Saturday, June 22, 2019


April 21, 2019
From the Berkeley Beacon, Emerson College Student Newspaper.
Opinion, by Frances Hui.

I am from a city owned by a country that I don’t belong to.

Britain colonized Hong Kong as a consequence of the Opium War in 1842. While China gave up part of Hong Kong permanently to Britain—the New Territories, which makes up 86 percent of Hong Kong, was also under British control in a 99-year lease. In 1997, when the lease ended, the British government decided to give all of Hong Kong back to the People’s Republic of China, known just as China today, as a “special administrative region” subordinated by China’s government.

To eliminate panic caused by the change, China promised to practice “one country, two systems,” which guaranteed that everything in Hong Kong would stay the same and operated on a separate political system from other cities in China for 50 years.

China appoints a chief executive every five years after a conditional election among the election committee. Hong Kong’s legal system is embedded within a supreme law called the Basic Law, while citizens elect their legislators in the Legislative Council every four years.

I grew up learning that my city’s core values were rooted in the freedoms granted by the Basic Law, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of press and publication. Myself and many people from Hong Kong take pride in being somewhat politically separated from China, which is governed by the Chinese Communist Party that notoriously censors the internet and imprisons dissident people in China. Many citizens even call themselves “Hongkonger” which the Oxford Dictionary later adopted in 2014.

The outbreak of the Umbrella Revolution, a 79-day occupying movement in 2014 when people asked for universal suffrage in electing the chief executive, put a spotlight on people’s ethnic identification. According to a poll by the University of Hong Kong, as of December 2018, 40 percent of citizens identify themselves as Hongkongers, as opposed to 15 percent who define themselves as Chinese. Less than 4 percent of the young generation ages 18 through 29 identified as Chinese in 2017, according to HK01.

Hongkongers ally with Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, which lost control of mainland China to the communist party in the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Unlike Hong Kong, Taiwan has almost no governmental connection with China. Taiwanese citizens even possess the right to elect their president, governors, and legislators democratically. However, people from Taiwan face the same identity crisis as Hongkongers.

One of my Taiwanese friends at Emerson adopted the “Chinese” identity, even though she told me she loves Taiwan. She said she does not feel strong enough to fight over her identity with her Chinese friends. Last semester, after my friend and I presented a final project about China’s “re-education camps,” where they hold more than a million Muslims in China for genocide, a Chinese student discredited our presentation for being too political.

International students from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and other places in relation to China face backlash for not identifying as Chinese. Chemi Lhamo, the newly elected student union president of the University of Toronto Scarborough, received hateful comments on her social media because of her Tibetan identity. An online petition gathered more than 10,000 signatures calling for Lhamo to step down because of her pro-independence statements regarding Tibet and Taiwan.

“We strongly disagree with Lhamo’s political statements and her participation in political campaigns that were clearly against Chinese history, Chinese laws, and Chinese students’ rights,” wrote a student who started the petition online after Lhamo was elected in March.

Chinese international students have become a prominent group at most U.S. schools in recent years. They made up nearly 60 percent of Emerson’s undergraduate international student population in fall 2018, according to the college’s Impact Report on Internationalization.

While it is globally agreed that Hong Kong and Taiwan are different entities from China politically, socially, and financially, it is important for colleges to be politically correct by educating themselves on international politics.

During my orientation in last fall, the School of Communication’s presentation about international exchange programs listed my hometown as “Hong Kong, China.” This move might flatter most of the Chinese students at Emerson, yet it upsets me to see how unaware the college is to this topic.

If the college promotes their education abroad programs to broaden students’ global vision, they must be more cognizant and knowledgeable of the places they accept students from and send students to.

I have never felt so desperate to find other people from Hong Kong and advocate for my culture. I recognize the absence of that voice on campus for Taiwanese, Hongkongers and other Chinese minority groups.

At my previous college in Seattle, faculty members hosted a panel that I spoke on alongside other students from Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan. Throughout the event, we touched on similarities and differences between the three cultures and educated the audience on controversial advocacy in Hong Kong and Taiwan. At the end of the panel, everyone seemed to leave with lingering curiosity to continue the conversation and an understanding of differences between us.

