Entrepreneur Felipe Valls Sr. of Valls Group has left a legacy behind after his passing of natural causes on Saturday November 26, 2022
On Saturday, the founder of Miami’s popular restaurant Versailles, Felipe A. Valls aka Felipe Valls Sr., died at 89 years old. He was born in Santiago de Cuba in 1933.
Here’s all you need to know about the extraordinary life of Felipe Valls Sr.:
About Felipe Valls Sr.’s life
In 1947, Felipe A.Valls moved to the U.S. to study at Riverside Military Academy High School. Once he graduated, he went back home to pursue his entrepreneurship career.
He owned various flourishing businesses, like restaurant chains, gas stations, etc. Unfortunately, due to the rise of Fidel Castro and communism in Cuba, Valls’ ventures were confiscated. In 1960, Felipe A. Valls left Cuba with his wife, who was expecting their third child and two children.
Just like many other Cuban exiles, Felipe A. Valls had to start over in a new country. He soon landed a job that required selling second-hand restaurant equipment. It was at this job that he convinced the owner to import espresso machines from Italy and Spain knowing how much we Cubans love our “cafecito”. It was these machines he would later use in his own restaurants and on it went.
In his fight for democracy and a free Cuba, Valls became a part of the Cuban American National Foundation, the US-Cuba Democracy PAC, and the Council for the Freedom of Cuba.
He received numerous prizes and awards, such as the Mambí Award from the University of Miami, the Facts About Cuban Exiles (FACE) award, and the distinction of a part of Calle Ocho in Miami (SW 8th Street) that honor his name: Felipe Valls Way.
Felipe A. Valls purchased Badia’s eatery in Little Havana and converted it into a famous place he would later sell. He sold it to pay for the site where he first launched Versailles as a little cafe in 1971.
He then brought the first La Carreta venue to life, leading to a much bigger chain of Cuban restaurants like EL CID and even a very popular night club at one point called Copacabana.
Versailles is known as the most popular Cuban restaurant globally, and the Valls Group has emerged as one of the chief family-owned beverage and food corporations in South Florida. The company has over 2,000 employees with over 30 stores. Felipe Valls Sr. Is the founder of the “ventanita” concept that has gone viral in Miami and beyond. A ventanita is a window that you sell coffee and quick bites like pastellitos through as a quick solution to a snack.
Felipe Valls Sr. built Versailles restaurant but he indirectly also gave Cubans in Miami a gathering place during the most important moments in Miami history. Everyone knows that Versailles and La Carreta aren’t just places to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner. These are places that feel like home and have grown into landmarks where many Cubans gather in solidarity to demonstrate, or peacefully protest, or yeah even celebrate the death of Castro.
Whether it is La Carreta on Bird Rd. or Versailles on 8th St. they are places in Miami that have become very meaningful. It is where people go to be heard and celebrate local victories and we will forever be grateful to him for building them, sustaining them, and providing a place where many families can earn an honest income.
The viewing and burial will occur on December 7 and 8 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and 1 to 10 p.m., respectively, at Caballero Rivero Funeral Home. Felipe A. Valls’ family has requested to donate to the Jackson Memorial Foundation rather than send flowers.
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