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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

New Years Ruminations & Some Good News for Mailers

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 24, 2017 10:05:23 AM

First of all, Happy New Year to all those who follow and read my blog. I wish everyone the best for success and happiness in 2017.  Despite the fact that I write this in a cold weather climate (Boston) and the days are short, there’s always a certain positive energy associated with a new year at least to me. It’s a clean slate; time to refresh the screen and figure out what’s possible.  Of course the figuring-out part is a lot easier than the executing part.  I think that’s where a lot of people get stuck in the mud. Oh well, it’s always worth a try! 

I always wonder how far into January you go before you stop wishing people happy new year. I write this on January 22nd. This will definitely be the last week where I’m extending those wishes.  Don’t ask me why. It just seems about the right time to end it.

Of course before we know it, everyone will be saying, “I can’t believe it’s March/April/May already”.  So the moral is, make the most of 2017 because it will be over before you realize what happened.

One last thing on New Year’s and good intentions; one of the hardy perennial new year’s resolutions is to be more organized. With the amount of raw data most of us are bombarded with each day, I think it’s more important than ever to be able to sort through the never-ending amount of digital messages we receive and still have time to be productive.  My friend Lorena Prime has a very successful company called “Clearly Organized”.  Her website has lots of useful information and Lorena does seminars and consulting for business and individuals.  Lorena’s great and I encourage anyone who has that problem or runs a business where it’s a problem with staff to contact her.

So, as we know everything in life involves trade-offs. The information overload and fatigue it can cause is one side of the coin. The other side is how much great information is out there literally at our fingertips which can help us and save us time and money. 

I happened to come across a great article by Adam Lewenberg of Postal Advocate in Wayland, MA.  Adam writes for Mailing Systems Technology magazine and has analyzed and broken down the new postal rates that have taken effect on January 22nd, 2017. 

Overall, the rate increases are minor and they contain some good news for direct mailers and direct marketers as well as those that supply direct mail printing and printed envelopes for direct mail. 

Perhaps the biggest and best news is that automated (pre-sorted) mail will have a single, flat rate from 1 ounce up to 3.5 ounces.  This will enable marketers to put a lot more in the envelope for the same price.

Adam’s article has a whole bunch of useful information about the new rates along with some tips on how to save money on your next campaign.  Kudos to him for laying this out in such a clear and concise fashion.

So again,  Happy New Year (for the last time in 2017) and may all your direct mail campaigns be smooth and effective!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, post office, direct mail printing, printed envelopes

Elite Envelope Goes Solar!

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 14, 2016 12:33:24 PM

So I was shocked twice this morning.  First, when I realized I hadn’t written a blog entry in over a month (I know, I know you’ve all been sitting at your desks each morning wondering where it’s been). And secondly when I looked at the calendar twice to see that it’s indeed December 14th and Christmas is next Sunday(!)  

 Rather than try to explain the inexplicable; i.e. how another year has apparently come and almost gone, I’m going to jump right into the topic of the day which is the value of renewable energy in the printing and envelope industry and the importance of accurate claims in this regard.

 As anyone who follows this blog is aware, I’ve been skeptical of the claims made by some of our competitors that a particular envelope was manufactured or printed using wind power.  In fact, “skeptical” may not be the right word.  “Dismissive” might be more accurate.  The way this works is that a company will purchase what are known as Renewable Energy Credits or REC’s.  These represent a purchase of a certain amount of power that is actually produced by a random wind farm somewhere in the US. The theory is that the power once purchased goes into the grid and is available for use by someone/anyone.  So this energy is thought to replace power that would have been produced using conventional fossil fuels.

I’ve always thought this to be a bit squirrelly and you can read why here.   But I’ve also said that if you really want to make a difference and think that renewable energy is important, then by all means put your money where your mouth is and you’ll get no quarrel from me.

That’s what we’ve done at Elite Envelope & Graphics.  As of the beginning of 2017, we will begin generating somewhere between one half and three quarters of our total energy consumption through an array of solar panels that we’ve just installed on our brand new roof.

Elite Solar JV standing.jpg  

To be honest, our primary reason for doing this was economics.  Between the incentives provided by the Federal and State governments, the system will pay for itself in a fairly short time after which our monthly savings on electricity will be substantial well into the future. And once all the impending breakthroughs in large, storage battery technology I’ve been reading about come to fruition, it’s possible that we could be completely self-sufficient in our energy usage in the not-too-distant future.

