Big Easy factory worker’s worries gone in a puff of smoke


NEW ORLEANS CIGAR FACTORY—Sitting here in paradise trying to scratch out a column and searching for some inspiration in the neighborhood that inspired Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and William Faulkner to greatness.

(Spoiler: the following column will not be mentioned in the same breath with said literary greats).

Williams’ time in the Big Easy produced A Streetcar named Desire. Hemingway penned Night Before Battle which immortalized his beloved New Orleans Hotel Monteleone.

Capote, who was born in New Orleans, used to tell people he was born at the Monteleone.

Creepy vampire author Anne Rice also resides here—in a black castle, I’m told.

What’s inspiring me at the moment is the cigar smoke that is swirling above me as I sit as relaxed as I have ever been at the New Orleans Cigar Factory, which is located in the heart of the French Quarter.

Felipe Pichardo has been fashioning cigars for 20 years, which equals half his life. 
Reporter/Bill Martin Felipe Pichardo has been fashioning cigars for 20 years, which equals half his life. Reporter/Bill Martin The infamous literary hangout Monteleone is a couple of blocks over on Royal Street and I can get a glimpse of it above the fray of people and buildings.

There is also a Chico’s in view (note to self: must keep former cheerleader off Decatur Street).

I sit at a table with fellow cigar aficionados Rudolpho and Lawyer Mike.

Rudolpho is leaning back in the only leather back chair in the joint, his straw Panama style hat tossed on the table in front of us. He thumps his ashes in a stand up ash tray near his chair.

Mike the Lawyer, is taking phone calls between puffs, discussing cases and handing out advice to colleagues. A dozen lawyer jokes dash through my head.

We are all smoking the Connecticut Shade Wrappers, a milder style cigar with an intoxicating aroma.

Through the windows, we watch a steady flow of tourists walk by. Men are drawn to the place like zombies. Women squinch up their noses and hurry by. There are shoes out there somewhere.

Behind us, there are pictures of celebrities tacked up on the wall who have visited here.

People have been know to play cards and dominoes here all afternoon.

While I have only been here twice, the Cigar Factory has been a place where all tension rolls away.

I pay close attention to Felipe Pichardo, who is rolling the Cigar Factory’s handmade cigars with great care.

Felipe, who puffs on a large cigar while he is working, has been making up cigars for 20 years—nearly half his age of 41 years.

One of his colleagues, 64-year old Reynaldo Reyes, has been rollin’ ‘em up for four decades.

Latin music blasts through the store and the roller closest to the door, Davi Santana, loudly sings along to the beat and the factory suddenly transforms into a Cuban nightclub.

Having a job where you are encouraged to enjoy a fresh cigar—priceless. Having a job that allows you to take vacations in New Orleans—even better.

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2013-08-08 digital edition

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