A visit to Gestocigars suggests a bit more than simply a ground-level shop with display windows. You get the feeling of exclusivity and secrecy, as if you were knocking on the door of a wicked club. However, on the fourth floor, a tidy, friendly Swiss national opens the door and warmly welcomes us. Jean-Charles Rios, who has been working in the cigar industry for almost 35 years, knows all the tendencies, developments and depths of the market – he’s an insider. For years, he has been successfully implementing his concept of running a cigar business without a showroom, albeit at Geneva’s primary address. He’s also been running an online trade in cigars for almost 20 years. “In the meantime, however, this works so that the online shop acts like a representative,” he explains to us. “It brings customers into the store and, at the same time, is also my shop front.” Cigar smokers that go to Gestocigars can decide whether they want to wander through the 100 m2 walk-in humidor, breathe in the scent of the cedar wood and marvel at some of the rarities, or whether they simply want to pick up their ready-packed bag, purchased via a recently implemented online tool. Of course, Gestocigars also sends cigars. Its location in the heart of Geneva has the advantage that it brings in a large number of walk-in customers, but doesn’t have the dizzying rent of a brick-and-mortar shop. Furthermore, Rios is a cigar importer – primarily of Cuban cigars – and continues to sell directly to the end-consumer. All these factors facilitate interesting pricing.
“In addition, we buy large quantities of goods and therefore have a lot in stock,” he explains. “Often, many Cuban cigars aren’t available, but we can still offer them. And we can let the cigars mature for a long time, longer than many of our competitors, because we don’t have to sell them all again immediately. That’s good for the Habanos,” the Geneva-born native discloses. In addition to the office and sales rooms, a 100-m2 climatized warehouse is Gestocigars’ other treasure chest. As we stroll through the inner city and continue chatting about the cigar business, Jean-Charles shows us where passionados can enjoy their cigars or dine well in his home town, and where lodging is the nicest. One of his favorites is the Coin du Bar, a kind of bistro with authentic French cuisine and a pleasant fumoir in the basement. Over lunch, in the Italian, original 1950s restaurant Roberto, he brings us up to date on in his company. “Meanwhile, we sell 80 brands; these are split into 572 various lines and formats. Furthermore, since 2015, we’ve also included rums and whiskies in our selection. Our range of whiskies from Japan is especially large,” says Rios. His seven employees are all very knowledgeable; it’s a pleasure to be advised at Gestocigars. Although the company still specializes in Havanas, the percentage of New World cigars is growing every year. “I’d like to increase the number of other cigar countries that I offer because these countries have achieved a lot in the past few years; first-class cigars have emerged. What they’ve done in the recent 10 years is simply spectacular,” says Jean-Charles Rios.