Instead of avoiding sensitive political topics to stay away from conflict, there should be more discussions on these issues to provide different students with an inclusive platform to voice their opinions. Everyone, including students from China or Hong Kong, should keep their minds open for new information and perspectives so as to learn from others.

It’s easy to exclude dissidents, but that only reinforces the problem and enlarges the gap between different nationalities. People should acknowledge the differences and participate in those conversations, despite all of the political tension within these places. This is important to provide a comfortable environment for people to identify themselves as who they want to be.

Although it was difficult facing judgment and disdain as one of the few Hongkongers at Emerson, I will strongly hold onto that identity because I am proud and I want to tell people where my actual home is.

Article above cited in its entirety, for dissemination purposes.

Friday, June 14, 2019


Recommended by fellow pipe smokers, because in a way we're all anal-retentive and detail oriented, and after recent experiences with the guy on the East-Coast (I had to spend several hours doing "corrections" on stems he did for my own pipes, dammit), I finally decided enough is enough.

Walker Pipe Repair, LLC
1210 Franklin Boulevard
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Tel.: 734-945-1691

Lewis Pipe & Tobacco
825 Nicollet Mall Suite 165
Minneapolis Mn 55402
Tel.: 612-332-9129

As of this writing, I haven't yet had stems done at either of these establishments. But when I do, I will report back. Both were recommended by people who have a keen eye, regard for quality work, huge experience with prize pipes, and extremely high standards.


Everything you need to know about Paul Donovan, USB, his comment, hideously offended Chinese internet users, and forced apologies, right here in one tasty package: DENSE

Synonyms for 'dense' are: thick, heavy, opaque, soupy, murky, smoggy, impenetrable; concentrated, condensed. Also: stupid, unintelligent, ignorant, brainless, mindless, foolish, slow, slow-witted, dull-witted, witless, doltish, blockish, dunce-like, simpleminded, empty-headed, vacuous, vapid, halfwitted, idiotic, moronic, imbecilic, obtuse, bovine, lumpish; gullible, naive; informalthick, dim, dumb, dopey, dippy, dozy, cretinous, as thick as two short planks, thickheaded, chuckleheaded, dunderheaded, wooden-headed, fat-headed, thick-skulled, muttonheaded, boneheaded, lamebrained, birdbrained, peabrained.

Obtuse. I like that word. Obtuse. In common parlance it usually means deliberately blockheaded.

Again: Paul Donovan, Chinese pigs, and "It matters if you are a Chinese pig. It matters if you like eating pork in China."


Pig is good.

Friday, November 9, 2018


Parked here for future reference:

Benaderet's Cigarette, Pipe and Tobacco Shop
215 Sutter Street
[Formerly at 566 California Street]
San Francisco.

Owners: Robert and Edith Rashaw
Robert Rashaw: born 1916.
Edith Edna Rashaw: born 1916.

Store still extant in the late seventies. No longer there by the eighties.
At one point, they had Egyptian cigarettes made for them.
Their house pipes were usually by Comoys.
There are also Benaderet Sasienis.
More research required.

Quote: "Benaderet's Inc., was California's oldest pipe and tobacco store when it went out of business in 1980. Sam Benaderet was a tobacconist from New York City who came to San Francisco in 1915 to work at the Panama Pacific International Exposition. An immigrant to the United States from Turkey, Mr. Benaderet decided that he liked the West Coast's Mediterranean like climate. After the Exposition closed, he stayed to open his own tobacco business. This new firm produced custom private-label cigarettes for men's clubs. A lavish retail store was opened in the late 1920's that quickly became a mecca for tobacco connoisseurs."

Note: I often bought tobacco there when I was in college.

Saturday, September 8, 2018


On September 11, the Marin County Board of Supervisors (BOS) will introduce an ordinance to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the unincorporated areas of the county.  The ban includes menthol, mint and wintergreen.  There are no exceptions for adult only retail tobacco stores. 
In addition, the draft ordinance does not specify a penalty regime, leaving the development and adoption of rules and regulations to the Director of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Of note, in the findings clauses on page 3, please see the highlighted language regarding mint and wintergreen. 

