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PAPER PEOPLE Custom products, personal service keep century-old company current

From left: Genie Weisz, president of The Paper Store & More, Michael Prell, president of Paterson Papers, and Cynthia Prell, director of special projects, The Paper Store & More.-(PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

Dubbed by its principals as “The Original Dunder Mifflin,” Paterson Papers’ story also reads like a sitcom pilot.

According to Genie, Michael and Cynthia Prell, their great-grandfather bought a pushcart paper business in 1914 for his three sons to prevent them from joining the traveling circus.

Only one stayed behind.

Now, 101 years later, his three grandchildren are carrying on Paterson Papers’ distribution of fine paper products, envelopes, stationary, inks and pressroom supplies.

“We’ve been in Paterson forever — one of the first planned industrial cities in the U.S. — and I’m proud that we’re one of the oldest companies here,” Genie Prell Weisz said.

That’s due to it being a historic company that’s not afraid to reinvent itself.

In 1987, Prell Weisz joined her brother Michael Prell, now president of Paterson Papers, in the family business as president of The Paper Store & More, its cash-and-carry retail division.

Today, The Paper Store & More has three locations, in Paterson, East Hanover and Kenilworth.

“We’re a paper specialist that can handle all paper needs,” Prell Weisz said.

Meaning that if you need paper or prints, whatever your business — from commercial printers to hospitals to religious organizations — Paterson Papers and The Paper Store & More can provide it.

But many of the company’s 40 employees have worked there for 20 or more years — meaning, it may be time to start thinking about the future again.

“As more paper merchants close, I’m hoping to attract more talent,” Prell said.

It’s one of the pitfalls of running a paper company in a tech-savvy world where anyone can be a printer.

“Due to incredible obstacles in the marketplace, such as the Internet and consolidation, printing demands have changed,” Prell said.

“But we’ve been constant.”

So just how has the company survived when so many others have faltered?

It’s simple: Paterson Papers has more than 100 years of old-fashioned business and customer service expertise.

“In this automated world, all people get is ‘Press 1, press 2’ — we’re friendly voices that answer the phone,” Prell said.

And, when one door closes, Michael opens another, said Cynthia Prell, director of special projects.

“Michael has been especially good at differentiating our services,” she said. “Whether it’s custom cutting, perforating, hole punching or something else, we can meet needs that are not always long-run print jobs.

“If you need 1,000 two-by-four pieces, we can get you what you want in a timely manner.”

Between its ability to accept smaller orders, its cash-and-carry division, and its e-commerce site, Paterson Papers has certainly found the right niche markets.

“We own everything without any bank loans,” Michael Prell said. “We finance everything internally.”

But while business has tripled since the 1980s, Prell would only describe the last few years as steady.

Which is why he’s still always thinking of creative ways to reinvent the business.

“I would like to look to buy a business that’s similar to ours to expand our distribution capabilities,” Prell said.

“We distribute paper, but with the trucks we have that go out every day, we could be distributing other products as well.”

Does that signify the end of paper?

“People still use envelopes and print materials to market in addition to email,” Prell said.

“And the paper you print on is just as important as what you print,” Prell Weisz said.

Biz in brief

Companies: Paterson Papers and The Paper Store & More
Founded: 1914; 1987
Headquarters: Paterson
Employees: 40

Family ties

In 1987, Genie Prell Weisz was in between projects working as an assistant talent agent when her future husband made a good point:

“He said, ‘You’re so lucky to have a family business to work for, why wouldn’t you work there?’ I had always resisted the idea until he said that,” Prell Weisz said.

When she approached her father, however, there simply wasn’t a spot for her at Paterson Papers — so he put Genie in charge of creating the company’s new retail division, The Paper Store & More.

Meg Fry

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