TARPON SPRINGS — When Arnold Serafin’s father, Ramon, died in December 2019, the longtime owner of the Serafin de Cuba cigar shop knew he wanted to do something to honor his memory.
“After his passing, I always said I have to do something to honor him,” Serafin said recently from his shop at 45 Dodecanese Blvd. near the entrance to the historic Sponge Docks. “My father 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 1800s in Cuba.”
Serafin’s narrow, colorful shop is filled with cigar-making materials, memorabilia, photographs and paintings, many featuring his father.
He decided the best way to honor Ramon was staring him right in the face — he would create a cigar bearing his name, the Serie Don Ramon 1942.
“This cigar was a year in the making,” Serafin said of the 33-ring double corona, which he spent countless hours perfecting, from the design of the box and label to the blend of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobacco that fills the Connecticut wrapper. “It’s a premium smoke, mild and smooth, and I’m just blown away by the finished product because everything in the box has meaning, and I’m proud to say every part of the box was made by Cubans.”
The creation of the new cigar carried extra meaning for Serafin, as his father was a history buff who had a passion for reviving long-lost Tampa labels.
“We brought the Tarpon Sponger brand back in 2010 after more than 90 years,” he said of one of his shop’s most popular sellers. “It is an old Tampa brand that honors the Greek sponge divers, and it was the pride and joy of my dad. He was such a history nut and resurrecting old Tampa cigar brands is something he really wanted to do. Now he has a brand bearing his name.”
Serafin said the response so far to the cigar has, well, blown him away.
“I’m at about 82 boxes sold, plus hundreds of loose ones,” he said in mid-June, noting the label is set to be featured in Cigar Aficionado magazine. “It’s been a huge hit. The outpouring of love and support has been great. I’m just blown away.”
One day in mid-April, longtime Serafin family friends Arelys and Gonzalo Constenla drove from their home in New Port Richey to pick up a box, and the couple spoke about Arnold’s tribute to his father.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Arelys Constenla said. “It’s exciting because he was such an amazing man, always telling stories about old Cuba. When I heard about the cigar, I told my husband I don’t care if you never smoke them, but this is such a great tribute and it speaks volumes of Arnold and the store.”
According to Gonzalo Constenla, who along with Ramon coached Arnold in Little League in New Jersey, the elder Serafin “was a great man and very lovable, and this is a special thing Arnold did to honor him.”
Serafin also owns a shop in Spring Hill. He said now that the work on his father’s tribute cigar has wrapped, he’s turning his attention to resurrecting the old Tampa labels Ramon loved so much.
“We just got the copyright for Flor de Tampa,” he said, adding he plans to continue selling his father’s cigar as long as there’s a demand. “I wish he could’ve seen this, to be truthful. But I think he’s watching — I really believe he’s watching — and I hope he’s proud.”