Robert de Varona
|Robert de Varona|
|Born||November 12, 1942|
|Spouse||Eloise Lautier de Varona|
Robert de Varona, called "Mr. D" by many, is a Cuban-born entrepreneur who owns airport concession company Varona Enterprises and a standalone restaurant, Varona's, at 5121 North 12th Avenue. He is married to Eloise Lautier de Varona, a past president of Artel Gallery.
Born in Camagüey, Cuba, Varona participated in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion against FIdel Castro's regime as a teenager, for which he was imprisoned for eighteen months. He was released to America in 1962 with only $100 and a set of clothes.
Varona founded Varona Enterprises in 1972 and opened the first minority-owned airport concession at the Stapleton International Airport in Denver, plus other airport operations in Dallas-Ft. Worth, St. Louis and Orlando. He moved to Pensacola in 1990 and now operates several concessions in the Pensacola Regional Airport, including Varona's café (originally called "Hangar Bay" before a $300,000 renovation in 2000) and two gift shops.
In 2006 Varona announced plans to open a separate restaurant outside the airport. After contemplating two downtown locations — the site of the Lee House, demolished after Hurricane Ivan, and the McCollough House, where his wife's Artel Gallery is located — Varona chose to renovate the former State Farm Insurance building at 5121 North 12th Avenue, near the airport. The restaurant opened on April 8, 2008.
- Varona Restaurants
- "Still Castro's Cuba." Pensacola News Journal, February 20, 2008.
- "Restaurateur to open new Cuban-style eatery." Pensacola News Journal, October 22, 2007.
- "Pensacola airport pushes to be better." Pensacola News Journal, August 11, 2000.
- "Lee House site plan reworked." Pensacola News Journal, July 18, 2006.
- "Plan for Cuban eatery scrapped." Pensacola News Journal, August 24, 2006.