Creating Memories One Cigar at a Time
Martinez Hand Rolled Cigars Factory has been keeping an old-world tradition alive for 40 years in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. The shop infuses work and play by combining craftsmanship and a community atmosphere.
Hand rolling cigars has a rich history in New York City. Cigars were first made in the city by rollers out of their apartment. In 1883, cigars were being made in 127 apartments, which employed 1,962 families and a total of 7,924 people. After a state statute band the practice, the industry moved to Brooklyn and Long Island but then eventually found its way back to the city.

In 1974, Antonio Genaro Martinez, also known as Don Antonio, brought with him the intricate process of hand-rolling cigars when he immigrated from his town of Tamboríl in the Dominican Republic, a skill which his father possessed as well. He set up his shop, Martinez Hand Rolled Cigars Factory, in midtown Manhattan on 29th street. The shop instantly became a home away from home for the community and has been a fixture ever since.

Antonio’s son, Jesus Martinez, now runs the shop and makes it a point to honor his father’s talents and memory by keeping the traditions he set alive.

The rollers or “Tabaqueros” as they are called sit at the rolling tables and roll cigars everyday right there in shop for patrons to view. On average, the shop rolls about 600 cigars a week. The shop sees customers from all walks of life and customers who have been coming to the shop for 15 to 20 years. As per tradition every Saturday Martinez Hand Rolled Cigars Factory is the setting for a spirited game of Dominoes.
It's a neighborhood shop it's a neighborhood shop especially in New York City that it's changing rapidly umm we get regular guys all the time you know guys that are working around the area guys that live around the area, and you know it's just a place where you can come smoke, talk and relax.

It's just a great atmosphere to have a random conversation with just a random person and you have something in common you know smoking a cigars and talk about life in general. It's a social Place

Everybody knows each other everybody comes from different pasts. They tell us their story and we tell them ours.

Hand rolled cigars it's a dying art. You know they don't have too many places like that in the city anymore. So if find a place like this like you see everybody here. This is like being at home.

I was born into it, into it ummm my grandfather was a cigar roller and my father was cigar roller down in the Dominican Republic and umm and I just grew up here.

With my father you know helping him out you know one day I realized like wow I realized like this, and I kept going to school but umm but I started in business just to help pa more, but I knew I was going to end up here. I spend six days a week here so its very special place in my life.

Basically we get the leaves in bales, average 100 or 120 pounds of tobacco, umm what we do is we take the filler and we blend it umm based on what we looking for. We could be looking for umm mild cigar or medium cigar and we determine which leaves we want to use. Once you figure out which filler you wan to go with umm you roll it into the binder then you put it in the molds. You press them for about, depending on the size, 4 to 6 hours. Some of them we actually leave over night.

And then it'd be the final step, which he is doing it at the end. Which is applying the final wrapper

You have the guys right on top of the product which is umm right away gives you a big advantage over the machine. You know a guy can overlook all the details of a cigar being rolled.

Ahh it's amazing how you can turn leaves into actually a cigar and umm and it's amazing how it takes shape, how they wrap it up. How it smokes evenly. How different sizes could affect the taste of the cigar, how strong it is. It's like basically a lost art.

The whole thing is they have in their hands they have the feeling of which cigar they make and which gives them the opportunity to put the same amount of tobacco all the time and that's where the real key is. So you don't want to put less, you don't want to put too much. It's got to be perfect. That's the big skill.

It's fresh obviously you're not buying something that's sitting around on the shelf for days or weeks. You get to see the process made right in front of you. You get to sample different cigars as their being made sometimes, so just the whole experience is just fantastic.

You get some people that they just love the fact that something that they enjoy. uhhh is still being hand made. You know and they can see it the way we make them right here. So it's always nice to get something custom made.

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