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Family tradition rolls on for cigar maker in Mesa

MESA - Cigar aficionados know there's nothing like smoking a hand-rolled stogie.

Cigar fans in Mesa know there's only one place to get them: Habanos Torres Cigar Factory, on the northwestern corner of Southern Avenue and Extension Road in west Mesa.

Timothy Torres opened his one-man factory two years ago after a fruitless attempt to persuade local cigar-shop owners to let him ply his trade in their stores. Now, the fifth-generation cigar roller says he gets calls from those same shop owners asking him to come in and put on a show. advertisement

But Torres doesn't indulge in the centuries-old Cuban practice of hand-rolling his cigars to show off. For him it's part of the family legacy.

"I didn't actually want to open a store. I just wanted a place where I could keep the tradition alive. That's the main thing, keeping the tradition alive," said Torres, 43. "My thing is quality, not quantity."

But because Torres does all his own work, the Cuban-born cigar manufacturer can deliver a quantity of quality goods for a fraction of the cost of machine rolled and imported stogies, meaning Torres sells cigars rolled with 15-year leaves for the price of a 5-year leaf cigar at another store.

Torres said his customers appreciate the quality and price he offers and his willingness to work with cigar smokers to find a blend that suits them.

"Believe me, I like the picky customers. I sit you by my side, and I guarantee you'll get the right cigar," Torres said. "Normally, all I need is for you to tell me what you are smoking."

Torres has been rolling cigars for nearly 40 years.

He got his start with his family in Cuba. He continued the tradition in Miami after he fled the Communist island about 25 years ago and again in Houston before moving to Mesa in 2003.

After arriving in Arizona, Torres said he had to find a shop to maintain a little sanity.

"I was going nuts without rolling," he said.

He estimates he fills three or four special orders a week, each with 25 cigars, and he rolls countless others for his regular customers, many of whom have tobacco blends that share their names.

Norman Sharp, president of the Cigar Association of America, said the popularity likely lies in the uncommon nature of Torres' operation.

"It's very unique today," Sharp said. "Hand-making cigars on a wide scale is not done in the United States anymore."

Torres takes machine-rolled cigars as a personal affront to a tradition his family has passed down for hundreds of years.

"It's a family thing. They don't even teach you. If you like it, you pick it up yourself," Torres said. "I compare creating a blend to creating music. Anyone with music lessons can play a song, but not anyone can create a song."

Source: Arizona Republic