Felipe Valls Sr., Founder of Miami’s Iconic Versailles Cuban Restaurant, Dies at 89

A report from NBC Miami.

Felipe A. Valls Sr., businessman and the owner of Miami’s iconic Versailles Cuban restaurant in Little Havana, died Saturday at the age of 89.

The son of Felipe L. Valls and Dolores Bravo, Valls was born on March 8, 1933, in Santiago de Cuba. In 1947, his parents sent him to the United States to attend high school at the prestigious Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Georgia.

Upon graduating in 1950, he returned to his hometown to begin his journey as an entrepreneur.

Valls went on to own several successful businesses, including gas stations, a restaurant, and the popular Lido Supper Club.

In 1960, at 27 years old, Valls fled his homeland with his pregnant wife Aminta Viso and their two other children Leticia and Felipe, Jr. and soon landed a job selling used restaurant equipment.

But the concept of bringing cafecito to the Cubans of Miami always stayed close to his heart.

It was in this job that he convinced the owner of the company to lend him money to import espresso machines from Italy and Spain.

Valls then acquired Badia’s restaurant in Little Havana and grew it into a popular Cuban spot, which he later sold to raise money to buy the famous spot where he first opened Versailles in 1971.

Valls is the creator of Miami’s emblematic ventanita” concept, a walk-up window serving Cuban coffee and pastries.

With more than 2,000 employees, the Valls Group encompasses over 30 establishments, including Versailles, La Carreta, Casa Juancho, MesaMar, and Casa Cuba, it also has several outposts at Miami International Airport serving millions of travelers.

The Valls Group will continue to be headed by CEO & President, son, Felipe Jr., along with his daughter, Jeannette Valls Edwards and granddaughters who have continued Valls’ legacy.

A staunch fighter for freedom and democracy in Cuba, Valls was a member of the Cuban American National Foundation, the Cuban Liberty Council, and the US-Cuba Democracy PAC.

Throughout his life, he received several prestigious awards and accolades including the Facts About Cuban Exiles Award, the University of Miami Mambí Award, and the distinction of a portion of Miami’s Calle Ocho named Felipe Valls Way.

Valls is survived by his partner Natty Elias, his three children, his 10 grandchildren and his great-grandchildren.

Visitation will take place on December 7 from 5-10 p.m. and December 8 from 1-10 p.m. at Caballero Rivero Funeral Home at 3344 SW 8th Street in Miami.

A mass for the repose of the soul will be held at the Church of the Little Flower, date and time to be determined, followed by burial at Woodlawn Park North Cemetery at 3262 SW 8 Street in Miami. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Jackson Memorial Foundation.

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