Father, entrepreneur, dresses most of Little Havana.
I can’t express how happy it makes me to be able to tell the story of this special Father/Calle Ocho business owner for our Father’s Day edition. My only regret in meeting Fidel D’Asis Lopez of The Havana Collection on Calle Ocho was that I took as long as I did. I had first heard of Fidel through Juan Cardona also known as @bigpoppalittlehavana who happens to be like the brand ambassador of another one of Fidel’s stores called D’Asis right on Calle Ocho as well. Big Poppa gets approached daily by many tourists wanting to take pictures with him because he has become a staple in the neighborhood, and he is also a loyal friend of Fidel.
Fidel is not one of these businesses owners that have been on Calle Ocho for tens of years, but he will be here for at least another 16 years he says. Do not let that fool you into thinking that he lacks experience in retail, on the contrary. Fidel has more than 40 years of experience in retail. He was first exposed to the clothing industry by his father Jose M. Lopez when he was 16 years old. His father both set up his first store for him in Westchester Mall and he also made it perfectly clear to Fidel that it was not his years later. Even though he alone ran the store and made it as successful as it was. What really happened is a perfect example of the tough love we Hispanics are so familiar with from our parents.
Fidel said, “This is yours? Your right! Here… Keep it” and he walked out.
Since then he has had 2 stores in Westchester Mall (where he met his wife Ileana Lopez), 2 in Central Shopping Plaza, 2 in what was once known as Midway Mall, 2 in Kendall Town and Country, 4 in Southland Mall, 2 in Palm Spring Mall, 1 in International Mall, 2 in Westland Mall, 1 in Pembroke Park Lakes Mall, 1 in North Side Plaza, 2 in Dolphin Mall, 1 in Hialeah Plaza, 1 in the Miami airport, and last but not least 2 in Little Havana that are storefronts as opposed to in a mall.
Fidel will tell you that his father did him a favor because he was able to venture off. Later, his dad asked him to come back and Fidel responded by saying. “From where I am thrown out, I will not return” and his dad was very proud of that response.
I had the pleasure of meeting Fidel’s three children, grandson, and wife and here is what they had to say about Fidel.
Ileana Lopez (Wife)
“He is my best friend and has always been an amazing father. He has always been very involved in the upbringing of the kids as well as their education. He believes in being encouraging in everything our children do.”
Ashley Belen Lopez (Daughter)
“He is an amazing father and grandfather my son and I are very grateful to have him in our life.”
Fernando De Izaguirre (Grandson)
“There is no person like Abu, he is special because he always tries his best and he succeeds, and he taught me that I can do anything I want to do.”
Brittany Mari Lopez (Daughter)
“The most interesting man in the world. Every time you talk to him, he surprises you with his response. You can always count on him for an interesting story that makes you laugh as well as straight forward advice.”
Branden Asis Lopez (Son)
“A character that is larger than life, born to be a people person. At home he is more quiet, on Calle Ocho he can spread his wings. He taught me that if you love what you do you never have to work a day in your life.”
What do you like the most about your job?
“I like the people that walk in off the streets. Most of them are tourists looking for an experience. Some of them even ask me if I am a real Cuban.”
What about the locals?
“Little Havana is full of people that are struggling financially and so I help them however I can. If someone wants an article of clothing but they do not have the money I provide lay away plans. Plus, I also give away a lot of clothes to local businesses like El Manisero, Old Havana, tour guides and the latest addition to the neighborhood Saláo. I want everyone to say they got their clothes at The Havana Collection.”
What makes Little Havana so special?
We both agreed that Little Havana is like a branch of Cuba. He sees every day how people flock to Calle Ocho for the experience of having a "Cafecito" at a “Ventanita” or to buy a souvenir. He has seen firsthand that buying a Guayabera in Little Havana is different to the tourists than buying the same Guayabera online BECAUSE it was bought in Little Havana. They feel its almost better than buying it directly from Cuba because this way they are not supporting the communist regime.
What is the hardest thing about being a father?
“Providing for your family is a big responsibility if you want them to have the simple pleasures in life that are not afforded to everyone unless you work hard.”
Of all the things I learned about Fidel perhaps the most amazing thing about him is the fact that he does not own a cell phone, but he is always available. Fidel is an anomaly in this way. I admire his ability to not give in to the frenzy that plagues humanity on our smartphones. He feels cell phones are a distraction that keeps you from connecting with family as well as establishing meaningful relationships. I could not agree more.
Rosi R. Rodriguez
Editor in Chief