National Envelope Corporation History

Address:
29-10 Hunters Point Avenue
Long Island City, New York 11101
U.S.A.

Telephone: (718) 786-0300
Toll Free: 800-808-8455
Fax: (718) 706-7663

Website:
Private Company
Incorporated: 1952
Employees: 2,800
Sales: $360 million (1998 est.)
NAIC: 322232 Envelope Manufacturing; 42212 Stationery & Office Supplies Wholesalers

Company Perspectives:

At National we have one focus, supplying envelopes to the trade! If it's considered an envelope, we make it. Our assortment includes envelopes from commercial and official regulars to custom designed booklets for special direct mail uses, and everything in between. By specializing in one thing, envelopes, National is able to offer the best quality and service and millions of envelopes in stock daily! Key Dates:

Key Dates:

1952:
National Envelope is founded by William Ungar.
1971:
Company launches National Envelope--North in Worcester, Massachusetts, as it expands throughout New England.
1994:
Company acquires Old Colony Envelope Co. and plans major expansion.
1998:
National Envelope moves into the Southwest with the purchase of Texas-based envelope manufacturer Colortree.

Company History:

National Envelope Corporation is the largest privately held envelope manufacturing company in the United States, turning out up to 100 million envelopes every day in some 2,500 varieties. Its assortment includes commercial and official regulars, custom-designed booklet envelopes for special direct-mail uses, and everything in between. The company has grown in part by acquisition of other firms. Its founder, after 47 years, was still chief executive officer in 1999.

William Ungar, a Holocaust survivor of two Polish concentration camps, came to New York City in 1946 on the first ship transporting displaced persons to America after World War II. Arriving with $15 in his pocket, he found work with F.L. Smith, a manufacturer of envelope-making machines. Ungar founded National Envelope in a tiny space on Manhattan's Lower East Side in 1952. The firm originally was staffed with five employees and turned out 200 envelopes per day.

National Envelope--North: 1971-96

By 1971 National Envelope was big enough to move into New England, building a plant in Worcester, Massachusetts, and stocking it with the equipment and employees of the United States Envelope Co.'s Worcester facility, which had recently closed its doors. This operation became National Envelope--North, manufacturing envelopes for such firms as BayBanks Inc., Raytheon Co., and the publisher of the Boston Globe. In 1996 the 133,000-square-foot facility was turning out millions of envelopes a day, operating around the clock five days a week.

Reporting on the factory's silver anniversary in 1996, Globe staffer Jennifer Lee wrote that National Envelope's milestone 'stands as a testament to the enduring vitality of niche manufacturing in Massachusetts and to the ability of such manufacturing to continue to provide blue-collar workers with secure wages and jobs.' Some of the employees attending a birthday party at the factory spoke of good pay and benefits, progressive hiring policies, and room for advancement. Layoffs had been unknown except for a two-week period in the 1980s involving only a handful of workers. The 200 employees had an in-house union, wages said by the company to be competitive with other New England manufacturers, company-paid pensions, full medical and dental insurance, life insurance, sick leave, and earned vacation time. 'It's the kind of thing that attracts good-quality employees and retains them,' said the factory's general manager. 'It allows us to compete by producing quality.'

Old Colony Envelope in 1994

National Envelope picked up 440 employees in 1994, when it acquired Old Colony Envelope Co. of Westfield, Massachusetts, a firm dating from 1920. A national leader in the paper-conversion industry and an official converter for several leading mills, Old Colony was supplying prominent fine-paper merchants with envelopes in a variety of paper grades, colors, and textures. Its envelopes had been used for President Bush's White House parties, President Clinton's first inaugural celebrations, and stationery addressed by Jacqueline Kennedy and Barbara Bush. The Envelope Manufacturing Association recently had honored Old Colony for the most improved safety record in the industry. In the year before, the company was recognized for the best safety record for U.S. envelope manufacturers employing 250 or more workers.

National Envelope purchased Old Colony from its parent, International Paper Co., after a difficult period in which it was on the block for about two years. 'We did a great deal of soul-searching during the recession,' Old Colony's general manager told Suzanne May of BusinessWest, a regional Massachusetts publication. 'We had gotten into all kinds of things that were not germane to who we are, and we were trying to be all things to all people. Once we regained our focus, however, and got back to doing what we do very well--which is manufacturing fine quality envelopes--we started to see improvement.'

