“It begins with my grandfather, who started the Ontario Tobacco Company in 1932,” explains Cathy O’Shea, who took over the role as president of House of Horvath in 2011. “He invented a machine that transformed the industry; he was the first person to create the mechanical process to place a plastic tip on a cigar and from there, the market grew and changed.”
In 1969, he sold the company and in 1977, Cathy’s father, Joseph Horvath, opened the doors of House of Horvath with the value proposition of offering “the best quality to price ratio in the business.” Cathy, along with her husband, Colm O’Shea, the company’s executive vice president, has been restructuring the business since 2011, adding new employees to join the Horvath family, and increasing technology with a new back office system.
But while Cathy makes improvements to keep pace with the industry, she says the core values at the heart of her business aren’t going anywhere. “The company was founded on three principles – quality, tradition, and integrity. We’ve remained true to these core values throughout the years, and we believe they are the key to our success.”
These values, affirmed in all House of Horvath employees, help the company develop strong relationships with industry partners from suppliers to full-service distributors and retailers. “Building relationships isn’t always about having the best pricing or the best packaging – it’s about trust. A tobacco buyer or retailers has to trust the salesman and the company they represent,” says Colm. House of Horvath Sales Representatives pay regular visits to their retail customers, assessing needs, sharing knowledge, and working with retailers to find the most profitable balance of products in the stores. “The OTP sector is an important category to convenience-gas retailers as it occupies a small footprint while delivering an excellent return on investment,” says Cathy. “While OTP can be a somewhat small contributor to overall tobacco sales, it represents the highest margin opportunities in the category.” But the high profit margins don’t mean it’s easy for retailers to find success, especially with dark market legislation, contraband, and new government regulations coming down the pipeline. That’s why House of Horvath invests in its sales reps and arms its full service distributor partners with tools to provide product knowledge and education to keep retailers abreast of industry trends and regulations.
“Numerous and evolving federal and provincial tobacco regulations, coupled with rigorous compliance standards, require retailers to be vigilant in remaining informed,” explains Cathy. Colm, who works on the government relations side of the business, says the biggest opportunity for retailers is to “leverage the strength of your member associations,” as elected representatives are always prepared to listen to stakeholders like the Convenience Industry Council of Canada and its affiliates when it comes to regulatory concerns.
The Horvath family has been in the business for more than 85 years, and our new and improved business approach only helps solidify its place as a strong, family-oriented business in the OTP industry. “Our People believe in this company and are a part of this family, which is the same for the store owners,” says Colm. “Every sale we make is backed by the 61 people who work here, and retailers can relate to that.”
“Everybody who works for us feels like part of the family, and that’s really important to us. It’s critical to build trust with our customers, suppliers, and everyone we deal with,” says Cathy. “We’re passionate about this business, and we’re in it for the long haul.”