“We want to be in show business, Dad!”… Not so fast, proclaimed Samuel Prell, original founder of Paterson Card & Paper Co., the fourth generation, family owned business that was founded 100 years ago in 1914. To prevent his boys from running off to join the traveling circus, Samuel Prell, purchased the Harlem Card & Paper Company out of Harlem NY and moved it to Paterson for three of his sons to run. See, rumor had it that the boys wanted to be entertainers and my great grandfather did not want them to pursue that life. “However, as the legend goes, in the middle of the night, two of the older brothers left a note and the key to the business on their brother, my grandfather Herman’s, pillow and actually did take off for the big top, “ explained Michael Prell, Herman’s grandson and the current owner.
Herman Prell stayed on to run the business which was a small push-cart operation peddling fine printing papers around the city of Paterson and in 1933 moved it to 730 Madison Avenue. His son, Simon Prell, born in 1928, started working in the business at a very early age and chose this to be his career path. As Simon became a teen-ager, he began to take on more responsibilities and started taking over control of the business. As the industrial age was good for the printing and paper industry, the company grew to two locations, one in Paterson and one in Newark by the 1950’s.
In 1960, the company bought a pen ruling machine used to make ledger books for accounting and bookkeeping and the business expanded some more. In the 70’s, after a huge fight between father and son, the younger prevailed and the company purchased a guillotine cutting machine. Paterson Card and Paper started cutting paper to size and the business doubled.
In the 1980’s, Simon’s family got involved. Eldest daughter, Cynthia, joined the company to install a state of the art computer system. Only son, Michael, joined the company after college in 1982 to learn sales, management and operations. In 1986, the youngest daughter, Genie traveled the country working for GTE Corporation but left when she “got the itch” to pursue her own dreams of being in the entertainment field in NYC. But, after working in a talent agency for almost a year, the glamour quickly faded so she came back to fulfill Simon’s dream of creating a cash and carry paper store division, which is now called The Paper Store & more….
So there you have the picture of the “parent” company, Paterson Papers, a wholesale bricks-and-mortar distribution company occupying a large corner on Madison and 16th Avenues in Paterson serving printers and corporations (large and small) within the tri-state area and along the eastern seaboard. And, The Paper Store division, which was one of the first of its kind in the area set up as a “convenience store” to service the immediate needs of printers. With changes in print demand over the past twenty years due to the internet, the Paper Store can meet short-run, quick turnaround demands through its three store locations in Paterson, East Hanover and Kenilworth. Paper buyers have the option to pick up paper same day, have items delivered by UPS or we can deliver next day by our own trucks for a minimal small order requirement and $5.00 delivery fee. Also, in an effort to reach the global marketplace, the company has an ecommerce website at www.thepaperstoreandmore.com.
After 100 years, Paterson Papers and our Paper Store division are still in the family. Owner, Michael Prell and his sisters have been driven by a responsibility to uphold the standard of excellence set forth over the years. Every day, an unrivaled team of devoted employees embody the customer-oriented service philosophy that has been passed down through the company for generations.
Throughout this 100th anniversary year, Genie has been the company historian and gathered some outstanding artifacts including an original paper sample box from the Harlem Card & Paper Co; an accounting ledger from 1953 which has some of our current customers’ names in it. And, the most interesting find came out of a safe which we found in a vault that was hidden behind a piece of sheetrock in a back room until 4 years ago but never opened till the beginning of this month. After 2 days of watching the locksmiths open up this safe which was manufactured in 1906… we found the original bill of sale when my great grandmother, Sara Prell, sold Paterson Card & Paper to her son, (grandfather) Herman Prell, for $1 in 1918. Additionally, other items were found around the building including newspaper articles, marketing materials. About 2 years ago and more recently, an email and facebook message from the “circus owner side” of the family who is conducting a genealogy of the Prell family tree reached out to connect.
In October, Paterson Papers received two proclamations to commemorate this special honor. Governor Christie sent one and the other came from Jose Torres the Mayor of Paterson. On the Paterson proclamation it states at the bottom of their letterhead that Paterson is the oldest industrial city in United States. If that’s the case, then Paterson Papers is one of the oldest companies remaining from the oldest industrial city in the USA!
Finally, in honor of our 100 years, we are sponsoring an exhibit at the Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ. Coincidentally, the Morris Museum is 101 years old and they were hosting an exhibit called Pulp Culture: Paper as a Medium. We saw this as an opportunity to be connected to an exhibit which features the ordinary product we sell every day and the works of artists who make PAPER extraordinary. The exhibit will be running through December 7.
When asked why the company has endured 100 years while so many of your competitors have merged or closed due to the pressures of the Internet, owner Michael Prell would say, “It’s because we are nimble and scrappy. We are small enough that we can make decisions quickly, will resolve customer needs/problems often same day and we fight for every order. We will do whatever we can to help our customers get what they want. Funny, you wouldn’t expect a 100 year old company to be so agile but we are and we’re ready for the next century to begin!”