But aside from the economics,  there are certainly environmental benefits to consuming less fossil fuel and we will now be in a position to print this (below) on our customer’s envelopes and have it be literally accurate.  There’s a lot to be said for truth in advertising!   Let us know if we can help you impress your customers.

Solar Power Logo Sun.jpg

 

Topics: elite envelope, envelope printing, envelope manufacturing, going green

Bubble Envelopes & Recycling

Posted by Jerry Velona on Nov 3, 2016 2:33:50 PM

I was raised not to waste. As a child growing up in the northern New Jersey suburbs, wasting anything was one of the worst things we could do. The ethic of conservation around our house was neatly summed up in the aphorism quoted to me innumerable times by my grandmother and my mother: “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”.  I also heard, “waste not, want not” more than a few times for good measure. We were the children and grandchildren of the generations that lived through the Great Depression and the hard lessons of that era were drummed into most of us growing up in the 60’s and the 70’s. 

 I don’t believe I owned a pair of “play pants” (as they were quaintly referred to) that didn’t have multiple patches stitched into them by my grandmother and her trusty Singer sewing machine.  When I’d make another hole (we played hard back then!) I’d just get another patch. It was no big deal and nothing embarrassing to me.  And we weren’t poor, by the way.  We lived in a small but comfortable single family home in a solidly middle class neighborhood.

 patches on pants.jpg

Can you imagine someone these days doing that?  Now there are many reasons why you see very few patched pants on kids today.  Probably the biggest one is that the general level of affluence in society among all economic groups is greater than it was 50 years ago.  There’s less of a need to patch pants when you can afford to just buy a new pair for a reasonable price.  Another factor is personnel-related. How many families have an in-house grandma who’s got the time, skill, equipment and willingness to do it?

 Today the cultural ethic of conservation and recycling has mostly become the province of environmentalism. I have mixed feelings about this development. On the one hand I think it’s good to carry on the traditions of frugality regardless of the rationale. But I tend to look at these things more from a moral perspective rather than just a “green” perspective. The two are not always in synch. But, that’s a topic for another day!

What I’ve been leading up to here is that it’s good to recycle and reuse and that at Elite, we have come up with a way to allow you to reuse your bubble envelopes while still having it your way.  The answer is our Smart Bubble ™ product.  Like all good ideas, it’s very simple. We print you an envelope in however many colors you want, with as much coverage as you’d like and we provide it with a removable bubble sleeve.  We can do these in small quantities if you’d like with the same quick turnaround we provide on just about everything we make.  The removable sleeve can be re used or recycled.  Sometimes it’s good to have the item that’s been shipped in the envelope stored in the same protective packaging once it’s removed.  Or you can use the liner to send something else or add protection to something you’re shipping in a box.

 With Elite’s Smart Bubble™ envelope, you can have your favorite design and ship it too.  (Patches not included!) 

Topics: elite envelope, bubble envelopes, smart bubble envelopes, recycling envelopes

Envelope Manufacturing at the Smithsonian

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 17, 2016 3:22:07 PM

On September 13th, the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum launched a new virtual exhibition, "America's Mailing Industry", telling the story of the partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and private industry, which together have helped American citizens and businesses communicate and conduct business for more than 200 years.

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The website is very well done and contains a great deal of historical information about mail, direct mail, the Post Office and the various businesses that support mail communication and delivery.  With regard to envelope manufacturing there are many interesting tid-bits about how envelopes used to be made (by hand mostly) and the advent of the first machines which could get up to 150 envelopes per hour (!).

Aside from envelope companies, printers are well represented and there’s a neat little summary of the history of printing in the United States marked by the various technological improvements along the way.  There are additional sections on letter shops, paper companies, graphic designers, non-profit fundraisers, newspaper publishers, catalog and mail order companies and many more. Each section has a succinct description of the business, its history and how it relates and the contribution it makes to the flow of mail.

