Havana is Smokin' Again
a good reason the merchants here call this historic little
town a few miles north of Tallahassee "North
Florida's Arts and Antiques Capital." With
more than 30 shops offering antiques, art, custom-made and antique furniture,
books, jewelry, collectibles, clothing, gifts and even pets, Havana
is a haven for shoppers and art lovers who are tired of malls and big
In between the shops, you'll find quaint eateries and
coffee shops, where fares range from quiche and
hoagies to fine Italian dining and barbecue. Twenty
years ago, this place was practically a ghost town. That's when Keith
Henderson strolled into town.
IN THE BEGINNING
After enjoying the rewards of the shade tobacco industry
in Havana in the '40s-'60s, people moved away to
find jobs when the industry shriveled. Those who
stayed shopped in nearby cities, such as Tallahassee, just 15 minutes
But in 1983, Tallahassee antique shop owners Henderson
and Lee Hotchkiss were looking to relocate. The
pair were interested in a small corner of a building
on the main street in Havana.
"We'd always loved this building," Henderson
said of the two-story, red-brick warehouse that
formerly housed a hardware store and drug store. Now
it's occupied by H&H Antiques, Mirror Image Antiques and Little River
"We were negotiating, and they said, 'For twice as
much money, we'll sell you the whole block,'"
So they took a leap of faith and - before the deal even
closed - they'd sold two of the store spaces and
leased another. Soon, Havana was back on its feet
and headed toward becoming the antique and art mecca it is today.
"What we had seen on our buying trips to Ohio and
Pennsylvania was that a lot of shops in one little
town created a big draw," said Henderson, referred
to by many of his fellow merchants as a visionary. "People
will go way out of their way to go to a half a dozen or a dozen antique
shops, where they won't go out of their way to go to one. Over the years,
it's just continued to grow."
One of the highlights in Havana for the past several years
is the Havana MusicFest held each April. Each year,
the crowd gets bigger...and so do the sales. The
three-day event includes a wide range of activities and musical performers.
Most stores and cafes stay open late that weekend accommodate the
crowd. Other favorite Havana events are the Bead and Jewelry Fest and
the Pumpkin Fest, both held in October.
Joan Sisario, co-owner of Traditions Antiques and Gifts
with her daughter Michele Sisario and granddaughter
Elizabeth Sisario Barker, was one of the first to
open with Henderson.
"It was a ghost town, really. Nothing like it is
today," she said. "It's grown in different
directions. There's always things changing. It's now more than
just the antiques. You can find just about anything here."
Also a family-owned business, Wanderings, opened in Havana
eight years ago. The 6,000-square-foot
store is billed as an ethnic arts gallery, offering jewelry,
furniture, pottery and masks - all hand-crafted by artisans around the
world and personally chosen by the owners on buying excursions.
"It's emerged into a town of its own," said
Terri Paul, who gave up being a "backpacking
hippie, wondering around the world" to go into business with her
father, Tony Lombardo, when he retired from the corporate world after
"There were only 10 or 12 shops when we came,"
she added. Now, her father estimates there are 30-40
shops in Havana. Both Traditions and Wanderings are
located in the Havana Depot.
Jim and Betty Kellum operate 20,000 square feet of shopping
space in Kellum's Antique Center. They were also
among the first to arrive, having opened shop in
"People in other small towns have called me and said
they'd like to get their little town to do this,
but there is no formula. A lot of very entrepreneurial
people came in and invested a lot of money," said Mrs. Kellum,
who added that there was no city planning, design, merchant recruitment
or advertising by the local government. "It's just a thing that happened."
While in Havana, you can't miss the Main Street Market,
located along the main drag. Housed here you'll
find 12 unique shops, including the Leather Gallery
and Gifts, Carole's Doll Shoppe and the delicious offerings of the Market
Café, including homemade soups and specialty desserts.
Amble across the street and you'll find delicious espresso
and other treats at Dolly's Espresso Café,
and the fine art jewelry of Isises, featuring a unique
line of Russian watches. Just up the sidewalk is Bella's Italian Restaurant,
where diners can enjoy lunch inside the charming dining room or dinner
under the stars on the terrace for a more romantic setting.
Fins, Feathers and Foliage and Walls by Design are now
located in the historic McLauchlin House. If it's
a favorite book you're in search of or just a good
read, Beare's Books 'N Things & Historical Bookshelf is always changing
its vast inventory, which includes a large collection of Civil War and
military books. Available in the near future will be a genealogy area,
where patrons can trace family history.
Across the main street are Confetti's, Happy Hippo, My
Secret Garden and Amish Country Oak Furniture. The
Berry Patch and Barbara Grant Collectibles round
out the list.