Marin County BOS Meeting Details:
--date / September 11
--time / 9:30 A.M.
--location / Board of Supervisors Chambers, Room 330, Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael, CA  94903
Retailers and industry stakeholders should contact county supervisors to express opposition the flavor ban.

Marin County Board of Supervisors

Damon Connolly
District 1
(415) 473-7354

Katie Rice
District 2
(415) 473-7331

Kate Sears
District 3
(415) 473-7331

Dennis Rodoni
District 4
(415) 473-7331

Judy Arnold
District 5
(415) 473-7331

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Report on the visit to the McAllen holding facility.

Begin cite:

Elizabeth Warren
June 26 at 14:30 ·

Sunday morning, I flew to McAllen, Texas to find out what's really happening to immigrant families ripped apart by the Trump administration.

There's one thing that's very clear: The crisis at our border isn't over.

I went straight from the airport to the McAllen Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center that is the epicenter of Donald Trump's so-called "zero-tolerance" policy. This is where border patrol brings undocumented migrants for intake before they are either released, deported, turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or, in the case of unaccompanied or separated children, placed in the custody of Health and Human Services.

From the outside, the CBP processing center looks like any other warehouse on a commercial street lined with warehouses. There's no clue about the horrors inside.

Before we could get in, CBP insisted we had to watch a government propaganda video. There's no other way to describe it – it's like a movie trailer. It was full of dramatic narration about the "illegals" crossing our border, complete with gory pictures about the threats that these immigrants bring to the United States, from gangs to skin rashes. The star of the show is CBP, which, according to the video, has done a great job driving down the numbers.

Then an employee described what we were about to see. "They have separate pods. I'll call them pods. I don't really know how they name them." Clearly they had gotten the memo not to call them what they are: cages. Every question I asked them had a complicated answer that led to two more questions – even the simple question about how long people were held there. "Nobody is here longer than 24 hours." "Well, maybe 24-48 hours." "72 hours max." And "no children are separated out." "Well, except older children."

The warehouse is enormous, with a solid concrete floor and a high roof. It is filled with cages. Cages for men. Cages for women. Cages for mamas with babies. Cages for girls. Cages for boys.

The stench – body odor and fear – hits the second the door is opened. The first cages are full of men. The chain link is about 12-15 feet high, and the men are tightly packed. I don't think they could all lie down at the same time. There's a toilet at the back of the cage behind a half-wall, but no place to shower or wash up. One man kept shouting, "A shower, please. Just a shower."

I asked the men held in cage after cage where they were from. Nearly all of them were from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras.

Then I asked them how long they had been there – and the answers were all over the map, from a few days to nearly two weeks (72 hours max?). The CBP agents rushed to correct the detained men, claiming that their answers couldn't be right. My immigration specialist on the trip who speaks fluent Spanish made sure the men understood that the question was, "How long have you been in the building?" Their answers didn't change.

Cage after cage. Same questions, same answers.

Next we came into the area where the children were held. These cages were bigger with far more people. In the center of the cage, there's a freestanding guard tower probably a story or story-and-a-half taller to look down over the children. The girls are held separately in their own large cage. The children told us that they had come to the United States with family and didn't know where they had been taken. Eleven years old. Twelve. Locked in a cage with strangers. Many hadn't talked to their mothers or fathers. They didn't know where they were or what would happen to them next.
The children were quiet. Early afternoon, and they just sat. Some were on thin mats with foil blankets pulled over their heads. They had nothing – no books, no toys, no games. They looked shell shocked.

And then there were the large cages with women and small children. Women breast-feeding their young children.

When we went over to the mamas with babies, I asked them about why they had left their home countries. One young mother had a 4-year-old child. She said she had been threatened by the gangs in El Salvador. She had given a drink of water to a police officer, and the gang decided she must be in with the police. The longer she spoke, the more agitated she got – that she would never do that, that she understood the risk with the gangs, but that the gangs believed she did it. She sold everything she had and fled with her son to the United States.

