| Of all the subjects that our readers write to us about, only tobacco gets more
attention than CTC (The Clinton Tube Company). CTC manufacturers over 25
brands of tubes as well as the Premier Supermatic, Supermatic II,
and Excel injectors. They also make a number of hand-held injectors and
many other products under various names for both themselves and for private label. We have
reviewed their products extensively and have highlighted, with a biographical article, the
man, Arnold Kastner, responsible for the modern company we see today. But
our readers want to know more. It was a great excuse to visit this Montreal based company
in early October of this year. I hate flying but I love playing with toys and CTC has lots
of 'em. One point you should keep in mind is that we at RYO Magazine have oft stated that
we feel that, of all the components necessary to the growing success of the MYO industry,
the Supermatic injector family, as well as high quality filtered tubes, will likely have
the most impact on the current 50 million packaged cigarette smokers and their eventual
decision to migrate to the MYO world.
There have been truly great rolling tobaccos around for many decades, and we here at RYO Magazine have unequaled appreciation for the talent, care, and dedication necessary to create and maintain products of such impeccable quality. People like Peter Stokkebye and the hundreds whose names you may never know have ensured that the products available to people who appreciate fine tobacco remain true to the concept of purity. But these products have been, in some cases, available for many, many decades without influencing the bulk of the US smoking public to use them. It is the MYO injector that will ultimately introduce these fine tobaccos to a much wider audience and NOBODY makes injectors like CTC. Because of that we have often expressed concern that if CTC were to disappear, the entire industry's potential for growth would be severely damaged. So we have made it a point to have gotten to know the folks there quite well and have assured our readership that this company is viable, growing, forward thinking and extremely dedicated to a creative future. But our words are only just that - words - and so let's take a look at some of the tangibles that have led to our confidence of CTC's continued contribution. For those who have not read the October 2001 Special Review on Kastner and the company, a brief history is in order, after which we will take an inside look at one of the most fascinating companies in an industry filled with fascinating products, tools, machinery, and of course, people!
By the time the first Laredo make your own cigarette injector kit (see our debut January 2000 issue Cover page in the Archives) was introduced in the US, circa 1970, the Supermatic was over a quarter of a century old. In fact the first injection machine of its type to reach North America was brought to Canada by the senior, Morris Kastner, in 1934. His son Arnold (who we biographied in the October 2001 issue - again, see Archives), finding the need for non-European standardization (a few years later) renamed and upgraded this original machine, the La Francaise pictured at right, and the Supermatic was born. The senior Morris Kastner, retired in 1948 and his son, Arnold, began what has become one of the most critical and visionary endeavors for the MYO industry. In the early days of Arnold's leadership, the company slowly got out of the tobacco business and began producing machines and then cigarette tubes. At this time, the market existed predominantly in Canada and Europe as American cigarettes were still very cheap. Nonetheless, by the early 60's, the Supermatic began showing up in mail order catalogs like Sears and others. While the machine had been available for a number of years before that, this was the first nation-wide US exposure for the machine. Arnold Kastner is a most innovative man. He created many of the designs that the company was to use for machines to manufacture both tubes and injectors and he has the patents to prove it. But more relevant here is that CTC, continues, under the guidance of its energetic President, Gary Garbarino, its Vice-President of International Sales (not to be interpreted as the president of vice), Stephane David, its Production Chief, Gaetan Latour, its Operation Manager Barbara Ryan and its subsidiary Plant Manager in Plattsburg, NY, Anthony Liem, to grow at a dizzying pace, one that is necessary to match the explosion of interest in the MYO methodology. Arnold, though semi-retired, still has an office and while I was there, he was in there every day and we had a lot of fun looking at all of his inventions, some having nothing to do with the MYO industry and some that had nothing to do with anything that yet exists on this planet. As I said the man is a visionary. I actually took a picture of one of the drawers in his massive desk (at right). One would expect such an impressive persona to have some really upscale things in his desk drawers, like good Cuban cigars (legal in Canada) or other such treasure. Nope, this is the desk of an inventor. Tape, and tools, and calipers, and staplers, and wrenches, and some things I did not recognize that turned out to be inventions of his. And when you look in the cabinets that cover the walls behind his desk (believe me not many folks get to look in there) one can find tubes from the 1930's, staplers that use no staples and a myriad of other fascinating gadgets.These enclosures are literally treasure chests for the curious tinker and historian alike. It is clear that Arnold still enjoys his involvement with the company and has both the respect and "ear" of his protegees.
