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Ashes-to-Ashes: An interview with Berta Bravo, “The Guayabera Lady”
CA: Your family emigrated from Cuba in 1966. Tell us a little more about your family and growing up in Cuba.
Berta: I had a beautiful childhood. We had a family business. My uncles ran the grocery store; adjacent to it my parents ran the textiles & clothing store, and behind that was my grandparents’ house. Every day was Thanksgiving day! We lost our businesses to the Communist regime in 1963 and emigrated to The States on February 1, 1966.
CA: Who are your typical customers?
Berta: Thank God I do not have stereotypical customers! My customers are moms, dads, grandpas, and businessmen and women. They come from all walks of life; from the coffee shop attendant to the business entrepreneur; there are absolutely no social or economical boundaries when it comes to the Guayabera consumer.
CA: Where does your inspiration come from when creating a new design?
Berta: Mostly from the younger generation. But I also ask myself, “If I were 15, 25, 35, 45, 65, 75, what would I wear? What changes can I make to make it more appealing, while still keeping it traditional?”
CA: Your very active on Facebook. What effect has social marketing had on your business?
Berta: It has been excellent. I can honestly tell you, besides the business I have acquired, I have found good honest people that I am honored to call friends. For me, it’s all about relationships.
CA: How do your designs for women and children compare in terms of sales as those for men?
Berta: Yes, I design equally for women and children as well as for men. There can be a room with 100 men all wearing white Guayaberas, and each one can be different. That’s what I do best.
CA: Are Guayabera shirts only for cigar smokers or those in the cigar business?
Berta: Absolutely NOT. Guayaberas are for everyone; although they are the number one [clothing] accessory for the cigar smoker. They are comfortable, elegant, and they have four big pockets for your cigars, lighter, cutter, business cards, and more.
CA: For what other occasions are Guayabera shirts worn?
Berta: Guayaberas can be worn from a christening to a wedding; from black tie to beachwear – there are really no limits.
CA: Have you ever designed Guayabera clothing for weddings or other special occasions?
Berta: I have been honored to not only design for weddings, christenings, fifteens (“Sweet Sixteen” in Spanish culture), and even Bar Mitzvahs, to name a few. I’ve even been fortunate enough to be invited to many of my customers’ family gatherings, as well.
CA: Have you noticed a crossover for Guayabera-style clothing as a fashion trend?
Berta: Oh, definitely!
CA: You’re also an avid cigar smoker. What kind of cigars do you enjoy smoking?
Berta: I enjoy smoking Jaime Garcia, My Father Limited Edition, La Reloba Mexican Wrapper, El Triunfador, La Riqueza, Alec Bradley Prensado and Tempus, Medina 1959, Don Gonzalez, to name a few.
CA: You’ve been doing a lot of traveling over the past several years. In what way, if any, has this helped your business?
Berta: It’s the same as with cigars. Cigars don’t sell themselves, people sell cigars. Although technology plays an important role in everyday business, I’ve found that most people like good old fashioned eye contact, a firm hand shake, and a friendly smile. It’s the best way of building long term customer relationships.
CA: Do you have an apprentice, or have any of your children shown an interest in following you into the business?
Berta: My youngest son, Joey, is very involved in the business, and the eldest of my granddaughters, Samantha, says she’s “The Guayabera Lady, Jr.,” so I believe we have the 4th and 5th generations in the making.
CA: What gives you the most pleasure from what you do?
Berta: The fact that I don’t just have customers, I have friends. For this, I thank God and count my blessings everyday. Besitos and blessings!
Watch the video below to see a tour of The Guayabera Lady store.
How to contact The Guayabera Lady
Email: [email protected]
The Guayabera Lady
475 Biltmore Way Suite 102
Coral Gables, FL 33134