Below is a synopsis of several interesting
conversations between myself, Arnold Kastner, and Peter Stokkebye
regarding some real fundamental extrapolations on what the world
can expect in the coming years from the MYO/RYO industry. These two men have unique
insight into what has gone before as well as what could be. Remember that the Make Your
Own Industry, (which is truly a coalition formed by the high quality rolling tobacco
industry and the mechanical engineering based manufacturing world), even with all of its
wonderful innovations, is still relatively in its infant stage. We have little doubt that
the future will see a very large portion of the smoking public taking control over the
contents of their smoking materials as well as their method of manufacture. These two men have been uniquely instrumental in getting
things to where they now stand and are indeed rare in that they represent singularly
identifiable icons of their respective product lines. However, it is now their successors
who truly have both the opportunity and obligation to accelerate the acceptance of the
make your own philosophy by continuing to provide evolutionary, superb quality product
over a number of months of conversations these five basic questions which I will now
attempt to disseminate their answers to in such a manner as to accurately represent each
of their views. My comments will be included also. Keep in mind that for the sake of
brevity much of what you will read are not direct quotes but is the "gist" of
many hours of conversations with these exceptional men. Though many notes were taken
during the course of these dialogues, it is impossible not to have one's memory influenced
by certain personal biases. I admit to this possibility because it is important for the
reader to realize that while people such as Peter (who is in his early 70's) and Arnold
(now in his mid 70's) possess a very complex knowledge base developed over a lot of years
of experience, they are also highly successful business men. The day to day practical
nature required to be successful in this administratively oriented role can often
interfere with one's ability to deal with ideas that may at first seem impractical at best
and undoable at worst.. But . . . in both of these men, I found a remarkable grasp of both
critical logic and reasoned extrapolation. We can only hope that their successors have
absorbed some of that magic. So far, it appears they have. - Doug
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||How have you
handled semi-retirement? Was handing off control difficult?
I keep busy and find I have more time to spend doing some of the things that were
difficult to fit in when I was fully involved with the company. My son Eric, who has
worked for the company for over ten years has done a marvelous job at the helm for us and
I have a great deal of peace of mind as to the direction he is taking us. Of course, I
still spend several hours per day with company projects and my input is still welcome.
This is a family business and has been for a long time. All those that work at Stokkebye,
from top to bottom are part of that family.
I am, at heart, an inventor. New ideas and solutions run through my mind constantly, some
of which I am able to try out, some of which I can only continue to contemplate. My
son-in-law, Gary Gabarino, now heads the company, with the able help of Stephane David our
international sales director and Anthony Liam who manages our New York facility. They have
all done such a great job in bringing the company into the 21st century that my
retirement, if you can call it that, has had only a minor impact on my daily interests. We
have such a great organization that the nuts and bolts parts are taken care of without my
help freeing me to spend more time thinking up new things.
Both of these men truly are fortunate to have found such capable successors. More
importantly they are not exaggerating when they speak of the impact that they themselves
still have on their companies. Both of these organizations truly seem to appreciate the
input from these two masters. Too often successful family owned companies are handed down
on the basis of relationship rather than qualification and the input of their predecessors
is often ignored. This is certainly NOT the case for these two
time do you continue to devote in your daily activities to your company?
About four hours a day. I spend 60% of that time related to the pipe tobacco we
manufacture. The other 40% is spent on our RYO products. I give seminars at tobacco shops
up and down the west coast on our pipe tobaccos. It is a program that I have been engaged
in for several years and gives me a great deal of pleasure. Of course, I travel a lot
abroad always looking for new rolling tobacco ideas and strategies, trying to gauge the
incredibly popular market there as it can apply to the growing US market. I still inspect
a lot of leaf which is probably my favorite thing to do. I love to walk fields of tobacco.
Only a couple hours a day on a regular basis but I am always reachable by phone and still
have my office. I bring the younger folks ideas and they bounce them off the wall and more
often than not, I get not only their attention but their well considered feedback. This
industry has so much potential that I find myself constantly reinventing possibilities
that will be, in my opinion necessary for future growth
I have found it amazing how much input Peter and Arnold have and to an even greater
degree, how concerned and proactive they are in the future possibilities of the MYO/RYO
industry. I know a good deal about what makes for a successful tobacco or tobacco related
product and am pretty free in giving my advice to companies. Rarely do I propose something
that either Peter or Arnold have not already considered and taken further steps to
explore. I suspect they both spend even more time than they claim (un-officially perhaps)
considering the enormous possibilities of this industry.
your products/accomplishments are you most proud of?