I’ll admit to having some mixed feelings when reading through the site.  Usually when you say something “belongs in the Smithsonian” it means it’s a historical artifact of a bygone era. For instance I’ve driven some cars that looked like they “belonged in the Smithsonian”. (and had a lot of fun driving them I might add).  Those of us in the print, mail and envelope industries spend a lot of time talking about how the industries are still relevant in the digital age – and they are.  Print, paper and mail are still the medium of choice by millions for selling and communicating. But there is that nagging thought that the industries are not what they were 50 or even 20 years ago and that maybe the next step is to start writing the history as if they are in the past tense. 

So seeing our industry featured in a Smithsonian exhibit (in a web site no less!) can stir some of those thoughts.  But the Smithsonian also features exhibits on the aerospace industry and other thriving businesses.  Its purpose is to provide history and context and demonstrate what initiative and ingenuity can do through individual and cooperative effort.

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I urge you to check it out at the link above.  Now it’s time for us in the business to get back to making more history!

Topics: direct mail, post office, envelope manufacturing

Print, Mail & Envelopes in the New Century

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 16, 2016 3:20:45 PM

Ask most anyone these days in the print, mail or envelope industry about the current state and future of mail and you’ll generally get an answer that’s hopeful but cautious.  The great digital disruption of the last 25 years or so has caused an irrevocable change in printed communication.  Those of us who’ve seen these changes as they’ve occurred are naturally wary about what is to come.  It hasn't always been pretty!

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On the one hand mergers and acquisitions continue apace with smaller, less capitalized companies unable to profit in the new landscape and selling out (if they’re lucky) to larger firms more able to diversify and adapt to changing market conditions. Obviously, creative destruction is part of every sector of the economy and generally indicates overall health in the market. But it does seem that there’s more of it going on in our industries of late and it’s been accelerated by the ubiquity of smart phones among other things. Not a week goes by when we don’t receive some notice of an equipment auction. Used envelope and printing equipment has never been less expensive and more available. That’s a tangible sign of over-capacity due to a still-shrinking market.

However on the other hand direct mail is certainly coming back with a vengeance.  After a relatively brief flirtation with relying exclusively on digital-based marketing, fund-raising companies as well as colleges and other large institutions are coming back to mail solicitations because they achieve better results even with the added costs of printing, envelopes and postage.  And at Elite Envelope, we have seen a significant increase in new customers comprised of small start-ups ranging from print brokers, consultants, marketing agencies, and craftspeople making a high value product that needs to be mailed in a printed bubble envelope or promoted with a full-color package including a window envelope and reply envelope.

We speak to customers every week who are changing their business around; getting into providing new services and products to customers in order to capture more of their business. And far from being the bane of our existence, technology is enabling us to work smarter with more information at our fingertips and marketing software and website apps which allow a one-person marketing “department” to reach thousands (or millions) of potential customers with a few clicks.

It might sound contradictory for companies in the print communication business to use website and e mail to such an extent to promote their wares but it’s really not.  It’s all part of the grand, shaking-out and reorganizing that’s going on not just in our industries but in just about every business across the entire economy.  And what we’re finding is that print and mail is settling in to have its place in the mix of ways people communicate, sell and solicit.   It’s up to us to increase the value of what we provide and hopefully our share of the market.

Topics: elite envelope, envelopes and printing, envelope industry, declining mail volume, printed bubble mailers

Paper Comes Back (or it never really left)

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 19, 2016 12:59:35 PM

One of the most predictable things in life is that changes and trends tend to move drastically in one direction only to be followed by a re-calibration.  It’s part of our nature to become infatuated by something new and different.  But after the full effects are consumed and digested, things tend to settle back into some rough equilibrium.  

Of course this isn’t true in all cases.  Once the automobile came onto the scene, horse-drawn transportation became a decidedly niche activity and stayed that way.  But not all social trends or new technological developments are as obviously superior as the car. 

It’s remarkable to think that the internet as we know it and use it today has really only become widespread within the past twenty years or so. The world has profoundly changed as a result and it’s been a positive change in almost all respects.  

High technology in all its forms has pushed paper aside in many ways and for many reasons; some having to do with convenience, some with cost, some with (often faulty) environmental concerns.  But inevitably, the “digestion” period has begun and people are starting to process these changes, seeing the negatives as well as the positives and acting accordingly.

