By Carson Ellis For the Independent
Started by Homer Carder in 1912, the Stettler Cigar Factory was a successful operation almost right from the start. It imported Cuban tobacco leaf for use in its product and employed about 50-70 people between the factory staff, and the office staff.
However, in 1917, the owners of the Stettler Cigar Factory, ventured to Vancouver to open a branch operation there. Soon after, it was decided to operate entirely out of the port city. The original building was closed, and most of the equipment was packed up and moved to the larger building. They also increased the company’s staff to 150 men and women. This put the factories’ output at 20,000 cigars per day.
Once the Water Street building, (which was given the designation of #10, to make the company sound larger, even though it was their only branch) was up and running, it was noted as being the largest tobacco factory west of the Great Lakes, and it’s output, was equal to the cigar manufactories west of Ontario.
The successful business, however, didn’t last. By 1922, it went under and filed for bankruptcy. This seemed to be the end of the Stettler Cigar Factory. But Homer’s son Fred Carder managed to broker a deal with Otto R. Brenner of Montreal, a man with 40 years experience in the cigar business between Ontario and Montreal. Brenner purchased the factory and incorporated it as Van Loo Cigars in May of 1922. The newly renamed company had an operating capital of $50,000, and much of the Stettler Cigar Factory staff, who were laid off months before, were hired back with Fred as general manager.
In February 1923, Fred Carder filed with courts, requesting a judge direct Brenner to redistribute their shares, allotting him half. In April 1923 he took the stand claiming he had brokered a deal with Brenner for the factory. Carder claimed that when the shares of the Van Loo Cigar Company were going to be distributed in January, he was to receive half of them. Until then, he would assume the position of manager, and receive a salary of $300/month. According to Carder’s testimony, when the shares were issued in January, Otto split them amongst himself and his brother, and then let him go in late January.
Although no witnesses for the defence were called, their official stance was that there had never been a partnership agreement. By the end of April, Justice Morrison, who had originally granted a temporary injunction, decided that Carder’s claims were unsubstantiated and officially dismissed the case.
Back in Stettler, the building known as Carder’s hall, which sat near the end of Alberta (50th) Ave., was still a central part of the community. Dances and special events were held there, including a grand ball hosted by the Stettler Chapter of the Eastern Star. In the 1920’s. It also served as a temporary hospital.