In announcing the acquisition, Ungar said the existing Old Colony site in Westfield's Turnpike Industrial Park would be doubled to 240,000 square feet with the construction of a new adjacent building to replace another Westfield plant used by Old Colony but retained by International Paper. Ungar said that management and workers would be kept as part of an independent and autonomous operation and that the purchase would combine National Envelope's strength in the commodity envelope field with Old Colony's leadership in mill-branded envelopes.

National Envelope in the 1990s

With the Old Colony acquisition, National Envelope now had ten fully integrated manufacturing facilities in California, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York. In late 1996 the parent company was threatening to leave New York City by moving its headquarters and plant in Long Island City--a community in the borough of Queens&mdashø Union, New Jersey, where it already had a plant. The firm said it had outgrown its two-building complex in Long Island City and could save more than 20 percent in costs by moving to New Jersey. National Envelope was the only remaining one of the five or so envelope manufacturers operating in the city when Ungar founded the firm. Earlier in the year, his company had closed its Brooklyn plant and moved much of the work to Union to save money. National Envelope subsequently decided not to move after city and state officials offered the firm a multimillion-dollar package of tax concessions and other incentives.

National Envelope acquired a presence in the Southwest in 1998 by purchasing the Texas envelope manufacturer Colortree. This firm, renamed National Envelope of Texas, then ceased to serve envelope users directly and instead became a wholesaler to National Envelope and other paper customers. Based in Grand Prairie, Texas, Colortree had counted among its customers Dallas envelope distributors Clampitt and Olmstead Kirk as well as Dallas County firms Unisource and XPEDX, the latter a subsidiary of International Paper. National Envelope said it would transfer its own Dallas distribution operation to Grand Prairie. The envelope market, after a period of consolidation by manufacturers and paper merchants because of increased use of the Internet and fax machines, was said to be improving because of the growth of direct mail and small and home offices.

National Envelope's New York Envelope Co. was the parent firm's biggest unit in 1996, with about $160 million of National Envelope's estimated $300 million in sales. Old Colony accounted for about $60 million, and National Envelope--Central, based in Earth City, Missouri, for about $35 million. Other company units, in 1999, aside from the aforementioned and the Westfield and Worcester units, were Aristocrat Envelope Corp., based in Long Island City; National Envelope--East (Union); National Envelope--Midwest (Lenexa, Kansas); National Envelope--Northwest (Tukwila, Washington); National Envelope--South (Austell, Georgia); and National Envelope--West (Chino, California). The Chicago Area Distribution Center was in Warrenville, Illinois. National Envelope's sales office was also in Warrenville. Corporate marketing was in Union. The sample department was in Westfield.

National Envelope's array of envelopes in 1999 included commercial and official ones, both made of regular and recycled papers; window envelopes; booklet-style envelopes; and translucent ones, in 24 colors. There were also open-end specialty envelopes; open-side specialty ones, including blank forms, proxy, collect-to-mailers, filing jackets, and remittance envelopes; and open-end catalogs/coins envelopes, including policy, glove, and scarf ones. Fine-paper envelopes were available from more than 30 different mills and ranged from standard kraft to specialty woven. Also available were clasped envelopes and retail/soho/super size ones. Presentation portfolio envelopes were offered in micro linen or micro strife and available in 15 colors, with an interior holding two four-inch-deep pockets for insertions, including business cards and floppy discs. National Envelope also was presenting a full-line color catalog that it said presented the most complete line of products in the envelope industry.

Principal Operating Units: Aristocrat Envelope Corporation; Chicago Area Distribution Center; National Envelope Corporation--Central; National Envelope Corporation--East; National Envelope Corporation--Midwest; National Envelope Corporation--North; National Envelope Corporation--Northwest; National Envelope Corporation--South; National Envelope Corporation--West; National Envelope of Texas; New York Envelope Company; Old Colony Envelope Company.

Principal Competitors: American Business Products Inc.; American Mail-Well Envelope; Gilman Paper Co.

Further Reading:

  • Bay, Suzanne, 'Old Colony, New Beginning: Envelope Manufacturer Has New Owner and Big Expansion Plans,' BusinessWest, December 1994, p. 31.
  • Grant, Peter, 'Envelope Skirmish: A Queens Firm with 500 Jobs Eyes NJ Move,' New York Daily News, December 24, 1996, p. 44.
  • Lee, Jennifer, 'The Science of Letters: In Era of E-Mail, Worcester Firm Continues to Thrive,' Boston Globe, June 18, 1996, p. 39.
  • Powell, Barbara, 'National Envelope Buys Colortree in Grand Prairie,' Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 31, 1998, p. 4.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 32. St. James Press, 2000.

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