A few recent examples illustrate this:

Item - In a June 22nd article in the Boston Globe - "Millennial's strange love affair with greeting cards" Janelle Nanos writes about how young adults are seeing the superior personal connection of a written note and card versus a "throwaway" message on Facebook or Snapcha and are buying them in significant quantities.  The demand is mostly fulfilled through small, boutique card companies that market online.  Improved printing technology and lower upfront costs have reduced the barrier to entry in the market.

Item – In a July 10th essay in the Wall Street Journal entitled "I'm Banning Laptops from My Classroom" , Rutgers law school professor Stuart Green makes his case against the use of computers in his class. His reason quite simply is that many students are distracted and doing other things rather than listening and engaging in the lecture.  He seems this as an endemic problem in society as a whole especially among Millennials – a state of perpetual distraction.  Starting this fall, students in Professor Green’s class will have to go back to writing notes on paper.

Item – An article in Fortune magazine from April 16th, "Air Dryers Disperse Viruses" summarizes a recent study conducted by the Journal of Applied Microbiology which showed that hand dryers, in particular the Dyson model where you stick your hands in, spread germs wildly around the restroom as opposed to using a paper towel which confines the germs primarily to the trash.  Now, I’ve read where the methodology of this study might have exaggerated the results. I haven’t read the study. But the conclusions seems to pass the common sense test at least to me.  (Personally, I’ve always preferred the paper towel to the air dryer).

Item – In an Info Trends blog dated June 7th, entitled "Millennials Won't Respond to Printed Catalogs and Direct Mail, Right? WRONG!" data is presented to demonstrate the headline’s thesis.  I have to say that even I was surprised at the findings which showed a very high percentage of the 18-34 age group studied finding catalogs useful and opening direct mail pieces they receive.  The article makes the point that after a period of decline, both catalogs and direct mail are experiencing a resurgence because they get results.  Sound familiar?

So are we seeing a return to paper and printing on paper and envelopes as a general counter-trend?  I’ve presented some anecdotes which don’t conclusively prove the point but I believe they are indicative of the type of re-evaluation I alluded to earlier.  In my experience with Elite Envelope and Graphics, I can attest to the fact that custom made card packages for invitations and other purposes are becoming more and more popular. Some of our fastest-growing customers are in that market.

woman_reading_letter.jpg

I was going through some old photos the other day and mixed in with them were some letters I had received from my mother while in college.  My Mom passed away in 2002. What a joy it was to read those letters written in her impeccable penmanship and expressing herself in the erudite yet personal manner she was known for.  Print on paper can connect us to our past (and present) in a way that the ephemeral digital form of communication cannot. Unless of course, you print them out and save them!

 

Topics: elite envelope, envelopes, printed paper, paper;

Five Perfect Web Printing Jobs

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 22, 2016 11:09:08 AM

Web printing has nothing to do with the World Wide Web. (It would be interesting to do a survey to see how many people actually know that’s the term referenced in the “www” in web addresses).   It’s understandable that many non-printer buyers who hear that Elite Envelope & Graphics does cold web printing automatically think it’s something done with a computer.  Well, our 8 color Didde Colortech press does have a computer attached but it’s for assuring the proper balance of CMYK as we lay down another awesome print job.

 The “web” part comes from the fact that the paper printed in these presses starts as a roll. As the roll unwinds through the press, it wraps around a series of rollers designed to keep the paper taut in order to maintain proper registration of the printing.  This creates the look of a “web” of paper; hence the name. The photo just below shows our two web presses from the back and gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.

2013-07-26_02.17.29.jpg Commercial presses print on either individual sheets (sheet-fed) or rolls of paper (web). Most high-end printing is done on sheet-fed presses. There are a lot of reasons for that but suffice it to say, both types of printing have their place depending on the individual job.  Web printing has its advantages over sheet fed for things like long runs of individual sheets; newspapers and broadsheets, booklets and perforated items. There are a lot of different web presses out there and each has its own unique features and strengths.  Here’s a list of five hypothetical jobs that are tailor-made for our particular web presses and which would be suitable for just about any similar type of press. 