One thing you won't see much of in the CBP processing center? Fathers caged with their children. After pressing the CBP agents, they explained that men traveling with children are automatically released from the facility. They just don't have the cages there to hold them. Women with small children, on the other hand, could be detained indefinitely. I pressed them on this again and again. The only answer: they claimed to be protecting "the safety of the mother and children."

CBP said that fathers with children, pregnant women, mothers of children with special needs, and other "lucky ones" who are released from the processing center are sent over to Catholic Charities' Humanitarian Respite Center for help. That was my next stop in McAllen. Sister Norma, her staff, and volunteers are truly doing God's work. Catholic Charities provides food, a shower, clean clothes, and medicine to those who need it. The center tries to explain the complicated process to the people, and the volunteers help them get on a bus to a family member in the United States.

Sister Norma introduced me to a father and his teenage son from Honduras. The father said that a gang had been after his son, determined that the boy would join the gang. The only way for the boy to escape was to run. The man left his wife and four daughters in Honduras to bring his son to the United States. His only plan is to find work here to send money home to his family. His cousin lives in New Jersey, so CBP sent their paperwork to the local ICE center in New Jersey, and they would soon begin the long bus ride there.

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley provides a lifesaving service to people of all faiths and backgrounds, but with a humanitarian crisis in their backyard, they're clearly stretched as thin as it gets. With more money and volunteers, they would gladly help more people.

I asked Sister Norma about the women and babies who were in indefinite detention. She said her group would open their arms and take care of them, get them cleaned up and fed and on a bus to a family member – if only ICE would release them.

"This is a moral issue. We are all part of this human family," they say.

Next, I met with some of the legal experts on the frontlines of this crisis – lawyers from the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Border Rights Center of the Texas ACLU, and the federal public defenders.

I gave them a rundown of everything I'd seen so far in McAllen, particularly when it comes to reuniting parents and children, and they raised some of my worst fears:

The Trump administration may be "reunifying" families, but their definition of a family is only a parent and a child. If, for example, a 9-year-old crosses with an 18-year-old sister – or an aunt or uncle, or a grandparent, or anyone who isn't the child's documented legal guardian – they are not counted as a family and they will be separated.

Mothers and children may be considered "together" if they're held in the same gigantic facility, even if they're locked in separate cages with no access to one another. (In the world of CBP and ICE, that's how the 10-year-old girls locked in a giant cage are "not separated" from their mothers who are in cages elsewhere in the facility.)

In the process of "reunifying" families, the government may possibly count a family as reunited by sending the child to a distant relative they've never met – not their parents. Some relatives may be unwilling to claim these children because it would be inviting ICE to investigate their own families.

Parents are so desperate to be reunited with their children that they may be trading in their legal right to asylum.

The system for tracking separated families is virtually unknown, if one exists at all. One expert worries that for some families, just a simple photo may be all the documentation that the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services have to reunite them. (I sincerely hope that's not true.)

The longer the day went on, the more questions I had about how the Trump administration plans to fix the crisis they've created at the border. So my last stop of the day was at the Port Isabel Detention Center, about an hour east of McAllen. It's one of the largest detention facilities in Texas.

The Department of Homeland Security had released some details on its plan to reunify families. The release noted that Port Isabel will be the "primary family reunification and removal center for adults in their custody."

Let's be clear: Port Isabel isn't a reunification center. It's a detention center. A prison.

There's no ambiguity on this point. I met with the head of the facility. He said several times that they had no space for children, no way to care for them, and no plans to bring any children to his locked-down complex. When I pressed on what was the plan for reunification of children with their parents, he speculated that HHS (the Department of Health and Human Services) would take the children somewhere, but it certainly wasn't going to be to his facility. When I asked how long HHS would take, he speculated that it would be weeks, but he said that was up to them. He had his job to do: He would hold these mothers and fathers until he received orders to send them somewhere else. Period.

So let me say it again. This is a prison – not a reunification center.

We toured the center. It is huge – multiple buildings isolated on a sun-baked expanse of land far from any town. We didn't go to the men's area, but the women are held in a large bunk-bed facility with a concrete outdoor exercise area. It's locked, double-locked, and triple locked. Tall fences topped with razor wire are everywhere, each backed up by a second row of fences also topped with razor wire.