I made so many friends there, which is easy to do in the easy going, enlightened environment that permeates CTC, that space here prohibits naming even a small portion of them. As time goes on we will introduce you to more of them like Ginette Paquin, the Controller, who will be instrumental in bringing the entire CTC experience to the world-wide web. For now it is both accurate and pleasurable to say that the many dozens of employees of CTC are a unique and multi-talented bunch. There are musicians, and artists, beautiful, intelligent women, and guys with pencil holders in their shirt pockets who are funnier than Elvis Costello and a whole lot brighter. I guess you can tell I had a good time.
The company itself has many faces to show. It IS an industrial plant, but an executive level think tank as well. It has a showroom of products (in Canada, CTC is the fourth largest distributor of smoke shop oriented materials and other items that the vast convenience store network there depends on) and this showroom is as elegant as any I have seen. I should be so lucky as to have a smoke shop that looks like this with everything from $5 lighters to $5,000 humidors. A lot of brainstorming goes on in this showroom, as it is rich with the ambience and tradition that tobacco shops, and the hobbyist, connoisseur nature of MYO, have in common. They have a number catalogs that display their level of product diversity.
However the guts of the operation are the production facilities and they are impressive. Their Decoufle, one of many machines there that produce tubes from start to finish, is a multi-million dollar mass production marvel and just the beginning of the spacious automated production facility that ends with finished cases of tubes ready for the forklift. Because of the considerable cost of machines such as these they run nearly full time with several shifts. Even so, demand is increasing to the point that more investments of this magnitude are going to be necessary. In addition to the magnificent Decoufle, CTC has many tube making machines that are smaller and even more versatile. These are the proprietary designs of Arnold himself and can do amazing things and though they do not produce at the volume of the larger Decoufle, they give CTC the ability to innovate and customize product for the evolving market. The whole place literally hums with the sounds one would expect in a mass production facility and the machine shop areas, where even more machines are designed and tooled into existence, is an innovator's dream. Here, they can literally make whatever they need to adapt. The whole plant is very much larger than one at first might expect. I became lost on several occasions and finally had to start drawing maps to find my way. I tried leaving a trail of filtered tubes with which to find my way back from my explorations but someone kept picking them up. The facility is huge and my sense of direction is notoriously lacking.
In the near future CTC will have a website that will not only serve its distributors and copious customer chain but will have extensive information on the inner workings of this part of the RYO/MYO industry. We think the site will be fascinating to all who are just beginning to understand the scope and possibilities of this relatively new way of controlling that which we smoke and further, it should emphasize to all, that this industry, while still in its infancy, is one that is going to be part of our experience for a very long time. And that is why we felt it important to take you inside. The Laredo was a big disappointment to many. It arrived at a time when manufactured cigarettes were still rather cheap and those that were enticed by the personal nature of making their own cigarettes found themselves suddenly without supplies or replacement parts. The industry is far different now. The MYO industry, with the sheer commitment of companies like CTC, can rely on a long and prosperous life as can those who are increasingly discovering the benefits this industry has to offer. MYO is no longer a novelty but rather a dependable and exciting alternative to package cigarette consumption that could well change they way smokers and non-smokers alike view tobacco usage. And more than any other single person, we have innovative Arnold Kastner to thank for this.
|EDITOR'S NOTE: These reviews are solely for the convenience of people of legal age who already smoke, are trying to cut down on smoking, wish to spend less money on their smoking, want to roll their own cigarettes from high quality tobacco, and, in general, wish to have a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, encourage people to smoke. Further, we prescribe to a sane, more logical approach to smoking that involves common sense as to quantity coupled with a strong desire to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed with minimal health risks. Finally, we strongly encourage those who do smoke to take it outdoors, or to appropriate environments where tobacco can be enjoyed away from those who do not smoke, most especially children. We do not sell tobacco or related products from this site; We distribute information about our perceptions of the quality of what is available and where it can be obtained. If you are under 18, it is illegal to buy tobacco and you should immediately exit this site. If you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start.|
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