  1. Letter size (8 ½ x 11) individual cut sheets for letterhead, statements or invoices.
  2. Postcards for mailing or binding in a catalog or booklet
  3. Buck slips (usually 3 ½ x 8 ½)
  4. 8, 12, 16 or 24 page booklet/self-mailer (ideal page size 8 ¼ x 10 ¾)
  5. Placemats (11 x 17) used routinely by diners and restaurants

The most common stocks for the above jobs would be 50-70# offset or opaque or 7-9 point hi- bulk for the cards.  Since perforating can be done in-line as the item is printed, any of the above items which contain perforated lines make it an even better value and better suited for the web press.  There can be multiple perforations or even cross-perforations on a single piece.   Folding for any of the cut sheets: e.g. a trifold letter size sheet to fit in a #10 envelope, is another ideal characteristic for a web job.  

Any of the above items can be printed from simple black up to and including 4 color process on both sides.  Newer web equipment features high resolution color printing which produces sharp, clear images suitable for all manner of direct mail applications.

The moral of the story is that anyone who buys print should know what works best on a web press versus sheet-fed.  Many buyers we work with will order one or two components out of a direct mail package to print web for the best price.  We hope this helps to clarify where you might start looking to make those buying decisions. It could very well save your company money and make you look very smart. Of course we realize you’re already smart because you’ve read this piece to the very end.  Oh, and you can get further information on our webs from the world-wide web at www.eliteenvelope.com

Topics: cold web printing, direct mail printing, web printing, financial printing, web printing versus sheet fed

The 2 Most Common Envelope Printing Mistakes

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 23, 2016 2:02:33 PM

You might be thinking, “Printing is printing”, right?  Well, yes and no.  Printing processes are pretty much the same regardless of the material.  You’re laying ink (or toner) on top of paper, cardboard, cloth, plastic or many other possible substrates. 

 However, as you can imagine, printing a T-shirt is quite a bit different than, say, printing a paper label.

In the world of printing, envelopes can present some unique challenges requiring some forethought and a bit of knowledge about how the process works in order to achieve the best result.

 So, here are some of the most common errors. Try to avoid them if you can!

1.)    Selecting or Assuming the Wrong Printing Process - As I’ve laid out in previous posts (see here and here) there are a number of different ways to print an envelope. Each method has its own unique characteristics as well as limitations.  Factors such as the size of the envelope, the amount of colors and ink coverage and the quantity will tend to dictate the best process be it offset, litho, digital or flexo.  For a complete explanation of each of those processes, click on either or both of the links at the beginning of this paragraph.

Two examples of how the wrong envelope printing process can lead to bad results are the heavy, dark ink solid and printing up to the window.  On the former, some envelopes will feature a large area of solid dark ink. Maybe some copy is knocked out of the box, maybe not.  If this type of a design is being printed on a stock envelope, it will most likely cause smudging on the back of the adjacent envelope. This happens as the envelopes come off the press onto the moving belt before they are put in the box. The heavily printed part can actually rub off a bit onto the back of the next envelope. The technical term for this is “offsetting”.  An envelope like this either needs to have the solid portion cut back or lightened with a screen effect.  If the heavy solid needs to stay, then the envelope will likely have to be printed on flat sheets and converted after the fact. This will add considerable cost to the job.

Printing right up to the window cut-out can only work if the job is converted after printing.  If you want to print that design on a stock envelope, you have to leave a white border of at least 1/8” all around the window in order to account for print variation and to avoid ink on the window.

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2.)    Improper Design – Envelopes can be printed in a myriad of different ways with lots of color and coverage. However, sometimes the design that looks great on a computer screen will not be the most practical.  One of the most common examples of this is the flap that is covered with ink right up to where it folds. That looks really sharp and it can definitely be done but there is a caveat. This type of design can only be accomplished by printing on a flat sheet and then converting into an envelope.  The converting process includes some inevitable variation. This means that the ink on the flap will only hit the fold exactly about 20% of the time at the most. The rest of the envelopes will either show some white on the front or the ink will wrap over a bit to the back.  That inconsistency is generally not anticipated by the customer.  At Elite, we will always warn a customer about this in advance but that’s not always the case with other companies.  The best way to avoid this is to design the ink coverage on the envelope flap to wrap around to the front of the envelope by ¼”.  You’ll show some ink on the front but at least it will be consistent although still with a little variation. 

Another common example of an impractical design is when heavy ink solids are placed on top of where the envelope folds or where the flap sits.  Envelope presses rely on the pressure of rubber rollers to impart the ink and image.  Because of the numerous folds in the back of an envelope, there is a slightly uneven surface on which to print.  Placing a heavy coverage of ink, especially a dark color like blue directly over these uneven areas can result in small white lines through the printing. These are what’s known as “seam marks”.  Moving that portion of the graphic image to another spot on the envelope or, as in #1 above, lightening the image with a screen effect can usually solve the problem.