An ICE official brought in a group of nine detained mothers who had volunteered to speak to us. I don't believe that ICE cherry-picked these women for the meeting, because everything they told me was horrifying.

Each mother told us her own story about crossing the border, being taken to a processing center, and the point that they were separated from their child or children. In every case, the government had lied to them about where their children were being taken. In every case, save one, no mother had spoken to her child in the days since the separation. And in every case, no mother knew where her child was.

At the time of separation, most of the mothers were told their children would be back. One woman had been held at "the icebox," a center that has earned its nickname for being extremely cold. When the agent came to take her child, she was told that it was just too cold for the child in the center, and that they were just going to keep the child warm until she was transferred. That was mid-June. She hasn't seen her child since.

One mother had been detained with her child. They were sleeping together on the floor of one of the cages, when, at 3:00am, the guards took her away. She last saw her 7-year-old son sleeping on the floor. She cried over and over, "I never got to say goodbye. I never got to say goodbye." That was early-June, and she hasn't seen him since.

Even though the CBP officials at the processing center told me that mothers with children that have special needs would be released, one of the mothers I spoke with had been separated from her special needs child. She talked about her child who doesn't have properly formed legs and feet and walks with great difficulty. One of the mothers spoke of another mother in the facility who is very worried because her separated child is deaf and doesn't speak at all.

The women I met were traumatized, weeping, and begging for help. They don't understand what is happening to them – and they're begging to be reunited with their kids.

Detainees can pay to make phone calls, but all of their possessions are taken from them at the processing center. The only way they can get money for a call is for someone to put money on their accounts. I asked if people or charities could donate money so that they'd be able to make phone calls to their family or lawyers, but they said no – a donor would need the individual ID number for every person detained at the center, and ICE obviously isn't going to release that information.

Three young lawyers were at Port Isabel at the same time we were. The lawyers told us that their clients – the people they've spoken to in the detention center – have strong and credible cases for asylum. But the entire process for being granted asylum depends on one phone call with an immigration official where they make the case for why they should be allowed to stay. One of the first questions a mother will be asked is, "Have you been separated from a child?" For some of the women, just asking that question makes them fall apart and weep.

The lawyers are worried that these women are in such a fragile and fractured state, they're in no shape to make the kind of detailed, credible case needed for themselves or their children. They had no chance in our system because they've lost their children and desperately want them back.

We stayed inside at Port Isabel for more than two hours – much longer than the 45 minutes we had been promised. When I finally went to bed that night, I thought about something the mothers had told me – something that will likely haunt me for a long time.

The mothers say that they can hear babies cry at night.

This isn't about politics. This isn't about Democrats or Republicans. This is about human beings. Children held in cages today. Babies scattered all over this country. And mamas who, in the dark of night, hear them cry.

I'm still working through everything I saw, but I wanted you to know the full story. The fight for these children and families isn't over – not by a long shot.

[End cite]


Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Here, lifted from Tobacconist, (the official publication of the IPCPR since 1990), is an article explaining what happened to McClelland Tobacco Company earlier this year, and why they no longer exist.

Begin cite:


By Larry Wagner
May 1, 2018

Pipe smokers around the world are in mourning after McClelland Tobacco announced in February that it would cease production of its world-class Virginia and Oriental pipe tobacco blends, effectively ending 40 years of creating some of the finest smoking tobaccos ever produced.

McClelland was founded in 1977 by Carl and Mary Ehwa and their partner Bob Benish. At the time, Carl and Bob had been working for Diebel’s, a well-known tobacconist in Kansas City, Missouri. “Carl had developed blends for Diebel, and Fred Diebel had purchased factory equipment,” recalls Mary. “I think that was in 1969. By 1977, Carl wanted to create more blends than Diebel was interested in. So there was a friendly parting, and McClelland began.”

