Popcorn pioneer: Andrew Cretors leads family company into 21st century

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There are not many companies that can boast being around for over 100 years, and even fewer that have been owned and operated by the same family for all that time. C. Cretors & Co. has achieved that rare milestone: The company will be celebrating its 125th year in business in 2010, with Andrew Cretors, the great, great-grandson of its founder, as president.

Andrew has been the president of Cretors since mid-2006. He is a quiet, humble individual with drive and ambition that you would not immediately recognize as such. He is determined to continue his family legacy while ensuring his company’s growth and future in his own way. Under his leadership, the company is seeking a higher profile within the industry, and Cretors himself has taken a board position with the National Association of Concessionaires.

C. Cretors & Co. was founded in 1885 by candy-maker Charles Cretors in Decatur, Illinois. Charles bought a peanut roaster but was unhappy with its performance. By 1893, he had created a steam-powered machine that could roast peanuts and coffee, pop corn and bake chestnuts. He patented the first popcorn machine in 1900, and the company began to grow. Motion pictures were in their infancy. You can learn more about the history of Cretors and their great American story on their website .

As C. Cretors and Co. grew throughout the 20th century, the popcorn machine was reproduced in many sizes and many ways, both domestically and internationally. A great idea always generates competition, the beauty of capitalism.

Charlie Cretors, Andrew’s father, was the driving force of C. Cretors and Co. through the last half of the past century. An engineer like the first Charles, Charlie always strived to make a better machine. He is still very involved in the business as the CEO, but now focuses on problem-solving.

Although the strongest product line remains the popcorn poppers, Cretors has branched out into other product lines such as hot dog machines and snow cone machines. Whatever the item, Charlie Cretors is focused on delivering an excellent product. Andrew comes to the table with years of experience at Cretors, but also with the family’s first master’s degree in business.
Andrew started with Cretors in 1997 in the company’s first IT position, putting his knowledge of computers to work. He transitioned to international sales and then to operations. His knowledge of the company, its history, its values, and its strengths and weaknesses is derived both from his practical work experience and his longtime observation of the business as a family member. Interacting with his father, who is an anchor for Andrew, allows him to assume the directional responsibility of the company with a broad perspective.

Asked about his vision for the future of Cretors, Andrew responds that he has “a different set of skills and abilities than my father.” Cretors has built a reputation for offering an excellent product, solving problems, running an efficient structure for production, and making all of their products in the U.S. Andrew intends to put his focus on “applying my skills to maximizing this great investment in the company.”

Andrew’s brother Bud and sister Beth are also involved with the business and he works with them on a daily basis. Together with Charlie, they always make generational family discussions a part of their work. But they also greatly value the employees who have been with Cretors for many years and who make up the brain trust that is so important to the success of any company. All of these company virtues will be part of their 125-year celebration.

The executives are gathering ideas from the entire company, guided by a planning committee, about the message they want to deliver and the way they want to deliver it in 2010. Andrew believes they will highlight their longevity, stability and market success in a celebration spanning the entire year, at events such as ShoWest and their own annual conference. Andrew is also reaching out to the city of Chicago for their interest in helping celebrate one of the city’s longest-running family-owned companies.

Small and medium-size companies make up the bulk of the workforce in the U.S, and many of them are family-owned and operated. Cretors is a prime example, a valued partner of the movie exhibition industry for its entire existence. The theatre business, and its many moving parts, is truly an American product and phenomenon. The popcorn machine is an extra-special part because, thanks to the innovations of the Cretors family, it came even before the movie!