In all cases, your best approach would be to deal with a company that specializes in envelopes who would be able to advise you on the best way to print your particular job.  

 

Topics: envelope printing, jet printing, printed envelopes

Printed Bubble Envelopes at Elite Envelope

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 26, 2016 1:55:44 PM

Who knew that bubble wrap would have such an interesting backstory?

According to Wikipedia, Bubble wrap was invented in 1957 by two engineers named Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes in Hawthorne, New Jersey. Initially, Fielding and Chavannes sealed two shower curtains together, creating some air bubbles, which they originally tried to sell as wallpaper(!).  Predictably, the wallpaper market did not prove very fruitful.  They then tried marketing it as greenhouse insulation with similar lack of success.

Although Bubble Wrap was branded by Sealed Air Corporation (founded by Fielding and Chavannes) in 1960, it was not until a year later that its use in protective packaging was discovered.  As a packaging material, Bubble Wrap's first client was IBM which used the product to protect one of its large, mainframe computers during shipment.  Fielding and Chavannes were inducted into the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame in 1993 and why not?  Their invention became one of the most useful products in its era.

Eventually Sealed Air figured out a way to line envelopes with its bubble product at which time the bubble envelope or bubble mailer was conceived.  I don’t have any hard numbers on this but I’m guessing that bubble envelopes reached a peak in popularity during the halcyon days of compact discs. There was/is really nothing better in which to mail a CD than a bubble envelope. CDs are not as popular as they once were but bubble envelopes seem to be increasing in popularity from the plethora of small internet companies selling products that require some modest protection when shipping.

Elite Envelope gets a lot of hits on its website from small entrepreneurs who require bubble envelopes. Most of them want printing on the envelopes. A fair number want full coverage printing on the front and back.  This is almost impossible to find in the market for the simple reason that bubble envelopes cannot feed through a four color press. A few years ago we responded with our “Smart Bubble” product. By using a removable bubble sleeve, we are able to print pretty much any type of coverage on a paper, Tyvek or Herculink envelope first and then insert the bubble sleeve.  The protection is exactly the same and it has the added benefit of allowing the bubble sleeve itself to be reused or recycled rather than thrown in the trash with the envelope – hence the “Smart” part.

We’ve had some success with this product but recently, our engineers, actually one of our highly capable staff members Chris Gorman, devised a way to print pre made bubble envelopes by changing the configuration of one of our old presses (talk about recycling!).  Chris is our lead pressman and floor manager for our printing department. He’s forgotten more about printing envelopes than I’ll ever know. We’ve printed these envelopes below on our “bubble press” and the quality is excellent.

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Because printed bubble envelopes and printed bubble mailers are not easy to produce, there are not many sources which, predictably, makes them more expensive with less order flexibility (Not to mention long waits for quotes and deliveries).  Many times a customer will face a 5,000 minimum on a printed item.  That’s usually a lot more than your typical small business can justify.  With Elite, you can order as few as you want.  There will be a minimum set-up charge but we’ll be happy to print as few as 500 for you.  We’ll also deliver in our usual 5-7 work days or sooner depending on when we get the order.

So for pre-made bubble envelopes printed one or two colors up to around 9 x 12 overall size or pretty much any size envelope printed up to four colors with a “Smart Bubble” insert, we’re here to help!

Topics: elite envelope, smart bubble envelopes, printed bubble envelopes, printed bubble mailers

Elite Envelope Bids Adieu to Sweet Lou

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 29, 2016 10:14:27 AM

One of the persistent clichés in modern life revolves around the idea of family in other contexts. We’re always trying to describe some group we are part of as “just like family”.  It gets creepy when politicians exhort us to think about society in this way. We need a competent executive to run the country, not a National Daddy (or Mommy!).   Businesses love to use this trope in advertising: “from our family to yours”, etc.  Let’s just stipulate that your family is your family and leave it at that.

That said, at Elite Envelope & Graphics, my partner Dave Theriault and I have always said that we like a family atmosphere at the company. What that means to us among other things is we consider the family obligations of our employees to be at least equally important as their work duties. We’ve also maintained a company size of around 30 employees which allows us to be in daily contact with everyone as well as maintain an open door policy for anyone who has something they need to talk about.