The new brand was initially introduced in 10 blends: five Oriental mixtures and five matured Virginias. The concept was very much in the style of the vaunted Scottish brand Rattray’s, which utilized matured Virginia, as opposed to the bright Virginia typically used in English mixtures. For many American pipe smokers, McClelland picked up the mantle of Scottish-style tobaccos when Rattray’s was purchased and moved to Germany. While following in the footsteps of Rattray’s may not have been the impetus for launching the McClelland brand, Mary recalls, “We thought the blends had changed. The Rattray’s blends were very popular at Diebel’s because Carl and Bob liked them so much. I’m not sure we realized Rattray’s had been moved to Germany at that time.”

The McClelland brand was immediately recognized for its distinctive embossed labeling—brown for Virginias and green for Orientals—as well as for its painstakingly crafted aged tobaccos. McClelland quickly set a new standard for rich, complex tobacco blends, which imparted the unique tang and natural sweetness only matured Virginia can offer. Pipe smokers noticed.
Within a few years, McClelland Tobacco could be found on the shelves of most serious tobacconists nationwide. Mike McNiel, who had also worked for Diebel’s, joined the team in 1980, when Bob left to pursue other options. The three partners worked side by side, perfecting the art of blending and aging fine tobaccos. Then, tragically, in 1982, Carl suffered an aneurysm and did not return to the business. He later passed away at age 50.

Throughout that difficult period, the company continued to grow at a gradual, methodical pace. Eventually, Mary and longtime colleague Mike were married, creating a personal and professional partnership that was able to move forward the vision of the boutique manufacturer and to expand on the initial offerings. Owing to their devotion to quality and quest for perfection, the company was in no hurry to bring new blends to the market. As Mary stated emphatically, “It has to be excellent.” They began to produce a full line of bulk tobaccos, initially Virginias and Oriental mixtures, then adding premium-grade aromatics, allowing tobacconists to offer McClelland-quality private-label tobaccos to their customers.

In time, as the right tobaccos were presented to them, the McNiels introduced a new series. In 1992, McClelland brought out its first new tinned blends: Dominican Glory, a matured Virginia incorporating aged cigar leaf, and Christmas Cheer, a perennial favorite that changed each season. The early 1990s also saw private-label tinning, initially for Nat Sherman and Barry Levin. Levin Pipes closed after Levin’s passing in 1994, and a year later McClelland released the Personal Reserve series, making widely available the blends that had been created exclusively for Levin Pipes International.

My husband Mike is the heart of McClelland. And he goes to such extreme lengths to make sure that everything is just right. And we’re a small company. There’s no way a larger company would go to the same lengths to do this, to produce this type of product. They wouldn’t have our level of obsession.”

McClelland then launched an ambitious project to produce innovative proprietary blends with its Craftsbury series. Most notable among them was Frog Morton, a moist, soft-smoking Latakia mixture that managed to combine its subtle smokiness with an alluring fragrant quality. Frog Morton became the go-to mixture for introducing smokers of aromatic tobacco to the more sophisticated Latakia mixtures. Later releases would include Blakeney’s Best, Grand Orientals, Syrian Latakia blends, Master Penman and others too numerous to list here. In all, by the end of its tenure, McClelland’s tobacco blends included more than 240 varieties.

With such a long history of excellence and universal acclaim, one might wonder what could have persuaded the McNiels to discontinue the brand and cease production.

In our view, it’s kind of a perfect storm, what happened in the tobacco business,” says Mary. “The FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] is always in the background. Even now, the effects of the FDA are considerable. They don’t want you to make any new products. If you do make a new product, it has to go through the premarket authorization, which I do not believe anyone has passed. And it’s considerably expensive. We’re told the cost is $2,000 to $2,300 per test. If you’re a small company with 240 products, say at $2,000 per test for each, that’s $480,000 a year. That’s a lot of money! They also said they don’t want anymore seasonal or limited-edition products [because] it encourages people to smoke, and they don’t like that. And there’s the great unknown of how are they going to test pipe tobacco? They only know how to test cigarettes. They want the industry to develop the tests, and then they want us to pay for the tests they’re going to use to put us out of business!

Simultaneous with the FDA’s regulatory oversight came the government’s decision to no longer support the cultivation of tobacco as an agricultural product.

