Tampa health food legend Cephas Gilbert will open new herbal shop and smoothie stand next year

Celebratory aloe shakes, anyone?


Cephas Gilbert—who served Jamaican food, aloe shakes, and holistic health advice (whether you wanted it or not) in Ybor City for almost 40 years—will open yet another Tampa business sometime in 2022.

Although Gilbert—who’s 69 or 70 years old—has been focusing on organic farming since his smoothie stand closed in late 2020, his new hobby won’t deter him from this next endeavor. This time around, Gilbert will combine his passion for farming with his love for sharing health advice with customers face-to-face. 

His main priority now is planting a variety of fruits and herbs so that when the time comes to open his new smoothie stand and herbal shop next year, everything for sale will have been grown by his own two hands—talk about farm-to-table freshness. 

When Creative Loafing Tampa Bay called Cephas up to get details on his new enterprise, there was a loud video blaring in the background. Gilbert went to turn it down, and soon clarified that he was watching a YouTube video to learn how to grow avocados. 

“I learn a lot of things from YouTube, man,” Gilbert explains to CL. “Right now I’m focusing on just planting everything. Cinnamon, turmeric, lemongrass, soursop— I’m learning how to grow mangos from YouTube too.”

This time, he strives for balance between being inside running his business and being under the sun, tending to his 8-acre organic farm in southeast Tampa. In June, Gilbert told Paul Guzzo he was diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency last year, and started the farm to help him get more sunshine. 

The Cephas Hot Spot Facebook explains that organic farming comes naturally to Gilbert, as he helped his grandfather on the family farm when he was a child in Jamaica. Machete in hand, Gilbert is farming the same way his grandfather did back on the island—minus the YouTube videos of course.

‘I want to grow everything—all different types of tropical plants and herbs,” Gilbert says. “I have aloe and sugarcane growing too, everything to support people’s health—I believe in health.” 

He says he has help on the farm sometimes, but the majority of work is done by himself. 

In the beginning of 2020 Gilbert decided he needed to downsize. So after 38 years of dishing out popular Jamaican cuisine, he closed his 4th Avenue restaurant and opened a smoothie stand out of Tequila’s on Ybor's bustling 7th Avenue.  But when that space was purchased in late 2020, both Tequila’s and Cephas’ new endeavour quickly closed.

This time around, Gilbert wants a building all to himself. And although his new spot will have some similarities to Cephas on 7th which had different types of juices and shakes for purchase, he’s going for more of a farmer’s market meets herbal shop-type feel. Gilbert is open to other locations in Tampa, but ultimately wants to open his next brick-and-mortar business in the Ybor area—his homebase for the past two decades. 

Don’t expect a grand opening date any time soon, because Gilbert is in no big rush to open his new herbal shop and smoothie stand. “I have all the time in the world, ya know? Right now I’m just building the foundation for the future,” Gilbert says. “Wherever I go, the people will follow.”

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