Gerardo Lopez says his English isn’t at the level he’d like it to be just yet, but he’s mastered one expression he shares with his cigar-puffing customers.
“A good smoker makes the best lover,” he says. “If they can take two hours to enjoy a Habano cigar, just imagine what they’re like with someone they love.”
Lopez and his father, Carlos Padrón, sell their hand-rolled cigars at their Tampa shop, El Guajiro Cigars. ("Guajiro" is Spanish for "someone who works the land.") But due to Covid-19 safety measures and closures, they took the family business outside the brick-and-mortar location and recently joined the downtown Sarasota Farmers Market.
Ranging from 50 cents to $7 apiece, each cigar is hand-rolled with what Lopez calls a “special Cuban technique” and tobacco leaves harvested in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The father and son produce roughly 60 different types of cigars, including traditional and flavored varieties. Bestsellers include the traditional Cuban rolls and one flavored with bourbon, according to Lopez.
Outside the market and the shop, the two are also busy offering cigar services for special occasions, like weddings, where they set up a rolling table and craft cigars on the spot.
At 22, Lopez still takes about an hour to roll one. His dad, 64, squares one away in about five minutes. Padrón operated a cigar business in Cuba and has been perfecting his touch for 35 years. Lopez started just two years ago, when he moved from Cuba to join Padrón in Tampa, but he knows all about how a cigar should smoke.
“In Cuba, you don't have limits for smoking, so I started at 16," says Lopez. "When I came, I wanted to be a part of it because it's more than a business. It’s a tradition."