Chartpak, a leader in manufacturing supplies for graphic artists and engineers, and a distributor of art-materials brands that include Grumbacher, Koh-I-Nor, Higgins and 11 others, purchased paper converter and trade binder W.G. Fry in October, reports the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
The two companies have operated in neighboring towns in western Massachusetts for years. Chartpak operates factories in Leeds and Florence in the city of Northhampton.
Saul Kuhr, the owner of W.G. Fry, and Steven Roth, the owner of Chartpak, believe that small manufacturers are part of a strong regional and national economy. The men were acquaintances before their companies developed a working relationship in 2016. Chartpak contracted with W.G. Fry to manufacture specially designed notebooks, and when the products turned out to be very popular at Art Materials World in March, serious discussions about acquisition commenced.
Kuhr will consult for Chartpak, continue to oversee paper manufacturing, and focus on marketing and developing new products. He owned the 60-year-old company for 27 years and in 2001, when many other small paper manufacturers were going out of business, he moved it to West Springfield. Kuhr’s niche was producing fine papers for artists. He also designed semi-automatic production lines that are adaptable to the size of the job.
“Saul’s manufacturing capabilities are unique and very nimble,” Roth told the Gazette.
“Kuhr regarded his business as family and developed a culture at W.G. Fry that kept employees there for years,” continued the newspaper. “Before the sale, the company had 30 full-time workers, and two-thirds will make the move to Leeds. Among Kuhr’s policies was allowing unlimited overtime, which benefited his employees and eliminated the need for a second shift. Roth plans to continue that policy.”
The 20 full-time employees of W.G. Fry that recently moved to the plant in Leeds join about 100 people already working for Chartpak. While W.G. Fry will discontinue its binder service for commercial printing companies, it still will make products for existing customers as a private label manufacturer. Among those are the reporters’ notebooks used by the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
According to Roth, the acquisition allows Chartpak to expand its paper products, which primarily have been its Clearprint brand of art and engineering paper. “It empowers us to come out with any product that we want to come out with in paper,” Roth told the Gazette, adding that he thinks it will also boost the company’s creativity.
“My first preference is to manufacture in the United States,” he says. “We want to save the U.S. manufacturing base.”
Chartpak opened for business in 1949 as a graphics supply manufacturer. It produced innovations such as the tape method of charting, and colored, transparent and printed tapes for art and drafting. By the early 1960s, the Chartpak brand expanded to include the original rub-on letters, films, vinyl graphics, and a wide variety of drafting instruments.
As Chartpak diversified its branding and product offerings to include fine art materials, fine writing materials, craft and hobby products, and office products, Roth positioned the company to become a globally recognized, premier creative products enterprise. Today, Chartpak has an established portfolio of 14 brands with 60 product lines that span 17 distinct categories of art materials, fine writing, craft & hobby and office products, many of which are made in the USA or Europe.