Time to break out the Desi Arnaz records. Even as cigars continue to light up the marketplace--and serve as the accessory of choice among the hip and fashionable--consumers nationwide are rediscovering the culture of the country perhaps best known for its tobacco products. The smoke signals are clearly in the air: Cuba is hot.
For evidence of this Cuban cultural wave, one need only look to the cigar lounges popping up across the United States. These establishments serve as natural springboards for cigar connoisseurs eager to not only enjoy a smoke but also to listen to the strains of Cuban dance rhythms. Even more exotic: sampling Cuban fare such as empanadas.
As co-founder of the Whittier, California-based Havana House Cigars & Lounge, Richard Valenzuela is reaping the rewards of this keen interest in Cuba. "We're doing very well," says the 29-year-old entrepreneur, who expects his business to grow from $600,000 this year to $800,000 in 1998. Opened in 1996, Havana House complements its selection of more than 80 brands of non-Cuban cigars with an assortment of Cuban pastries and coffees.