For 40 years we had the benefit of government and the support of the Department of Agriculture [USDA],” says Mary. “They ran the auctions. They established the grading system. They supported us just like any other agricultural product. We had what they called ‘the government pool.’

Let’s say the season was a bad one and crops weren’t bringing the best price because the quality wasn’t high. The government would buy up what wasn’t being sold, and that money was put into the government pool. And that gave the farmers enough money so they could plant again. The land that produced tobacco was considered an asset. The government would take care of the farmers with regard to whether or not they could plant. About 12 years ago, the government voted to buy them out [and] buy up those assets so that they wouldn’t have to be supportive of tobacco anymore. They had what they called ‘the farmer buyout,’ and the industry had to pay for it. For 10 years we paid the USDA so that the farmers would be paid off. As a result, about 68 percent of the farmers retired about 2016, and that ended about the same time the FDA came in and wanted to charge us user fees. After the farmer buyout, the USDA said, ‘That’s it for us. We’re not running auctions anymore. We’re not involved with tobacco anymore.’

The McNiels have always been adamant in their insistence of using only the finest-quality leaf for their blends. Their agents who represented them at tobacco auctions were instructed only to bid on the very best lots of tobacco available. As Mary tells it, the government’s exit from subsidizing and partnering in the cultivation of tobacco, in addition to its obvious agenda to discourage smoking, led to such a reduction of quality leaf tobacco they simply could no longer produce the level of product they would put their name on.

[My leaf buyers said that] the way things are handled today, the way it’s processed today is 180 degrees from what McClelland needs,” she says. “The leaf we’ve always depended on has to be picked when it’s ripe. The whole process was very labor-intensive. They used to go through the fields to pick leaves five different times, progressively going up the plant. Now what they’re doing is mechanical harvesting, and that pulls the green along with the ripe. Then when that leaf is put through the flue-curing process, which is intended to seal in the sugars; that unripe leaf has no sugar to seal in!

A manufacturer like McClelland, which uses only high-grade leaf, simply cannot produce the same level of quality tobaccos from the caliber of Virginia tobacco now available to them. “We can still get Perique, we can still get Latakia, we can still get burley. But we never based our business on burley, so when you add up all the products that we have had, if you take away all the ones that require matured Virginia, it’s down to so few that we can’t make a living from it.”

So why not sell the McClelland brand to an existing tobacco manufacturer? The response: “We’re a company that is obsessed,” says Mary. “My husband Mike is the heart of McClelland. And he goes to such extreme lengths to make sure that everything is just right. And we’re a small company. There’s no way a larger company would go to the same lengths to do this, to produce this type of product. They wouldn’t have our level of obsession.

With the potential for remaining in the industry remote, Mary reflected on the couple’s tenure in this amiable business, as well as her feelings about leaving it. “You know, it’s kind of bittersweet,” she says. “The parts that have been difficult to deal with, the negative things, we’re happy to leave those. But having the pr">oducts that we’ve had, it’s been great fun. It’s been a joy developing new products and having people like them as much as we like them.

The McNiels’ commitment to excellence and their determination to create and produce only the finest of products was perfectly summed up in a 2000 interview with Tobacconist’s sister publication Pipes and tobaccos, in which Mike gave this eerily prescient quote: “If the quality of available leaf ever went down to the point where we didn’t like our own product, we would shut the doors. We would shut the doors immediately and end it all because our name is on that can, and I’d rather find something else to do than put out something that isn’t right. I would rather go out of business. That way we could say, ‘Well, at least we went out with a great name.’ So McClelland will always be high-quality. We’ll never change.

With the closure of McClelland Tobacco, the industry has lost not only one of its great manufacturers but also people of the highest caliber, the type of people who make the tobacco business such a wonderful community. We wish them the best.

[End cite.]

This article placed here for reference purposes, in case Tobacconist magazine ever shuts down.

The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association is the oldest, largest and most active trade association representing and assisting retail tobacconists. IPCPR members include retail stores throughout the world selling tobacco products and accessories (premium cigars, tobacco pipes, loose tobacco, cigar and pipe accessories and gift items) as well as manufacturers, distributors and service providers of high quality merchandise.

Please enjoy your smokes.