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St. Joseph Paper + Packaging Success Story

May 19th, 2015
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St. Joseph Paper + Packaging expansion

MONDAY SPOTLIGHT : St. Joseph Paper + Packaging

51c1c5846180f.imageCompany adding 9,000 square feet to Blackthorn facility.
May 13, 2013|By JIM MEENAN | South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Nearly 25 years ago, Kent Dennis was a man in need of a job.

So he created his own company.

After being let go by a paper distributor, he spent almost half a year looking for work before making his big move.

“It was out of necessity,” he said of starting his own company. “I went out for four to six months and looked for a job, and I found that there was not an awful lot of market out there for somebody with my background.”

The experience from his former employer did come in handy, however.

Dennis had worked in distribution management for a paper company that no longer exists. But they had trained him well, he said.

And he had noticed something that was taking place in the distribution of paper and packaging products.

Competitors in this field were narrowing their focus and concentrating on larger customers, he said.

51c1c58513024.image“There was a real trend to our competitors narrowing the amount of customers that they wanted,” he said. “And they tended to be great customers.”

So after getting a loan from both his mother and his brother, and taking out a second and third mortgage on his South Bend house, St. Joseph Paper + Packaging was born.

Dennis started by calling all the smaller customers that the bigger suppliers didn’t want.

“That’s how we built our success,” he said.

Today, his company has more than 2,000 customers, and it’s on its second expansion, currently adding 9,000 square feet of office and warehouse space to its facility in the Blackthorn Corporate Park in South Bend. Upon completion in September, the company will have a total of 35,000 square feet of space at the location it has been at since 1997.

No additional employees are expected to be added to the current work force of 20. The company received no state or local incentives for the project and did not ask for any.

“This additional space will help St. Joe Paper be even better prepared to handle current business and future growth,” Dennis said. “It’s a testament to our loyal customers that we continue to grow and invest in this community.”

51c1c584bc1b9.imageThe company originally started in the old Drewrys Brewery building on Elwood Avenue in South Bend.

Dennis said the company mostly purchases packaging materials in bulk and then breaks it up for its customers. Like any company, St. Joseph Paper was hurt by the recession, laying off two of its employees. But the company has since hired four people as things have picked up the last two years.

St. Joseph Paper does a lot of business with manufacturers in Elkhart County, Dennis said. “The market in northern Indiana has been very strong over the last couple of years, and we have been very strong with it.”

Companies such as Forest River, Keystone and Grand Design in the recreational vehicle industry utilize the products St. Joseph Paper distributes. So does AM General.

Dennis looks back and is pleased, but still remembers his thought process when he was laid off and opted to start the company.

“You take a chance, you have a need,” he said. “You have a family to raise.”

But it’s clear, he also believed in himself.

“I had always felt I was an independent person, that instead of working for somebody, I wanted to take a chance.”

These days he looks back with pride tempered with modesty.

Hard work was a factor. And so is luck, he said.

“We built our business on relationships and taking care of the customers,” he said. “I’ve had an awful lot of good suppliers’ support over the years, and we appreciate every single one of them.

Staff writer Jim Meenan:
jmeenan@sbtinfo.com
574-235-6342

St. Joseph Paper + Packaging
Address: 3107 N. Kenmore St., South Bend
Phone: 800-727-3730
Website: www.stjoepaper.com
Number of employees: 20

What it does: Distributor of paper and packaging products used in shipping and maintenance to 2,000 customers in northern Indiana, southern Michigan and western Ohio. Some examples of what it distributes: bubble wrap; paper towels; foam peanuts; steel bands that hold pallets in place; plastic stretch wrap; masking, carton sealing and duct tape; and some boxes.

History: Company will celebrate 25 years in business this fall. Founded by President Kent Dennis, who saw a need for smaller companies to have their products distributed after other distributors were concentrating on bigger accounts.

Revenues: Expecting about $10 million in gross revenue this year.

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St. Joseph Paper + Packaging
2740 Viridian Drive
South Bend, In 46628
Phone: 1.800.727.3730