Our ‘Cigar Bar’ Story
‘World Famous” Since 1996
Growing up Rich Castiano was aware of the relaxation and pleasure that his father Sal enjoyed when he’d light a cigar. The rich aroma reminded him of home and family and when the guys got together there were laughs, smiles and good times for all.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had this infatuation with cigars, and I knew I always would”, said Castiano from his World Famous Cigar Bar location in historic Downtown Fort Myers, Florida.
‘The cigars helped create conversation and even discussions, there was a common bond but at the same time the cigars showed the personality of each guy, and I paid attention. I really liked the fact that a cigar looked good in every situation, whether they were dressed up and going out or having a cold beer and watching a ballgame.”
For over fifteen years now, Rich has both fed his passion and has provided the perfect environment to enjoy good times and great cigars in his two World Famous Cigar Bar locations. His smile is warm and his enjoyment is that of a guy that likes meeting old and new friends over a cigar and a cocktail.
It may have started for Rich Castiano when he was a kid growing up on Long Island and for his father Sal long before that, but for the rest of us it began in 1996 when he took an abandoned store front and created one of the true landmarks in Fort Myers Historic River District.
Located in the Patio De Leon Building just off the corner of First Street, at 1502 Hendry Street, this place looks and feels like it’s been there forever. It’s such a classic barroom, one so rich with tradition, that every once in a while a visitor will ask if Tom Edison himself, drank and smoked at “The Cigar Bar”. It’s well documented that Thomas Alva Edison liked to ‘stroll the avenue’ and puff stogies in Downtown Ft Myers…. and his image overlooks the classic bar with eyes of approval.
But before you even step foot in the place, you can tell that The World Famous Cigar Bar is a cool place, and one that you’re sure you’ll like. As you approach, you are drawn to a couple of tables where you usually see people enjoying a smoke while reading or watching both the sidewalk and the street traffic.
It’s difficult to walk by without slowing down, because even the windows deserve a second look. The entrance and store front has been the perfect backdrop for thousands of photos and is an ever-changing display of treasures.
Framed homage to legendary cigar aficionados and a classic collection of “cigartifacts”, which ranges from cigar store Indians to cedar lined mahogany humidors, welcomes everyone from the connoisseurs to the curious.
It starts with the finest selection of cigars perfectly handled and cared for on display in the spacious super-sized walk-in humidor that is always stocked with the greatest names in the industry. In addition, there’s an incredible selection of cigars from small batch producers, as well as cigars that feature tobaccos selected by Castiano himself. It’s also stocked with premium, imported and hard to find cigarettes ready to satisfy the broad base of clientele.
“This is the kind of place I wanted to put together, eclectic and hip, with a touch of class…but at the same time it had to be a place that was comfortable for everyone to enjoy”.
And he accomplished that at every turn with a bar that is nostalgic yet current with the finest selections of extraordinary spirits from single malt scotches and exquisite cognacs to fine wines and ports, along with selected specialty beers.
There’s plenty to look at inside too, with a great array of taxidermy and the right blend of textures including leopard skins and antique martini shakers. It’s comfortable from all angles, with high ceilings and ample smoke filtration, and the room is comprised of groupings of winged high-backed chairs with a couple of leather couches. Of course there’s plasma TV’s, so you can catch your favorite sports and stay current on world events, with the perfect blend of killer tunes, and a solid staff of friendly professionals.
But this isn’t just a smoke-friendly bar room, it’s way more than that and can best be called a downtown neighborhood bar and the quintessential place for those ever present, “Good Times and Great Cigars”.
They said it would be near impossible, but in 2007, Castiano knew it was time to grow and ‘The World Famous Cigar Bar’, was successfully recreated in the Gulf Coast Town Center, Southwest Florida’s largest shopping mall.
Rich Castiano has earned a reputation and made the kind of friendships that run deep in the cigar industry, and his ‘World Famous Cigar Bar’ concept is just that…known and respected around the globe.
It was one of those mutual respect friendships that he developed over the years with Rocky Patel that led to his role in the development of a different concept from his more traditional ‘Cigar Bar’. In 2010 Rich became a partner, found the location and was instrumental in the opening of ‘Burn by Rocky Patel’ a new evolution of the luxury cigar lounge and nightclub in Naples, Florida.
He started from the bottom up and since has opened three locations, has consulted others, shared his experiences and has partnered with one of the biggest names in the industry. But he’s most proud of the relationships he has developed with the many legendary and iconic cigar families. Rich Castiano know cigars from ‘seed to stick’ and has made many trips to Honduras, Nicaragua and has planted, harvested and selected the leaf for his signature cigar series. He has taken staff and clients with him and has shared the enchantment of the growing and manufacturing process with dozens of veteran and new cigar aficionados.
In Fort Myers, visitors and regulars know where to find the most educated staff of professionals that year after year provide the perfect guest experience, and it’s that consistency that is the cornerstone of the Castiano family.
“I always wanted to create a staff of friends that became part of a bigger family and through the years we have accomplished that. Everything we do, we do as a family, and our guests become our friends so providing hospitality, service and education about cigars, spirits and wine is not only our focus, it’s becomes our pleasure.”
The World Famous Cigar Bar is just that kind of place. You’ll never see a day when a member of the Castiano Family isn’t there, and since it first opened in 1996 you can count on seeing a familiar face, every day.
The Castiano family moved away from New York first, and Rich joined them in Florida in 1982 following his years at Cortland State College. Many long time residents of the area remember Rich from that long ago, when he worked at TGI Fridays, when the Bell Tower was new, and “way down south on 41”. In those days, Fridays was the busiest restaurant bar in all of Southwest Florida, and the bar staff was the area’s best. Rich worked there for many years and was a friendly bartender who was also certified as one of Friday’s Corporate Bar Trainers.
In fact, he was still working shifts at Fridays when he opened his first Downtown Cigar Shoppe, a place that was about as big as his current humidor.
“So you know I like great cigars and fine spirits and wine, and we got the chance to do them both together, just about the time they both were finding a new popularity. I’ll never forget those first days, my father and I on our hands and knees pulling nails out of the floor, all of us working through the hurdles together to get the place opened.
Rich’s mom, Arlene (“Mrs. C”), opens the Downtown location most every morning and is someone who can help you pick out just the right bundle or box of cigars for a delightful smoke or the perfect gift, while his sister Sally manages the books from top to bottom. Sure, Sal Castiano makes regular stops at both locations to watch sports and often sits in on poker nights at ‘Sal’s Longshot Lounge’. Named after his Dad , Sal’s is the adjoining bar downtown that Rich created to be a chameleon, a more casual sports bar that doubles as a blues bar on weekends and the perfect place to shoot pool and enjoy a smoke.
“It hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding and I never thought about celebrating fifteen years, because when we started there weren’t any places like us. We were different; we encouraged smoking, and wanted customers to have a fantastic selection of spirits in a setting like no other. From Louis XII to ice cold Jagermeister, I wanted to have it all available, for all kinds of customers, everybody is always welcome.”
Rich Castiano has created one of the all-time great places to unwind and both locations are the fiber of the community that surrounds them. The World Famous Cigar Bar’ is ‘home base’ where you’ll always see a familiar face, and it’s that way at the landmark Downtown location and it’s that way for the community that encompasses Gulf Coast Town Center.
For Rich Castiano it all goes back to the first time he saw his father and relatives light those sticks, and the special times and occasions that he is connected and committed to.
“I really like the room the best when I see people celebrating with friends, having birthday parties there, anniversaries, and buying cigars to celebrate births. You know, there’s nothing wrong with paying tribute to the good times.”