SYKES: The overall quality (fit, finish, wood quality etc) of Peterson pipes seems to be at an all time high right now. Indeed, it seems that much of this substantial improvement (as far as I can tell) has taken place over the past six or seven years. What have you, personally or collectively as Peterson, done over the past few years to ensure this? What has changed?
TOM:We always strive to produce a quality product which carries our name and therefore gives the smoker the confidence that he will get the best value money can buy whenever he purchases a Peterson.
We have a continuous training programme in the factory with the older more experienced craftsmen passing on their expertise to junior members of the staff. The senior people in the factory would have at least 30 years of experience, so there is nothing they do not know about the art and craft of pipemaking. We have also invested in our equipment and these factors have all contributed to a better quality end product.
The briar we have received over the last 5 years has been very good and in many respects, the best we have seen in decades.
So in summary, training and investing in people, raw materials and equipment has paid dividends.
SYKES:In the last two or three years, there seems to have been a profusion of new series and finishes and they seem to have been quite successful. That said, Peterson is still very much rooted in its long history and storied tradition. How do you balance the two commitments-- new high quality pipes, but firmly rooted in the Peterson tradition?
TOM:Each year we introduce new series and finishes in order to bring some exciting new pipes to our customers. It is a consumer product and everyone likes to see something new. We have been very lucky with our new introductions and they have sold successfully throughout the world. I might also say that series like, Harp, Shannon, Rosslare Royal Irish, Racing Green etc. etc. are quite beautiful pipes. We have also been inspired by Celtic artwork to produce new styles of silver bands for our pipes embracing Irish culture. By and large we have stayed with the shapes that are synonymous with Peterson i.e. mainly bents or semi bents and of course emphasising the silver work - both of these features keep us firmly rooted to our tradition whilst at the same time bringing out exciting new finishes.
SYKES:Could you tell us some general things about Peterson these days. What is the operation like these days? For example, how many pipes does Peterson make?
TOM: We manufacture approximately 2,000 pipes per week that are exported to over 40 countries. In addition we market a full range of pipe tobacco and fine cigars to the same consumer base. As everyone knows , the smoking industry is under threat from many quarters and no other legitimate industry, worldwide, has to contend with such negativity.
But we maintain that pipe and indeed fine cigar smoking is a pleasure and not an addiction and should always be treated as such. What the future holds is difficult to say, but what I will say is that there will always be a demand for quality pipes and that Peterson will be central to this. This year we celebrate 140 years in business, having started in the 19th Century and prospered in the 20th Century, we look forward to the 21st Century with confidence.