IN THE BEGINNING
Having suffered devastating economic hardship when the cigar industry
moved to Central America several decades ago, Havana - named for Havana, Cuba, because
of the cigar tobacco produced there, practically dried up. 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 away.
MAIN STREET IN THE EARLY 1900'S
The streets were dirt in the early 1900's. Parking was unorganized. Large power poles ran through
the middle of town. And there were no traffic lights. Havana Garage on the left
later became Miller Chevrolet and is now Kellum's Furniture. The street to the right
is 8th Avenue, which crossed Main Street in those days. MORE RECENTLY 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 General Store. "We were negotiating, and
they said, "For twice as much money, we'll sell you the whole block," Henderson
recalled. 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 reason for the success
- and the camaraderie of Havana merchants -
is that rather than trying to work against
one another, they work together.They even have a joint advertising group, which
Henderson said allows them to do things none of them could do individually, such
as place billboards on Interstate highway 10. "We've created a good draw," he added.
Historic Homes Havana boasts many beautiful homes and gardens. Some were here before
the town was chartered in 1906. This one on East Sixth Avenue was built in 1907
and is on the Historic Register. It was a bed and breakfast for a time. It is now
a private home again. Fires have plagued Havana since the beginning, from
a major fire in 1909 to the destruction of the First Baptist Church in 1973 and
the Havana Canning Co. warehouse in 2000. The most disastrous was in 1916 when two
fires destroyed W.S. Loyd's dry goods and spread throughout the block. Twenty-four
houses were burned to the ground and only four businesses remained.