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THE HISTORY OF THE BULLDOGThe Bulldog, AmsterdamHow a music festival influenced Henk de Vries to start his career in CannabisIn 1970 Henk de Vries and a group of his friends visited the ‘Woodstock’ of the Netherlands at Kralingsebos. Henk was in charge of bringing something to smoke, which he did and divided it amongst his friends.
Within hours, to his amazement, people were trying to sell him the weed he had earlier been sharing. Henk drove back to Amsterdam to get more, much more than he originally brought along, and once back at the festival he found himself a nice spot near a little bridge to sit and sell his cannabis stuffed in matchboxes (which he had picked up along the way).
Within a short time two police officers confronted Henk and were at the point of arresting him, when the festival organiser Koos Zwart got involved and after a debate overruled the police, even being so daring, as to announce to the crowds via the PA that Henk was sitting near the little bridge with Cannabis for sale. This made Henk the first ‘legalised’ cannabis dealer of the Netherlands and thereby sowed the seeds that grew this action into an empire. When Henk returned from Germany in 1974, he inherited his father’s sex-shop – in a prime location within the Red Light District. Since his return, he had however noticed that his childhood neighbourhood had deteriorated, with hard drugs taking control of the streets. Henk decided to act in retaliation and threw all the inventory from the sex-shop, into the canal.
Armed with a top-notch location, in the heart of The Red Light District, his progressive ideas and exceptional intuition created a safe location for neighbours, friends, and the occasional tourist to buy, chill and smoke some herb. A place where people can enjoy the privilege of being themselves: The Bulldog Coffeeshop, inspired by his dog at the time, a bulldog named Joris, was born … A living room for all to enjoy!
“I wanted to make the connection with a coffeehouse, in my opinion that was like a living room for neighbourhood residents. At the same time, I wanted to have an international character to the place, that’s how the term ‘coffeeshop’ was born”.When Henk opened The Bulldog Coffeeshop, it was just a basement with a couple of tables. Visually, just a living room where people sat, talking, drinking playing board and card games.
In the beginning the shop was visited mostly by residents of the Red Light District. A strict policy was held to keep hard drugs outside the door. The use of – what we call cannabis – was illegal in the Netherlands at this time and Henk became the focus of the local police department, raid upon raid took place during the first years of operating in the basement of where The Bulldog still is.According to Derrick Bergman, chairman of the Alliance for the lifting of the ban on Cannabis (VOC), “As founder of The Bulldog, Henk de Vries is not only a living legend but also the owner of the first global cannabis brand in modern history. Since he started in 1974 in a basement on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal in Amsterdam with The Bulldog, his brainchild, has grown into an empire with global fame. Like no other, Henk de Vries put his stamp on the phenomenon that according to Professor Egbert Tellegen should have been proclaimed ‘the most important Dutch social innovation of the past half century’: the coffeeshop”.
Today, some 46 years later, The Bulldog has multiple coffeeshop sites in Amsterdam, along with café’s and the first five-star hostel in the world. With further social clubs in Barcelona, Ibiza, Rome and Aruba.The Bulldog distributes world famous Smokers Products across the globe along with Seeds, an Energy Drink and even Iced Coffee.