Andi Siegers talks cigars – Made in St. Maarten

POSTED: 09/16/13 3:21 PM

St. Maarten /By Jason Lista – He walks in smoking one of his own cigars. Andi Siegers makes himself comfortable at the table and orders a drink. The sun starts to set as he takes another puff. He is relaxed.

Like many young St. Maarteners, though, Siegers initially had a hard time finding work after school. He now manufactures his own cigars on the island. He was born here, at the old St. Rose hospital, but left for school in the Dominican Republic after elementary school. Asked if he wanted to return to the island he promptly replied, “of course. Always been the goal” to come back to St. Maarten.

His father was from Indonesia and fought in the Second World War. For his service he was offered Dutch citizenship. His dad later migrated to the Netherlands and entered university. He came to the island in the late 60s. “He was a civil engineer. He built the government building,” Siegers proudly said.

His mother was from the Dominican Republic, which is why there are still such strong ties with that island. “It gave me an insight in and out,” he said of his international upbringing.

Siegers earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel and business administration. But like many youth here, the job prospects were not always that rosy when he finished. “I was looking all over the place for work,” Siegers recalled. “I was young and eager. They said you’re too young. We’d like someone with more experience.” It was the notorious catch 22 many young people run into when they’re done with school: you need more experience for the job but can only get experience if you have that job.”

He was offered something at a hotel once for 800 guilders a month. “I spent 4 years in college and thousands of dollars on tuition. I said no,” Siegers recalled.

For years he played in a band and was a tour guide to make ends meet. People can remember seeing him at Sunset Beach Bar playing bass guitar.

He paid attention to the harbor expansion project that began over a decade ago. “I saw what was going on there. That was a life changing opportunity,” he said.

Siegers had an idea. “That’s always been a passion,” he said of cigars. “You need to know the product. You can’t sell anything without knowing the product.” He had a friend in his college days whose father was in the coffee business in the Dominican Republic. He would take the boys on tours of tobacco farms where Siegers would gain firsthand knowledge about the entire cigar making process.

He spoke of the link between the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten. “They would go to cut cane,” he said, of the folks in the past that migrated for work. To this day in San Pedro de Macoris there are people with surnames like Gumbs and Hodge, the descendents of St. Maarteners who left a long time ago.

The talk quickly returns to cigars. His tobacco, of course, comes from the Dominican Republic. “It’s Cuban seed, but Dominican grown,” Siegers pointed out. “I’m a manufacturer. It’s rolled here,” he said of his cigars.

When asked about the difference between Cuban and Dominican cigars, he said it’s the soil that makes the difference. “DR is milder,” Siegers noted. “There is no such thing as a mild Cuban cigar.”

He first opened in 2003 at the harbor point village. “I was the first merchant to open at the harbor village,” Siegers said. His operation is small, he sticks to what he knows and does it well. “I like what I’m doing,” he said happily about DAS cigars – Don Andi Siegers cigars. He hand rolls them right here on the island at the harbor, with tobacco from the Dominican Republic.

“I love St. Maarten,” Siegers beamed. “It’s eclectic. The dynamism here is amazing. I am very connected to this place. I don’t think I can live anywhere else,” he stated as a matter of fact.

Indeed, Siegers is a St. Maartener in his heart and his story is one of perseverance and self-reliance, a valuable lesson for those fresh out of school and looking for work.

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Comments (4)

 

  1. Mark Camphaug says:

    Great Cigars!

  2. Chuck Dowling says:

    Andi is a great person and a very hard worker, he really, really deserves the the sucsessful life he enjoys. Lesson to the youth, hard word and perseverence pay off.

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  4. […] Maarten that make their own little contributions in stimulating our island’s economy, like the gentleman that makes his own cigars and sell them at the cruise terminal. We need more of that, no matter how […]