A dusty road in Estelí; a dark Puro; an open mind. That’s what led me to Amsterdam’s busiest street on a chilly winter’s eve – and to the bright lights of a new store on the strip. It’s the launch night of Cigaragua, a bold new concept in Sasja van Horssen cigar shops of the Longfiller Company from the Netherlands.
It was while taking a road trip in Nicaragua in 2014 that a crazy idea was born in van Horssen’s head. And as he smoked and thought and travelled, it wouldn’t let him go. “When you’re in Estelí, you tend to talk a lot. There isn’t much else to do!” he laughs as he remembers the seedlings of a vision that has seen him create the world’s first Nicaraguan-only cigar shop. “And during a conversation, the idea popped into my head. There are the Casas del Habano shops which do a wonderful job of promoting and highlighting Cuban cigars. Why can’t we do the same with Nicaraguan?
”Cigar Journal first broke the Cigaragua story exclusively when I spent some time with van Horssen in Dortmund at the InterTabac tradeshow. I’ve kept tabs on the ambitious project since then, and was proud to witness the doors opening for the first time in December 2016. “It’s by far the riskiest project I’ve undertaken,” van Horssen admits. “The rents alone here are so expensive and, despite all our efforts, it’s difficult to know just how many cigars we are likely to sell. So it’s a gamble. But it’s one I believe in.”
It’s part of a three-part project, which has also seen the creation of the ProNica program, which provides funds for underprivileged Nicaraguan youngsters; and a labor of love that saw the production of the beautiful book by writer Marcel Langedijk and photographer Jesaja Hizkia.
But this isn’t the end of the journey for van Horssen and Cigaragua. Indeed, it’s just the beginning. “The plan is to open other Cigaragua stores, for sure,” he explains. “Can you imagine one in London? These are the best cigars – and they are for everyone, not just the rich. I love that. People from all walks of life come in here, sit around, have a coffee and a smoke. It’s more of a US-style of cigar culture and it’s a very cool atmosphere. That’s what Nicaraguan cigars are all about. Inclusivity.”
Van Baerlestraat 56H
Tel.: +31 20 773 5302
Open 7 days per week from 10am to 9pm