cigar smokers.”

I told Big George that I applauded his reasonable pricing for hard to get cigars. “Hey, we’re here to sell cigars, not collect them.” He said with a laugh. “We sell a lot of cigars here which gives us better buying power. That’s how we keep our prices competitive.”

As the evening wound down, the regulars helped the staff empty ashtrays and collect the garbage. Everyone appears to go home happy. If you have a chance, visit one of the Sabor Havana retail stores in south Florida. They have a great selection, fair prices, and a knowledgeable, pleasant staff. If you want to become part of the cigar smoking community for a night, visit the Doral store on a Thursday night.

Congratulations to George Valdes and his partners at Sabor Havana. They have successfully created a store that gives the cigar smoking public a pleasant experience and fair prices for cigars and accessories alike. Visit them to see for yourself. We wish them continued success.

Rob Shibata for Top25Cigar.com

Sabor Havana Store Locations  -  www.saborhavanacigars.com

Sabor Havana - Doral 2600 N.W. 87th Ave #3 Miami, FL 33173 Store 305 436-8860 Fax 305 436-8863 www.saborhavanacigars.com

Sabor Havana – Kendall 10101 S.W. 72nd St. Miami, FL 33173 Store 305 412-0720 Fax 305 270-6402

Sabor Havana - Palm Beach Gardens 4530 PGA Blvd #109 Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 Store 561 626-6700 Fax 561 626-2730

Sabor Havana – Coral Gables 2309 Ponce de Leon Blvd Coral Gables, FL 33134 Store 305 444-1764 Fax 305 442-1665




Comments 

 
0 # MrsMariH 2012-12-13 11:40
:-) " Inviting , Peacefull and Inviting Place "
Congratulations ,
Mr. J.L. Valdes

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