It was my attraction to bright colors that led me to Rochester's Cigar Factory at 467 State Street. Its brightly painted exterior has made it a local landmark --- the bright spot on State Street just past "The Big Yellow Box," Kodak. When I checked it out recently, the customers I saw were a mix of white- and blue-collar types, mostly men.
Narciso Martinez is the owner. Just call him Cisso, because it's easier. He's been producing his easy-drawing Cisso-brand signature cigars here for seven years. "I was the first and only cigar factory in all Upstate New York," Cisso says. "We came after the big cigar boom, but people in Rochester really wanted a Rochester cigar."
Martinez came to the US from the Dominican Republic 18 years ago. And he hasn't forgotten his roots. He's working with a cooperative of independent farmers in the Dominican Republic who supply him with the tobacco he has rolled into his cigars.
But it's not the supply-side that gets Cisso going. It's the product. His knowledge of smoking tobacco is encyclopedic. Just don't let it intimidate you. He seems to welcome opportunities to work with novice cigar smokers, and has a knack for matching finicky palates with the perfect cigar.
In addition to the Cisso line, the Factory creates custom cigars for local clients. It also makes special cigar bands for company promos, bachelor parties, and weddings.
There's a small café on the premises, where you can puff away to your heart's content. The master roller is always there on Mondays. Feel free to watch him work or even ask him a question, but keep in mind that he gets busy sometimes, rolling over 300 cigars on some smoky days.
--- Dave Cross
Eyes on a prize
For more than a decade, the Massachusetts-based Bruner Foundation has bestowed the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence on carefully selected projects and designs across the Lower 48 states. The gold medal winner gets $50,000; silver medalists get $10,000 each. Winners can use the money in any way they feel will benefit their projects. Recent medalists include Newark's New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Philadelphia's Village of Arts and Humanities.
Now fans of a Rochester project --- Atlantic-University's ArtWalk, which combines street and sidewalk enhancements with installations of public art --- have their eyes on the Bruner. ArtWalk organizer Doug Rice says the group is looking for people willing to help with the application, which must be filed by December 16. Basically, what's needed are short supporting statements.
Who can take part? According to Rice, almost any ArtWalk fan who's attended public events or viewed the project, and of course any artist who's submitted work for display. To get on board, contact ArtWalk, 234-6670, or visit the group's website, www.rochesterartwalk.org.
Not so mean streets
The Rochester metro area's highways and byways have earned an honor --- sort of --- from the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a Washington-based not-for-profit.
In a new study, Mean Streets 2002, the group assigns a "Pedestrian Danger Index" to large urban areas across the US. The index is based on pedestrian deaths per capita and related data from the US Census and other sources. Orlando, Florida, was number one on the list, meaning it was deemed the most dangerous place for urban walkers. (In fact, five of the top six places went to Florida cities.)
But what about Rochester? We were number 42 of 49 metro areas --- meaning this may be one of the country's safest pedestrian environments. We beat Buffalo; the Queen City was number 30. But looks can be deceiving: The New York Tri-State metro area, which has vast pedestrian hordes as well as significant numbers of fatalities, came in at number 47. So as usual, everything is relative.
In "You ain't seen nothin'" (Nov. 20, 2002), we incorrectly asserted that Monroe County pays the full cost of health insurance for both current employees and retirees. In fact, according to county spokesman Bob Nolan, current employees pay "a small share" of their health insurance bill, ranging from $10 to $50 a month for singles, $25 to $100 a month for family coverage. Qualifying retirees are fully covered by the county.