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Longtime cigar shop owner passes torch to Cuban couple
After 20 years of owning and operating Smitty's Cigar & Tobacco shop in Gainesville, Clark Smith is retiring but not closing down his shop. New owners of the longtime cigar shop are Rene and Ivette Barrios.

When Clark “Smitty” Smith opened his shop 20 years ago, he envisioned creating “the old-school tobacco store.”

Good cigars, pipe tobacco, lighters, cutters and humidors.

“It’s relaxation. It’s fellowship. It’s conversation,” said Smith, who owned Smitty’s Cigar and Tobacco on Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville.

Last month, Smith sold the store to Rene and Ivette Barrios, a couple of 30 years who escaped Cuba in the 1960s.

Puffing on a My Father Le Bijou cigar, Rene Barrios said owning the shop is “bliss.” He and his wife talked for decades about owning their own shop, as his father’s family has roots in growing tobacco.

Smith first thought about opening his own shop after playing golf with a friend in Orlando. When he was buying cigars to repay the friend’s hospitality, he tried his first premium cigar.

After some research, he felt he could build his own business.

Smith will still work at the store, as he continues to greet the loyal clientele. But his time away from the shop will be spent fishing and with family.

“They’ll all be here after lunch … retired ministers, preachers, insurance salesmen, lawyers, so on and so forth, my fishing buddy,” Smith said.

Rene Barrios, who owns the luxury and muscle car dealership The Barrios Collection in Oakwood, said he landed in Key West, Fla., with his family in 1965.

“We had a 28-footer (boat) and threw the whole family in that boat and headed to Key West in the middle of the night,” Barrios said. “If they caught him during that period, he would have been killed, would have been shot. Firing squad is what they were doing to those guys, but he didn’t want to raise us there.”

Since buying the shop, the new owners renovated the space with increased merchandise, new carpet and updated technology. Rene Barrios said he hopes to have his beer license by this week to start selling local drafts in the back of the shop.

The shop is hoping to cater to young professionals and women by expanding the line of boutique cigar brands available.

“I feel like I’m blessed,” Smith said. “I’ve been here 20 years and had a great business. This is a home away from home.”

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