It has been said it takes a village to raise a child and Arthur ‘Arti’ Kassos is a man well versed in the strength of the community in which he was raised.
However, for a man about town who enjoys the long, slow draw of a Cohiba cigar, affording himself moments under a Havana sunset with those close to the family of Fidel Castro, Arti’s story is one that stretches far from his roots embedded in West End’s eclectic community.
Arti is proud of his strong ties to the peninsula neighbourhood, having gone to West End State School then to Brisbane State High then over the river to the University of Queensland. His eponymous accountancy firm has long been situated on Russell Street — for more than 30 years now. “West End is all about family; always has been. I grew up here,” says Arti, reminiscing. “Everything was here. Walking down the street people would wave from across the road. Everybody knew everybody and it’s still like that now. It is more a polyglot area than what it was before but it’s still that same type of feel and that’s what I love about West End.”
Kassos’s two kids are also part of the working culture of West End, and although Arti now resides with his wife in Carindale, as far as work goes he’s never left the heartland of his childhood. “That’s what happens in West End; it brings you back. I have never left West End as far as my business. I’ve been in this office for 35 years right on this corner,” he recounts. “There’s not much that changes in West End. A lot evolve but I’ve been saying hello to the same people for 25 to 30 years.”
While his popularity has endeared him as an accountant to the stars by business-insiders, Arti loves to regale in stories of time spent on a far-off journey largely closed off to the world when, five years ago, for his 50th birthday, he visited Cuba, where the rolled leaf makes for a great equaliser. “The Lover of the Leaf,” he explains, “We can be a businessman or a street sweeper, accountant or whomever, it doesn’t matter what or who you are. When you sit down and you’ve got a cigar in your hand you’re on equal footing.”
And placing a man among the elite, his story diverts to a connection made through lighting up with one of Cuba’s highest dignitaries, Alejandro Castro-Soto, the younger son of former communist leader, Fidel Castro. “On the first or second night, I met Fidel Castro’s son and we ended up catching up over the next three or four nights,” confesses Arti.
“We had a great time and he showed me the other part to Cuba. The Castros are just like everybody else; they’re just a normal family and they happen to be in the limelight because of their beliefs and passions at the time. So we’ve connected with people from all over the world calling ourselves the lovers of the leaf.”
While he plans a return to his beloved Cuba for the 50th anniversary of the Cohiba cigar next year, for Arti it is clear that West End is where his heart resides.
Words by Kirk W Wallace
Images supplied by Arthur Kassos