Written by Gary J. Arzt

Wednesday, 01 April 2009

User Rating: / 1

industry updates

Paul Hernandez, co-owner of Aromas of Havana in North Miami, FL; independent sales rep for Tatuaje, Fonseca, Casa Magna, Illusione, G.A.R. as well as Xikar and Lotus, passed away, at age 37, on 12 March.


Too young to be doing so, he’s undoubtedly sitting and smoking with our Lord and regaling Him with some great stories.


Descansa en paz, mi amigo.


I won’t lie to you,” accompanied by a flick of his hand from his chest – in the general area of his heart, affirms my ‘nephew’ Alejandro Alcorta, as he tries to hand me one of his ‘house blend’ cigars in lieu of the 601 Habano Oscuro La Punta I requested.


The avowal about not lying had nothing to do with what I wanted to smoke. It was in response to my query about how he, open two years this June, has been able to create such a popular, welcoming, successful establishment – while other emporiums of similar age are fairly ordinary.


Alejandro affirmed it was his personality! I confess, after taking a few swipes at the back of his head, I had to concur.


The place is a clubhouse; fraternity house and comfortable refuge from the tumult of daily life. Of course, it has its own ‘tumult’, but they’re not always there.


The conversation led me to think of other tobacconists that are quintessential establishments.


George Valdez owner, with his partner Aquiles Legra, of four (4) Sabor Havana ( shops in South Florida…is a bluff, hard nosed guy with a real heart of gold that everyone respects and enjoys.


George and Aquiles have built a small ‘empire’ through hard work and a very intelligent approach to selling cigars. They know how to ‘schmooze’ with their customers; and they know how to stock what the customers want, or have the customers want what they stock! Either way, everyone is happy.


I got to know George long after hearing the occasional negative comment about him. Now I know, those comments came from people who either didn’t know him or had an axe to grind. I find it very enjoyable to sit with and smoke a cigar with him; and talk about the industry, particular cigars or even, perish the thought, politics.


All four Sabor Havana shops are attractive; well stocked and provide amenities that we have come to expect in a tobacconist/cigar lounge. And, he manages to employ (in the most difficult labour market in which to find reliable, quality employees) a terrific bunch of young guys.


George and Aquiles know how to instill the concept of customer service in their staff. They are all amiable, attentive and knowledgeable. Knowledgeable from the git go; which means they have received training that goes beyond operating a POS.


It’s always a pleasure to stop at Sabor Havana. I tend to visit Doral, FL and Coral Gables, FL locations…both of them being on my turf.

Michael Herklots of Davidoff of Geneva, NYC had several of his customers at Pro Cigar Festival 09, staying at the very laid-back, comfortable Camp David on the outskirts of Santiago, D.R.


0 # President of Tobacconist UniversityJorge Armenteros 2009-04-02 02:59
Gary - nice piece! You appreciation and support for retail tobacconists is unparalleled! kudos...

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0 # Bravo Gary. Encore! Escribe Perfectamente. David Pacela 2009-04-02 10:26
Dear Writer, A pleasure to read your article for puff - life style. One more with the style,grace, and expertise of a man more than worthy of the renaissance so surely lacking in the intellect of our Miami climes.Bravo again. You do your friends credit and your readers a great service. How satisfying to recognise your talent. Even for one less educated in the subjects you delight in. The cigar may be your font but the pen is your foil. Salude mi amico. Sincerely your brethren,David: -)

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