In this edition of Calle Ocho News, we would like to highlight another “Calle Ocho” icon that visitors come to meet daily. Because he is a staple of the neighborhood, we chose Don Pedro Bello of Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co. as the next character for our Women and men of Little Havana series that began in January 2019 and is meant to document the people that make up Little Havana so that we may honor them now and for years to come.
Who is he?
"Don Pedro", as most refer to him is like a Godfather in Little Havana. Don Bello as others like to call him is a patriarch and a paternal figure to many different generations of this neighborhood. Aside from his notoriety among local and foreign cigar aficionados that come from as far as Dubai and Hong Kong he is an “Abuelo” to most residents.
The Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co. since 1896 is known as the oldest “Family Legacy” Cuban Cigar Factory in Little Havana. From Italy to Cuba to Calle Ocho, their brands have all been carefully crafted. The company is naturally filled with history including stories of struggles as well as those of success throughout their lifetime.
My meeting with the family
I was fortunate enough to meet with 3 generations of the Bello family. Angelo who is youngest of 5 of the Bello generations, his father Pedro “Peter” Bello and Don Pedro. We chatted as we sat at the domino table that you can always find by the front entrance of the store. He and Don Pedro greet visitors there daily while they pour into the store from all over the world.
I wanted to know how they saw themselves as well as if they had to choose one word that could describe their family business which word would it be for each of them? This word needed to represent the brands past, present and future from their perspective.
Not surprisingly, I heard “Traditional”, as Peter exclaimed immediately without a doubt in his mind.
To Angelo who handles the company’s marketing, in addition to his duties as General Manager. I asked…
“Angelo please describe yourselves as the 5th generation of a family and being the future legacy, in one word".
“The Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co. Is a landmark in Little Havana. The Bello family still uses century old techniques in our way of producing cigars. Keeping our traditions alive and passing them on one generation to the next is our legacy. This traditional mindset is what makes up the neighborhood of Little Havana as well as our core values. We have been established in Little Havana long before it became the urban "hot spot" it is today. Little Havana is changing, and for the better. New modern buildings and artists murals are just part of the reason that there is more tourist traffic. Little Havana has become very modern compared to how it used to be, and it has a lot more attractions. The Bello Cigar Family keeps things old fashioned, and when you walk into the shop you feel like you went back in time to The Old Havana where everything was very traditional and classical. This theme catches the attention of the many visitors who travel to Little Havana every year! To see something so “traditional” (like his Father) and “Artesian”, being his one word is truly priceless. Artesian because I feel that there is nothing more exquisite than the art of cigar rolling by a master cigar roller…. To me it is something truly amazing”.
Don Pedro, my grandfather, is currently 88 years old and is the one responsible for us growing our own tobacco. Particularly his role was paramount to us having our own processes and our own brands. We also produce custom blended cigars for local and global aficionados. Making cigars is our family’s way of life, and it has been, for more than a century. We are the only cigar factory here that has the tools to prove it, on display too!”
If you ask Don Pedro to describe the brand in one word, his response is, “Viejo”, which means “old”. Like others who spend time around him regularly, we understand how lucky we are to see him greeting people with a free bright smile. You can usually find him with a marker in hand ready to autograph products for his visitors and of course, smoking his own favorite cigar every day except Sundays as the local celebrity he has been for years.
In 1998, my father won the Crystal Leaf Award, which is the "Oscar” award of the cigar industry. Our family has been working together at this location on Calle Ocho for around 20 years and moving forward we have no intention of being anywhere else”. Angelo said.
The future and our process
Moving ahead, we are in the process of expanding and remodeling the boutique factory in order to improve the daily visitor experience in our shop. We want them to really get to know what makes our brands distinguished. We sell 5-year-old vintage cigars, because after 7 years cigars lose their aroma. We have a TP License, which is a tobacco product license that is required by the FDA. We don’t sell our cigars straight from the hand-rolling tables of Ariocha and Dalia, we age our cigars 90 days, at least, unlike other brands. Our master rollers have over 20 years of experience, work 7 days a week, and we consider them family.
Expect to see some great evening activities hosted at Little Havana’s original Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co. in 2019! The Bello family will soon be offering extended evening hours until 10 P.M. during Miami’s high season as the tourism industry continues to set records with the Port of Miami expanding.
For more information about the Bello Family you can visit them in person at their store on Calle Ocho located at 1528 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135 or you can go to their website http:// cubatobaccocigarco.com.