Rowe: Pioneering Innovation in Automatic Vending Machines
Founded by William Henry Rowe, Rowe Manufacturing Company has a rich history in the development of automatic vending machines. It all started in 1926, when Rowe, an American inventor born in Canada, used parts from a confiscated moonshine whisky still and a cigar box to create the world's first automatic cigarette vending machine. This invention marked a significant milestone in the emerging automatic merchandising sector, as it introduced the concept of selling higher-priced merchandise through vending machines.
Before the Rowe cigarette machine, vending machines were primarily limited to dispensing penny gum and candy. However, Rowe's innovative creation paved the way for vending machines to offer a wider range of products. Despite skepticism from cigarette wholesalers who doubted consumers would pay extra for convenience, Rowe's invention gained traction and set the stage for the future of automatic vending.
Rowe Manufacturing Co. quickly became the major producer of cigarette vending machines and later expanded its product line to include wall-mounted models. The machines were designed to be eye-catching, featuring either a glass front to display cigarette packs or a mirror, providing a convenient feature for customers. Some models even incorporated an additional knob and coin slot to purchase matches, further enhancing the customer experience.
In 1945, William Rowe passed away, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and entrepreneurship. However, his company continued to thrive and evolve. In 1954, Automatic Canteen acquired a majority stake in Rowe Corporation, signaling the company's growth and increasing market presence. Four years later, Automatic Canteen completed the sale of Rowe Corporation, which led to the renaming of the company as Rowe AC.
The year 1959 marked an important milestone in Rowe's history when AMI, a leading manufacturer of coin-operated phonographs, was purchased by Rowe AC Services, a division of Automatic Canteen Co. of America. This acquisition resulted in the merger of AMI and Rowe AC Services, forming a new entity called "Rowe/AMI." The merger brought together two industry leaders, combining their expertise and product offerings.
Rowe's commitment to innovation continued in 1962 with the introduction of bill changers, expanding its product portfolio to cater to a broader market. This move further solidified Rowe's position as a pioneer in vending machine technology.
In 1967, Rowe Manufacturing Corp. was acquired by Triangle Conduit & Cable Co., Inc. for $25 million. Following the acquisition, the company underwent a name change, becoming Rowe International, Inc. This marked a new era for the company as it continued to expand its operations and diversify its product offerings.
Over the next few decades, Rowe International underwent various transformations. In 1993, Rowe/AMI rebranded as "Rowe" and embarked on a journey of continuous growth and product innovation. The company's commitment to quality and customer satisfaction remained steadfast as it adapted to changing market dynamics.
In 2003, Rowe International announced its strategic refocus on opportunities in the emerging digital pay-for-play entertainment market. The company divested its vending and changer businesses to concentrate on its core competency. Rowe's currency changer business received renewed attention and investment, enabling the company to rebuild and thrive in the ever-evolving industry.
In 2009, Merit Entertainment, a global leader in touch-screen entertainment, integrated its production and workforce with Rowe International. The move aimed to increase efficiency and reduce costs, allowing both companies to deliver more cost-competitive products to their customers. This integration led to a consolidation of company functions under a unified management team, promoting synergy and enhancing overall operations.
Rowe International's manufacturing operations shifted from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Reynosa, Mexico, in 2009. This strategic move aimed to optimize production and improve competitiveness in the global market. While the Grand Rapids manufacturing facility closed, the company offered opportunities for employees to transfer to the new facility in Texas/Mexico.
In October 2014, Valley-Dynamo, a company focused on the coin-op industry, acquired Rowe Bill Changers, LLC. This acquisition brought together two industry leaders, combining their expertise and resources. Rowe's reputation in the money handling industry made it a perfect fit for Valley-Dynamo, ensuring a seamless integration of their operations.
The journey of Rowe International continued in February 2019, when American Changer Corp. completed an asset purchase agreement with Rowe Bill Changer LLC. The acquisition allowed American Changer to provide support and services to Rowe's loyal customer base. With a shared commitment to quality and dependability, American Changer aimed to sustain Rowe's proud heritage and continue its growth in the industry.
Today, Rowe International, under the American Changer umbrella, remains a leading provider of bill, coin, and token handling products. Their durable and reliable solutions cater to various industries, including car washes, laundries, vending, gaming, amusement, and more. With a broad product line on front and rear loading changers and a strong network of distributors, Rowe continues to shape the landscape of automatic vending machines, delivering innovative solutions and exceptional customer experiences.
The legacy of William Henry Rowe and his pioneering spirit live on in the remarkable journey of Rowe International. From the invention of the first automatic cigarette vending machine to the evolution into a global leader in the industry, Rowe has continuously embraced innovation, adaptability, and customer satisfaction. As technology and market demands continue to evolve, Rowe International remains poised to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.
Here is a summary of key company milestones:
- 1904: William Henry Rowe arrives in Los Angeles, California, and establishes his own printing company after working as a printer for a daily newspaper.
- 1926: Rowe invents the first automatic cigarette vending machine using parts from a confiscated moonshine whisky still and a cigar box.
- 1945: William Rowe passes away, leaving behind a legacy of innovation.
- 1954: Automatic Canteen purchases a majority stake (52%) in Rowe Corporation for $4 million.
- 1958: Automatic Canteen completes the sale of Rowe Corporation, renaming it Rowe AC, and focuses on manufacturing coin-operated phonographs and vending equipment.
- 1959: Rowe AC Services, a division of Automatic Canteen, acquires AMI, a leading manufacturer of coin-operated phonographs, resulting in the formation of "Rowe/AMI."
- 1962: Rowe begins manufacturing bill changers, expanding its product line.
- 1967: Rowe Manufacturing Corp. is acquired by Triangle Conduit & Cable Co., Inc., for $25 million, and is renamed Rowe International, Inc.
- 1993: Rowe/AMI rebrands as "Rowe" and continues to expand its product portfolio.
- 2003: Rowe International divests its vending and changer businesses to focus on opportunities in the emerging digital pay-for-play entertainment market.
- 2009: Merit Entertainment integrates its production and workforce with Rowe International to enhance efficiency and reduce costs.
- 2014: Valley-Dynamo acquires Rowe Bill Changers, LLC, integrating two industry leaders.
- 2019: American Changer Corp. completes an asset purchase agreement with Rowe Bill Changer LLC, ensuring the continuity of Rowe's quality products and services.
These milestones highlight the continuous innovation and adaptability of Rowe International throughout its history. From the invention of the first automatic cigarette vending machine to expanding its product offerings and strategic partnerships, Rowe has consistently been at the forefront of the automatic vending industry, shaping its future and providing exceptional customer experiences.