In the rolling tobacco segment it is unquestionably our McClintock products. I am so
gratified that we can make available such a high quality product to the market at a price
that is so affordable. Also and obviously I am completely enamored with pipe tobaccos and
feel that the quality and variety of our many pipe blends is certainly gratifying. And
lastly, I feel a great deal of satisfaction in having helped bridge the gap from my
father's guidance of the company to my son Eric's able management. Multi generational
businesses are becoming quite rare and it is indeed a pleasure to be a part of a company
such as ours.
The Supermatic is a redesign of the French machine and I take great pride in having
improved upon this innovative design. The Excel is perhaps our greatest accomplishment,
especially the latest version which is simply an outstanding low-cost alternative to the
Supermatic line. Our tube business has grown incredibly as has the quality of our
machinery, which we designed ourselves. Seeing the injector and tube business grow in the
US like it has in the last few years is probably my greatest source of pride. There were
many people along the way who were doubtful that the US market would ever be a viable one.
Looks like they were wrong and for that I am most satisfied.
What can I say here? McClintock and the Supermatic line. Many of the other products in
their respective lines existed (some in different forms and with different labeling) prior
to these men taking over the business from their fathers. As a third party and not having
the burden of humility, I would only say that their mark is all over the look, feel, and
quality of the current line of products. The new Supermatic is without qualification the
finest injector ever and Peter's Amsterdam Shag may be the singularly finest tobacco in
the world at any price.
||What is the
single most important area of improvement in the MYO/RYO industry that you would
It is estimated that perhaps 90% of the packaged cigarette smokers in the US are not even
aware of the existence of the MYO scenario. Though Americans have been rolling their own
tobacco for centuries, the practice of MYO needs to be shared with a much more diverse
group of tobacco users. While over time this will naturally occur, I feel that hands-on
demonstrations by retailers and representatives of companies involved in this industry as
well as a continued commitment to high quality products will accelerate the acceptance by
the packaged brand smoker. New and creative ways to expose those who smoke cigarettes to
this logical and viable alternative need to evolve in an atmosphere that emphasizes
quality rather than simply economy.
Being an inventor by nature I tend to look to a future where making ones own cigarettes
will become increasingly easier. Obviously the ultimate goal will be a truly automated,
electrically powered cigarette manufacturing machine that will be reasonable in cost and
will actually save time. Because placing a tube on an injector nozzle and filling the
tobacco chamber each time is the most time intensive part of tobacco injection, the truly
worthy automatic machine of the future must overcome the difficulties of doing these two
thing automatically. I have confidence that in time these obstacles will be overcome and
the practice of making one's own cigarettes will be taken to a new level of acceptance.
There is little doubt among anyone I have met in this industry that demonstration of the
MYO concept is vital. I would still like to see Peter get up to his elbows in creating a
true Yenidje Turkish blend. I will bug him about this until he finally tells me to piss
off. Arnold's dream of an all electric automated machine may not be too far distant, but I
find it difficult to see why anyone (other than those suffering from certain disabilities
that prevent the use of their arms and/or hands) would want anything easier, more simple
to use than a NEW Blue Supermatic, especially given the new lifetime warranty this machine
now includes. After all, the brief contemplation one experiences each time a cigarette is
injected is an important part of the MYO process - the essence being moderation and
appreciation of the quality of each individual smoke.
||What is your
general (big picture) vision for the future of MYO/RYO?
I would not be surprised to see a 10% market share growth over the next few years. How
fast this industry grows is somewhat dependent on certain political issues being resolved
as well as the combined efforts of the entire industry to illuminate the differences
between those who enjoy tobacco and those who for one reason or another abuse its use. If
the case can be made that RYO/MYO leads to a reduction of obsessive behavior, I feel that
those who truly enjoy tobacco will see the advantages of making one's own smokes.
There is practically no limit to the potential of the MYO business. Since we are no longer
in the tobacco portion of this business, I can only hope that the number of people who can
see our machines in action will increase. Demonstrations are vital to this as well as real
knowledge of their operation by those selling them. One day you ARE going to see someone
in a major motion picture make an injected cigarette. When that happens I think the market
I think that if the general cigarette smoking public is made aware of the details of
making one's own cigarette that a majority of packaged smokers will make the change. If
the many tens of thousands we have heard from over the last two years are any indication,
this practice could ultimately influence nearly every cigarette smoker on the planet. We
must remind those that are listening here from the anti-tobacco segment that the only
other thing that may become a likely by-product of their activities (legislation and
taxation) is that folks may really get serious about growing their own tobacco. I have
experimented as most of you know, but I am a long way from producing anything close to the
quality of Stokkebye products. However, with a great deal of time and patience invested
one can learn. I sincerely hope it never comes to that.