OPERA is well-known for its passion for handmade sticks, reinventing the Hungarian cigar culture, and launching a rising tide of cigar aficionados.
Today we sat down with Peter Füzi, the CEO and Founder of OPERA CIGAR SHOP & LOUNGE, discussing the evolving Hungarian cigar scene and its future.
MIDWAY: Who is Peter Füzi? Could you share a bit about your journey? How did you get into the world of fine cigars and what inspired you to open your shop?
PETER: First of all, thanks for having me!
I am currently 31 years old with a journey that began as a passion at the age of 16 and has evolved into a business as it is now.
My father has been in the tobacco business for almost half a century now and continues to be involved.
Back in the days in my hometown, Eger, Philip Morris had a factory where my dad started working at the age of 18.
My kindergarten was located inside this factory area, which meant I had to walk through the tobacco aroma every single day, which was very inspiring.
Later on, I was an exchange student in Taiwan at the residence of one of the vice presidents of the Bank of Shanghai. He smoked a lot of cigars, so every time I asked my father to send him sticks, I secretly smoked them by myself, and my passion for cigars began.
At that time, I did not really understand this world like now, but the ritual itself was already a pleasure and eventually led me to these days.
After years of exploration and learning, I decided to share my love for cigars by rebranding our tobacco shop, creating a space where enthusiasts can discover and savor the finest selections whilst enjoying them at our lounge.
“The OPERA Lounge Project was a complicated process but we knew we had to do it!”
M: OPERA is known for its curated selection of premium cigars. How do you go about choosing the cigars that make it onto your shelves? Do you have a particular philosophy or criteria?
P: Absolutely. Curating our collection is a meticulous process. We focus on offering diverse flavors, strengths, and origins to cater to a broad audience for any budget.
“Our philosophy is that smoking a good cigar is for everyone! The aim was to create a place where you can enjoy your smoke regardless of your experience, your attire, or your wallet.”
Quality is paramount, and we prioritize partnerships with reputable cigar makers.
As wholesalers, we provide one-quarter of the cigars available in Hungary.
Customer feedback and trends also play a significant role in shaping our selection, ensuring that we stay attuned to the evolving preferences of our worldwide patrons.
M: Walking into OPERA, one immediately senses a welcoming atmosphere. How do you cultivate this environment, and what do you believe sets your shop apart in terms of customer experience?
P: Creating a welcoming atmosphere is crucial. We aim to make every visit a memorable experience for our customers. Knowledgeable and friendly staff, comfortable seating, and a well-maintained environment contribute to the overall ambiance, which was designed by my lovely wife.
Moreover, we host events, tastings, and educational sessions to foster a sense of community among our patrons. It’s more than just selling cigars; it’s about sharing a passion and building a community around it.
What I truly believe is the greatest value we offer is the environment, the selection of cigars and that everyone can have a face-to-face consultation with us, regardless of the existing knowledge one has.
If you are a beginner I walk you through the cutting and lighting process, and explain, from the structure of the cigar like filler, binder and wrapper layer to the history of the cigars.
M: Owning a cigar shop undoubtedly comes with its challenges and rewards. Could you share some of the highlights and obstacles you’ve encountered along the way?
P: Owning OPERA has been a rewarding journey, but it comes with its challenges.
Regulatory changes, sourcing premium cigars consistently, and adapting to or sometimes even setting market trends are ongoing challenges.
However, the joy of connecting with fellow enthusiasts, witnessing the harmony in our shop, and helping customers discover their perfect cigar make it all worthwhile.
“One day I got a phone call to send cigars to Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, which we happily did. We have sent a box of Austrian edition Cuban cigar from my personal collection.”
A rewarding challenge will be our new “Cigar Project” in the making. I cannot tell you more about this now, but it will be an exciting next chapter with many new ideas to come.
M: Before we wrap this up, tell me how many cigars do you smoke daily?
P: It depends on how much time I have on that day, but usually I smoke 3-4 cigars.
M: We are coming to the end of our cigars. It’s been a pleasure diving into the world of premium cigars with you, Peter. Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences. Where can our readers find you?
P: If you’re ever in Budapest, be sure to visit OPERA Cigar Shop & Lounge for a truly exceptional cigar experience. For more information and daily updates follow us on Instagram: @operatrafik.
Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure. Until next time, happy smoking!
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