Atlanta has more cigar shops per square mile than any other city in the United States. But there’s one nestled in the heart of the historic Old Fourth Ward and Sweet Auburn community that stands out from the rest.
Heather and Rafa Ramirez opened Havana Cigars, which specializes in Cuban coffee and authentic Cuban Seed Cigars, in 2016. Hand-rolled and aged 6-10 years, these are not your run-of-the-mill cigars. “We don’t sell big brands, only small-batch, boutique cigars,” explains Heather. “We work with mom-and-pop shops and family-owned farms who cultivate the seeds ethically, based on Cuban tradition.”
Among others, and including its own cigar line, Havana Cigars features cigars made by the Gomez Sanchez family, which has been in the business since 1934; the Plasencia family, which has been growing tobacco and making cigars for over five generations; as well as the only Afro Latina cigar line, which is cultivated in Estelí, Nicaragua. Heather and Rafa, in fact, have become trendsetters in their own right and are known among aficionados from around the world who descend upon their shop to try cigars not found anywhere else.
“For us it’s about quality over quantity and supporting other woman- and minority-owned businesses like ourselves,” says Rafa, who is Afro Cuban, born and raised in Havana.
In addition to its unique selection of fine cigars, Havana Cigars’ living-room vibe has become a go-to place for patrons to visit and feel at home. “You’re not just coming for a stick; you’re coming for an experience,” says Heather. “People discuss all kinds of topics and important issues. I see young adults talking with their elders. There’s a sense of community and natural networking that’s so organic.”
There was a time when Heather was uncertain about the future of Havana Cigars after their original store, also on Auburn Avenue, was unexpectedly sold to a developer. Heather and Rafa had opportunities to move elsewhere but were determined to stay on Auburn Avenue. With help from the Invest Atlanta Resurgence Grant Fund, which was created in 2020 to support economic growth and recovery in the wake of the pandemic, they were able to move into a new, larger location on the same block.
“We would never have been able to stay and build out a new store if it weren’t for Invest Atlanta and this grant,” says Heather. “We are grateful. There’s so much historic richness and good energy in this community. Magic happens here.”