We also have actual family members working together at Elite.  The Gorman brothers, Chris and Steve have been with us almost since we started the company in late 2003.  And then there’s the three generations of paper cutters; Luis Sousa who recently retired, his son-in-law John Verissimo who also serves as a plant manager and John’s son and Luis’ grandson Cameron Verissimo who joined us a couple of years ago and now is one of our best cutters.  Luis recently decided to hang it up after over forty years of cutting paper for various envelope companies including the past twelve years or so at Elite.  We recently threw him a retirement party at his favorite Portuguese restaurant Sagre’ in his hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts.

Luis has an interesting story. He was born in the Azores, the beautiful islands off the coast of Portugal. Luis was one of six children, 3 boys and 3 girls.  His father was a bus driver and his mother a homemaker.  Eventually Luis’ family moved to Brazil where he met his wife Maria. He and Maria had three children and moved to the US in September of 1972, following his parents who had done the same a few years earlier.

At that time, Sousa’s brother Manny was working as a paper cutter at the now defunct Boston Envelope Company in Canton, MA.  Manny set up an interview for Luis who was eventually hired and trained for the same job to work alongside his brother.  Sousa worked at Boston Envelope for many years before moving to Northeastern Envelope in Braintree, Sheppard Envelope in Auburn and eventually to Elite Envelope & Graphics in Randolph.  In 2015 Luis’ beloved wife Maria passed away. Shortly thereafter, he decided it was finally time to retire.

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Cutting paper is a physically demanding job. You’re on your feet all day lifting large and heavy reams of paper onto a cutting bed.  The paper is cut with a large steel die that resembles a cookie cutter.  The die is placed very carefully on top of the paper.  When it’s in just the right position, the cutting bed slides under a metal press which pushes the die through the ream of paper. This creates the individual “blanks” which are then taken to another machine where they are folded and glued to make the envelopes we all use.

It’s a job that can wear down much younger men. But remarkably Sousa was able to keep cutting paper well into his 70’s. His longtime friend and co-worker Al Berardinelli remarked, “Unlike the rest of us, Luis never seemed to age!”  Sousa attributes this to the fact that he enjoyed his work very much. For the past 12 years, he would rise early in the morning and go to his favorite local bakery where he’d get a Portuguese pastry and a cup of coffee before driving about 40 minutes to Randolph to arrive at 7 AM.  In the envelope and printing industries, it’s typical for the production day to start early in the morning.  That never seemed to bother Louis Sousa.     

Sousa’s sense of humor and impish grin were a constant feature on the job. He could also be a bit of a practical joker by his own account: “Years ago my son and I were working side by side on the production floor. I decided to tie a trip wire from my machine to his and every time he would try to operate his machine, I would pull the wire and it would shut off.  He was so aggravated until he realized what I was doing!” he said with a smile.

My partner Dave Theriault spoke about Luis’ value to the company. “We were thrilled to have Luis join us shortly after we started Elite in 2003. We sought him out specifically. He was our first and only cutter for a long time.” Dave went on to rave about Sousa’s skill at his craft.  “Luis is probably the most skilled cutter I’ve ever seen. His many years of experience and the pride he took in his work each day made him a key member of our staff. He solved many a problem for me.”   When Luis wanted to scale back his hours a bit, we gladly accommodated him.  Dave said, “Just having Luis around to answer questions and tackle some of the more challenging jobs was a big help. Plus he’s just a great guy to have on your team. He’s always upbeat and works hard and very productively every day. We miss him!”

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Despite missing his many friends and long-time colleagues at Elite Envelope, Luis says he is enjoying his retirement.  In addition to his 3 children he now has 6 grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. A proud family man, he enjoys spending time with all of them as much as he can.  Sousa still enjoys his trips to the local bakery for coffee except now he can do it at a more leisurely pace and include spending time with his friends catching up on the local happenings.  Ever the jokester, Sousa says he’s teaching his great-granddaughter how to keep herself amused at restaurants by flicking sugar packets with her spoon. Some things never change!  And the family tradition continues at Elite Envelope & Graphics.

 

Topics: envelopes, envelope converting, paper cutting

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!

 

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