We had the good fortune of connecting with Rafa and Heather Ramirez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rafa and Heather, what are you most proud of in terms of your business?
We are most proud of the fact that we have built our Havana Cigars Brand and Reputation from the ground up, without corporate monies. We are the only Afro Latino, Authentic Cuban Family, Mom and Pops owned cigar shop. We carry the closest thing to a real Cuban Cigar; mainly Cuban families that took the seeds to Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, San Andres, Costa Rica or Honduras, then cultivate and roll tobacco through generations of Cuban Tradition. We are still friends and Partners, even after the shop closes. The coffee that we make started as a labor of love from my Husband Rafa for me. It was so good, I suggested that we should sell it! We love our customers like family and treat everyone the same, no matter what walk of life. Come as you are; “Mi Casa es Tu Casa”; My home is your home. When you come to our place, we want you to feel welcome but we also are not star struck, as we are all stars in our own right and everyone can learn something from anyone else. We take pride in the fact that we know the families that are creating our product. We also work with smaller companies, boutique brands, which allows them to prosper as well and gain popularity from our Marketing. We are proud because the Atlanta Metro area has even more cigar lounges than Miami and we are still thriving. We won 2019 “Best Of Atlanta” in the Creative Loafing Magazine, (Readers Pick) which says so much about the love we have and receive .This is not just about Cigars and Coffee, it is about educating our clientele and sharing our Culture.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When my husband and I met in 2005 in Cuba, we never knew we would be in the Cigar industry. He played professional Handball and I was in Property Management and Real Estate. Once he arrived, he worked his way up from cleaning grounds, to a punch out technician, to maintenance Tech, all the way to Maintenance Engineer and Director and even started his own turnkey company. He was very driven and hard working. He believed that everyone working together can get farther in a shorter time frame, than working alone. He was always a team player and working manager. As was I. It was a perfect combination. We do not have children, but I like to say that we give birth to businesses. I have been in property management and real estate since 1997 in Atlanta. I have been a trainer of real estate software for more than twenty years, self taught. I enjoy helping people and solving problems. I have been coined the “ledger queen”. In property management, you are managing multi million dollar investments for other people. They give you a budget and a template of how they want things done. They pay you to perform in the role that they hire you for. I have always enjoyed sales, so speaking and connecting with people is natural to me. This has helped with gaining new friends at our establishment. It also helps me to make sure the paperwork is correct! I have recently been elected as a board member of the Old Fourth Ward Business Association, on the Safety and Public Experience committee.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Of course, you start with a fabulous cup of Cuban Coffee at Havana Cigars, then walk to the Martin Luther King historical sight, Further down Auburn,Ave, you can find Madame CJ Walkers museum, WERD Radio- the first black owned radio station in Atlanta, the Apex Museum and Auburn Ave Research Library always have great events. On the opposite end of Auburn Ave, you can find the Beltline. You can also hop on the trolley to visit Centennial Olympic Park, the Aquarium and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The High Museum, and Rialto Theatre are also nice, Stone Mountain is great to climb, but sadly, no dogs allowed. In terms of food, we also shop small: Poor Calvins- anything on their menu is great, but especially the Lobster fried rice and suspension cake! Lotta Fruita for smoothies. Rias Bluebird for the Pancakes. Petit Chou- Breakfast Bowls. Spice House is really good Haitian / Caribbean. Wadada’s in the West end has the best vegan food/ ice cream and small biz vendors, plus a DJ while you shop.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband grew up with Edel Gomez, Grandchild of Pedro Gomez, one of the first Cigar Aficionados from Cuba. Edel really pushed us to open a shop and bring Cuban Seed cigars to Atlanta. My mother worked two jobs for most of my life and she showed me that anything I wanted I could accomplish with hard work and integrity. My Great grandfather owned one of the first black owned gas stations with a mechanic, paint and body shop in Detroit and hired all of his brothers, so I had an entrepreneurial spirit within. We are also competitive. We were offered an opportunity in 2014 to partner with a now defunct cigar bar and after a year of waiting to see our investment come to fruition to no avail, we realized that we could just do it on our own and show them better than we could tell them. It was tough, as we did not know really what we were doing. But one thing that drove us is the fact that we knew it should not take a year to open a shop, especially with so many investors and their monies to boot. Somehow, with miracles and Gods grace, we got all the paperwork done within 30 days, just to prove to them it could be done. As a result, we not only opened before them, but in the year that we were crowned Best in Atlanta, they were forced to shut down. We never wished bad on them ,but it was not easy to compete with folks that we previously invested with. So, we have to attribute this challenge as one of the catalysts to Havana Cigars success.