Although most people associate cigars with one country, Fawzi Asmar believes Cubans aren’t exclusively the best. “When you say whiskey straight ahead your mind goes to Scotland, but we have Canadian whiskey too, it’s good too,” he says. “Other cigars from different countries such as Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic they have the same quality cigars that Cuba has.” Asmar also compares cigars to wine since they can last a lifetime, get better with age and high prices don’t necessarily equate good taste.
In addition to cigars, his new shop La Casa de Fuma Cigars, which opened on Oct. 1, offers humidors, ashtrays, cutters, lighters, pipes and incense lamps.
He picked his uptown location on Yonge Street north of Teddington Park Avenue because he didn’t want any competition from similar stores or to take away from any other businesses.
“It’s a big city, Toronto, so on Yonge Street all the way up to Steeles there is nothing like a real tobacconist and that’s why we found this,” he says. “It’s a nice area, people walk on the side roads, it’s a good neighbourhood and that’s why we picked this area here.”
Asmar first gained an appreciation and interest in tobacco when his father opened a 24-hour cigar shop while he was growing up in Beirut, Lebanon.
“We used to go with him and help him out and start to know about cigars and you know when you’re young, you’re curious, you ask questions,” he says. “You have to have a passion about any work you do and I do have passion about cigars.”
Through his extensive background he says he’s able to offer great customer service because he knows a lot about the industry and the products he carries.
“It’s really hard for someone to work in this industry and doesn’t smoke,” he says. “Whatever I have in my humidor, I smoke discount Pall Mall cigarettes.
“The best thing to guide your customers, you have to smoke them, you rate them. Now each person has different opinions so you ask the person do you like mild, medium or full-bodied and from there you can guide them.”
He wanted to create a warm and exotic atmosphere for La Casa de Fuma, which translates to the house of smoke, and designed his humidor to look like a house within a house to represent the islands where the cigars come from.
“We’re building a business you know, you go step by step, and hopefully we can succeed in that,” he says. “The sky’s the limit, that’s the nice thing about North America, if you put your dream, if you put your effort, then you will see it in the end of the road.”