Guayaba y Chocolate Opens in Little Havana

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Little Havana, known for its Cuban cultural influences, just gained a piece of Venezuela with the opening of Guayaba y Chocolate at 1603 SW Eighth St. The small shop in the heart of Calle Ocho is owned by Venezuelan chocolatier Alejandra Bigai along with her anthropologist cousin and business partner Maria Waleska.

Bigai is the owner of Romanicos Chocolates and plans to open a third shop next year at Brightline train station.

The shop is minimalistic in style to better showcase the variety of sweet treats inside. The idea to open a store in the area has been brewing in Bigai's head for seven years, and this was actually her fifth attempt at doing so. When a friend tipped her off that an antique store was closing in the center of la pequeña Habana, she jumped at the opportunity to call the space her own.

“I love Calle Ocho. I think Miami is represented well in this area. The Latin culture is massive here,” Bigai said.
“Our neighbors have welcomed us, and it’s been people that have lived here forever. They’ve opened up their arms and shown us the way to be in la Calle Ocho,” Waleska added.

The ladies love their neighbors, and residents of the area receive a discount at the store. For the cousins, it’s important to cater to Little Havana and encourage the community to be a part of their business. Staying faithful to the growing artistic population in Miami, the company will also feature artists in residence.

Currently, Venezuelan artist Astolfo Funes is on display. The plan is to rotate creatives every three months. An extension of the idea will be to produce boxes of chocolate from each artist showcasing their work on the shop's decadent chocolates. 

“We are also starting a project with an art school in Caracas, called Project Canaima, where we print the young artists' drawings on the box and the profits will go toward feeding the children at the school,” Waleska said. “Besides a store, we want to be a place that encourages community and also feeds matters of the soul.”

The shop features bonbons, truffles, dry fruits, bark chocolate, and cookies. Flavor profiles also expand on regular milk chocolate with twists like guava and cream cheese, pistachio and honey, cayenne pepper, and passionfruit. Prices range from $1.50 to $31.60.
The partners also teamed up with other locals to stock locally produced treats like habanero mango jams; alfajores, a dulce de leche cookie made by a Colombian cook; and macarons made by Venezuelan brothers. The cousins tout their store as a melting pot, much like Miami.

The name Guayaba y Chocolate came from their desire to combine Miami’s well-known Hispanic culture with their famed product. Bigai jokes that if Miami were a fruit, it would most definitely be a guava.

“The name is unapologetically in Spanish,” Waleska said. “At first, I was concerned with the name, but it’s very us, it’s true to our culture, and we have to embrace it.”

With a welcoming embrace and tired eyes from their grand opening on June 24, the business partners have hopes that the store is here to stay and becomes a staple in the new wave of companies flocking to the area.

“My idea is to have a small business, but for it to be strong and solid,” Bigai said. “I want to be small enough to be flexible, but strong enough to surpass the changing times.”

Guayaba y Chocolate is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

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