Canadian Vending

From the Editor: Fall 2018

SMRT1 machines, kind people

October 15, 2018
By Naomi Szeben

This is my first editorial for Canadian Vending and Office Coffee Service Magazine. When I first started editing for this publication, I was a bit daunted. My only exposure to vending machines were the devices that swallowed coins and dispensed treats. In my subsequent months of research and reading terrific articles by reporters like Michelle Brisebois, I realized that today’s vending machines are nothing like the junk food dispensers of my youth.

In this issue, you’ll read about a device that sells brain food, and about men who love to toy with mechanical devices. You’ll read about two gentlemen who left their mark on the communities they served.

I loved reading Brisebois’ article about Brad Pommen, an engineer who sparks interest in future generations by recycling old vending machines, then uses those same machines to teach students about mechanics. His SMRT1 machines also sell parts for high school STEM classes, instead of sugary drinks or empty calorie snacks.

With people worried about future generations educational well-being, SMRT1 was a fascinating read about a man who saw a gap in the market, and filled it. The machine sells classroom material, preventing time-pressed parents from running from one store to the next in search the right wire or motherboard.


Today’s inventors and basement tinkerers are the ones who see a need in society and fill it. It’s something in the way they look critically at the industry, and work at the mechanisms behind it until a solution is found. Tinkerers and inventors both have mechanical curiosity, but the inventor reworks a problem until a new device is formed.

Like Pommen, Bob Hale was a basement inventor, and brought innovation to the field of coffee vending with his recyclable BOB capsules. Reading the memorial his son Todd had written made me want to meet Mr. Hale, hear his cheery “good day, good day” and learn what other inventions he was brewing up in his basement. From what you’ll read, you will learn that Hale loved to solve problems both mechanical and human. Anyone with a set of tools and a manual will tell you it’s far easier to fix a machine than a human. And yet, it’s the human element that brings quality to this industry.

Ask Dan Baraniuk, a near-lifelong route man who brings over fifty years of experience to vending. He too, is a self-described tinkerer, who loved to putter with his machines. Baraniuk shares some of his wilder stories with Canadian Vending and shares some of his well honed advice. He knows the value of filling your machines with “the good stuff” and maintaining it well to keep vandals at bay.  Baraniuk had shared some stories of his years in vending with our magazine, and offered tips to those who are new to the business. Would you know what to do when a would-be thief gets his arm stuck in the machine?

Baraniuk’s warmth shines through in his interview. He’s clearly forged some friendships in his years as a route man, and has come to appreciate the connections he’s made along the way. Baraniuk is both a ‘people-person’ as well as a tinkerer. “I’ve come to know a lot about the machines,” he says in his interview. Meet Canada’s most enduring route man, as he shares advice gleaned over a half century of working in southern Ontario’s Welland and St. Catharine’s areas.

It’s the concept of community that makes people like Pommen, Hale and Baraniuk shine. Each brought something special to the automated sales industry: Pommen loves engineering, Hale and Baraniuk worked on equipment one at a time and interacted with co-workers and clients on a one-on-one basis. Each of these gentlemen displayed values important to any industry, particularly in vending. It’s about warmth, dignity, and pride in your work. Hale’s advice to live life with passion, love, and respect applies then as it does today.

Whether you’re a tinkerer, or just enjoy bringing a smile to your customers’ faces with an original treat, I hope you’ll find inspiration in this issue.