Amsterdam is getting an Arturo Fuente shop. A shop with nothing but Arturo Fuente cigars and accessories. It will be the first time in Europe that a tobacconist will only sell one brand and one brand only. Time for us to reach out to Sasja van Horssen, the man behind the idea.
“It’s official, we are going to do it!!” Longfiller company and Cigaragua owner Sasja van Horssen is clearly excited when Ministry of Cigars speaks to him regarding news of him opening a brand new cigar shop in Amsterdam carrying only Arturo Fuente cigars.
“it’s been a long journey since we first started importing Arturo Fuente into the Netherlands, back in 1996” explains van Horssen. “This was the start of the Longfiller Company. The brands that we had for the Netherlands were far from ideal to start a brand new company with. Small brands like Las cabrillas, Flor de manila and a private label brand from the Dominican Republic. That was pretty much it. And at the time the Dutch premium market was tiny. Back then only a few shops had small humidor cabinets. They sold some Davidoff, Cubans en a few more brands. For premium handmade cigars the Netherlands was considered to be a desert.”
Van Horssen decided to go ahead anyway, a year in the UK at premium cigar importer Tor Imports had convinced him that the premium market in the Netherlands had potential. He knew it could eventually grow into a serious market like the UK. But he needed a big brand and he found it in Belgium. “Marc Acton, my former partner at Tor Imports, told me about a family based in Brussels called the Meerapfels. According to him they were in the tobacco business for 7 generations and were specialized in growing tobacco in Cameroon. But what really got me going was that they were the European agents to many fantastic cigar brands: Arturo Fuente was the shinning star in their stable of brands.“
A meeting was soon made and van Horssen got into his car and drove to Brussels. He met with Heller and Rick Meerapfel. “I was nervous as hell, these were two giants in the premium industry and I was an absolute nobody at the start of my career. On top of that, my father (Niek van Horssen) had told me that I was only allowed to purchase 2 boxes per SKU. That was just enough to display at a Dutch tobacco trade fair were our formal introduction would be held. I really felt I had nothing to offer, but by doing so I underestimated the kind of people Heller & Rick Meerpafel were. I was amazed; they took me in, listened to me and gave me all the help I needed. I walked out of that meeting with La Aurora, Leon Jimenes, Ashton, and the grand price Arturo Fuente.“ (* Niek van Horssen was the owner of J. Van Horssen BV. Longfiller Company was founded under the J. van Horssen BV umbrella).
large portfolio and retail
Now, 24 years later, van Horssen’s Longfiller Company is the largest independent cigar importer in The Netherlands. Their portfolio is filled with the world’s largest and most successful premium cigars brands. He also has a strong presence in the Dutch retail market. He owns and runs 3 Van Dalen cigar shops. And the hugely successful Cigaragua in Amsterdam. Thanks to Cigaragua he is considered to be a great believer and promoter of everything Nicaraguan. opening up a shop selling only Arturo Fuente cigars from the Dominican Republic raised a few eyebrows. “I believe our business is a storytelling business. I also know that I am not a very good storyteller if I do not truly believe in the story itself. In Nicaragua, I believe. I believe in the factories. I believe in the soil and I really believe in the people. But there is another story that has been on my mind for years. That is the Fuente Family story. I also feel I have been able to tell part of that story in the 24 years we have represented the Fuente family and products in our country, but it’s not enough. There is so much more to tell.”
“There is already a store in Las Vegas selling only Arturo Fuente cigars but this will not be that store. I love casa Fuente in Vegas but it’s a different concept than what I have in mind for Amsterdam. For one we are not allowed (due to dutch tobacco legislation) to call it Casa Fuente. We are also now allowed to combine cigars with alcohol nor can we use many of the great signs and outings used at casa Fuente. We have to start from zero, make our own story while respecting everything Fuente stands for. I am confident we can do this.”
“What I can tell you now is the following: we have found a location at the van Baerlestraat 94 in Amsterdam. That is walking distance of Cigaragua, only 100 meters apart. As it looks now we will sign the 10-year lease and get the keys within a week. On the 9th of March, I have a meeting with my contractor and cabinet maker to get everything going. It would be great if we can do a soft opening in June or July. And then invite Carlito Fuente to do the Big official opening in September. Carlito will be in Europe for Intertabac anyway. Getting the right location in Amsterdam is not easy, so once the opportunity for this location came up, we had to move quickly. We are traveling to the Dominican Republic to meet with Fuente on the 27th of February. I guess we have a lot to talk about. It is important to realize that this is me opening a spectacular cigar shop carrying only Fuente cigars. I have been very good friends with Carlito Fuente and the Meerapfel brothers (Arturo Fuente international) for as long as I can remember, so it is up to me to honor them and our friendship with this shop.“
Ministry of Cigars will keep in close contact with van Horssen in the months to come as we expect more news from this very special project to come soon. News such as the name, and pictures of the new shop.