Ron Moscovitch started working in the RYO industry at the tender age of 13. “by the time I was 15, I was able to do every process in the operations,” says Moscovitch, who worked part-time after school and during summer vacation at Montreal, Canada-based Orleans International, Inc.
Founded by his father, in 1965, Orleans had grown steadily. Early on, the company picked up a contract to manufacture Supermatic rolling machines for CTC Industries of Montreal. Asked by a retailer soon thereafter to develop a smaller, more compact cigarette roller, Orleans designed, developed, and patented the Corona cigarette machine, which it distributed nationally in Canada.RYO Root
In 1980, the same year that Ron Moscovitch joined the company full-time, Orleans established a joint venture with CTC Industries to launch Plattsburgh, New York-based Clinton Tube Co., which would serve as a North American manufacturing and distribution center. But the company’s biggest coup may well have been a 1989 deal RJR-Macdonald [the Canadian subsidiary of RJR], which chose its cigarette machine to bear the RJR trademark.
“Being RJR they were very sensitive about putting their name on a product, so the process took a year and a half,” recounts Moscovitch, who says the company was considering virtually every cigarette maker on the market at the time. “They put us through the test. At one point one of their buyers opened a second story window and threw our machine out of a second story window, then picked up the phone and said, ‘Send someone downstairs to bring up the machine I just tossed out the window.’ When they did, he put it back on the table and rolled some cigarettes.”
The Corona survived the rigorous test process and soon became the EXP1000, for which Orleans International was the exclusive manufacturer—turning out some 400,000 cigarette rollers a year. Those heady times continued into 1996, when black market cigarettes decimated Canada’s RYO business. Export of cigarettes into the U.S went up dramatically, with most of that increase attributable to the sale of tax-free cigarettes in the U.S. Those cigarettes were then smuggled back to Canada or sold at Native American reservations along the border, explains Moscovitch. “Canada’s RYO market could not compete with the smuggled low-cost cigarettes,” he says. “It was nearly devastated.”
Sensing a major downturn coming, the father-and-son team closed down operations.Cigar Sensibilities
In Florida, Moscovitch used his background and contacts in the tobacco field to begin a cigar accessories company, Orleans Group International, with a partner. The partners started out using a spare bedroom in Moscovitch’s house as an office and the partners garage as a warehouse.
The partners persevered and soon made headway. “You have to be lucky, but you also have to work hard,” says Moscovitch, reflecting on those early days and the pressures of starting a business.”
Helping matters, the year was 1997, the beginning of the cigar boom. Within a few months Orleans International moved from the partners’ homes to its first real location. Growth was so fast that within three years, the company moved again, this time to a 3,500-square-foot space with a 2,000-square-foot warehouse. Within 10 years, Orleans International was the largest cigar accessory company in the U.S., with 4,000 active accounts and doing 30 percent of its business overseas. We were selling to retailers, distributors, and wholesalers, as well as doing private label product, including humidors for General Cigar.
By 2007, the company and its owners were at a crossroads. Already significant in size, Orleans would need a capital influx to grow to the next level. Meanwhile, Moscovitch was ready for a change. “The idea of selling the company came up almost as a joke,” he says. “We talked to a business broker we knew and he said that it usually takes six months to sell a business, so we thought, let’s put it up. We can always take it off the market if we change our minds.”
The company was listed on a Friday, and by the following Monday three buyers were expressing interest. Orleans International was sold to a large capital investment company by the end of the week.”Back to the Future
Despite the business windfall, Moscovitch is wasting no time leaping back into the fray. Just a few months after selling Orleans International, he decided to return to his RYO roots and launch a new business. Simron International—named for Ron and his wife, Sima—was inspired by a trip to the 2007 RTDA show, where Moscovitch found himself reflecting on the RYO market and the advantages of the cigarette rolling machine developed by his father for their first company.
“A lot of rolling machines load from the top,” he explains. “When you put too much tobacco in a machine that loads from the top, it jams. Our machine is designed in such a way that you cannot overpack it, and it consistently makes a perfect cigarette.”
Simron International is in the process of reintroducing the cigarette rolling machine. “We will have distribution centers across the U.S.” says Moscovitch, who expects the machine to hit the market in mid-October and have a suggested retail price of approximately $22.95. “Dealer and distributor inquiries are welcome, and private label products will also be available.”
Despite the proliferation of machines currently on the market, Moscovitch is confident that his will stand out as superior. “All the machines presently on the market were there during the years we were in the rolling machine business,” he says. “Our rolling machine was the best of the bunch. Once it gets back into the hands of retailers and customers, it will sell itself.” •