Just about 30 miles north of Tampa, FL, nestled between St. Joseph Sound and Lake Tarpon, right along US Route 19, is the historic and quaint city of Tarpon Springs. The city was settled in 1876 by fishermen and farmers and got it’s name from the Tarpon that run the waters of the Sound. Tarpon Springs is also famous for having been the sponge capital of Florida back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. In fact many Greek immigrants settled in the city to dive for sponge and the city has the largest percentage of Greek-Americans than any city in the United States.
Besides sponge, tarpon, and Greek restaurants, the city also has a small, classic, cigar shop known as Serafin de Cuba. The shop is located on Dodecanese Blvd, that runs through the main shopping and restaurant district of the city. It sits conveniently next to a large parking lot so you won’t have any issue parking your car. The Saturday afternoon I was there, it cost me 5 bucks to park for all day.
Serafin de Cuba, which opened in 2007, is owned and operated by Arnoldo Serafin, a second generation Cuban American. The idea of the shop came to be when he decided to relocate his family from Miami to Spring Hill, FL to be close to his father Ramon, who settled in nearby Tarpon Springs and was making his own line of cigars. At the time Arnoldo was operating a small online cigar business.
Since the opening of Serafin De Cuba Cigars, Arnoldo and Ramon worked side by side growing the business until the elder Ramon passed away in 2019. A day does not go by that Arnoldo does not think about his father and the great times they had together celebrating the 100 plus year, 4 generation, cigar heritage of the Serafin family through their small shop.
One thing about Serafin De Cuba is – it is a shop, not a lounge. There is nowhere in the crowded and heavily stocked store to sit and smoke. What they do is set up chairs on the outdoor patio and sit around smoking cigars and telling stories. It is just amazingly old school to me.
An Eclectic Collection of Memorabilia, Shirts and Hats
Entering the shop you need to get your focus as there is quite the collection of photos, artifacts along with a large offering of shirts and hats for sale. Just spend some time browsing the shop and Arnoldo will proudly talk about his family and the three previous generations that paved the way for him to have his shop. Give him time and he will explain how this will be a legacy shop to pass on to his son.
Once you get through trying on hats and shirts and hearing the stories of the Serafin family it would be time to enter the humidor. It is a fairly large “walk-in” that is decently stocked with popular named brands including some vintage ones including Opus X. What you may not recognize though, is the Serafin De Cuba cigars. These are not just house blends like some shops procure to put their name on. They are actually manufactured right there in the shop. Arnoldo procures the raw leaf from Oliva Tobacco and has a master roller that you can see rolling the cigars during the weekdays. Arnoldo himself woks on the blends and uses his best patrons to test them out before they go into larger production.
He even has a special cigar he made in tribute to his father called the Serie Don Ramon 1942. Arnoldo explained that the cigar was a year in the making. The result was a Connecticut wrapper with Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers all rolled into a classic 33 ring gauge double corona. Arnoldo also designed the boxes and band. He is quoted as saying:
“It’s a premium smoke, mild and smooth, and I’m just blown away by the finished product because everything in the box has a meaning., and I’m proud to say every part of the box was made by Cubans.”
In addition to the Serie Don Ramon 1942, Arnoldo has set a mission for himself and the Serafin De Cuba line, to bring back many of the defunct brands from the Tampa area in the heyday of cigars in the early 1900’s. Some of them include brands like the Tarpon Sponger that dates back to 1910, which has been a huge hit. He also secured the copyright for the Flor de Tampa that dates back to around 1925 and uses the same art work on the band and box as the original. There is also the La Floridana that dates back to 1953. Arnoldo continues to secure more copyrights and plans to rebirth them over time.
The Aging Room
In the back of the shop is an aging room where the newly rolled cigars are stored and left to age before they are sold.
Throughout the shop there are numerous photos and paintings that depict the history of the Serafin family. If you did not know Arnoldo, you would know that the shop is owned by a man that is proud of his family’s heritage and tobacco legacy especially his father who in the words of Arnoldo:
“He helped me build my business here and worked alongside of me here since 2007 and he was an integral part of my business and our family history, which has been making cigars since the late 1800’s in Cuba.”
Destination Tarpon Springs
The next time you are in the Tampa/St. Pete area take a short drive north, away form the hustle and bustle of the city and visit the quaint town of Tarpon Springs and visit Serafin De Cuba Cigars. I assure you will have a great time sitting on the patio and burning some leaf with fellow enthusiast while doing some people watching strolling along the boulevard. Tell them Boston Jimmie said hello and let me know what you think. It ain’t no fancy lounge but it is perfect for an afternoon visit to pass some time and enjoy a cigar or two. Don’t forget to have Arnoldo make some authentic Cuban coffee too.
Location/Hours of Operation/Contact
Serafin De Cuba is located at 45 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
- Tuesday – Sunday: 11AM to 6PM
- Monday – CLOSED
Phone: (786) 262-4887
Email: [email protected]