SCRANTON — As Doug Fink stood outside Pennsylvania Paper & Supply Co. celebrating its 100th anniversary Friday, he thought back to how the company nearly ended soon after it began.
His grandfather, Jacob Fink, began selling grocery bags and twine to local stores in 1922. Seven years later, he faced an economic calamity when the Great Depression hit, as well as a debilitating injury suffered when he fell down an elevator shaft.
“That broke his back and left him rehabilitating for a year,” Fink, the company’s president and CEO, told dozens of employees and local business and elected officials who gathered outside the Vine Street business for a ribbon cutting celebration. “He recovered and worked 50 years to build the business.”
His grandfather’s fighting spirit lived on with his children, their children and the company’s many dedicated employees, who are the key to its longevity and success, Fink said.
“Statistically there is a 99.5% chance we would not still be here celebrating our centennial today, and even less of a chance while under the same family ownership,” he said. “Through a depression, many recessions, wars, a pandemic, societal upheaval, market changes and technology developments too numerous to mention … we have stood the test of time.”
The company, also known as Penn Paper, branched into multiple other areas over the decades as it acquired numerous other companies and competitors. It now distributes a wide variety of paper, packaging products, cleaning supplies and equipment to multiple industries, including hotels/restaurants, industrial/manufacturing, schools/universities and hospitals/nursing homes.
It is best known for its connection with “The Office,” the sitcom about a fictional paper company in Scranton that aired from 2005 to 2013. The company’s iconic sign atop a tower is featured in the opening credits for the show and still draws visitors from across the nation.
“It’s really become a phenomenon,” Fink said. “This is actually the third most recognized TV landmark behind the Seinfeld diner and the Brady Bunch house.”
Longtime employee Kathy McKeel said she marvels at the interest the show brought to the company — although she sheepishly admits, she’s never watched it.
“It’s neat to see all people come from all over,” she said. “They stand across the street and snap pictures. It’s fun.”
McKeel, 59, of Taylor, has worked for the company for 35 years and now serves as Doug Fink’s executive assistant. She said the Fink family has always treated employees with dignity and respect. She’s thrilled to see them reach such an impressive milestone.
“Honest to God, it doesn’t feel like work because everyone here is like family,” she said.
Doug Fink, who joined the business in 1985 and took over as CEO in 1993, said he remains committed to growing the company. With determination and a little luck, he’s hopeful his descendants will some day celebrate a bicentennial.
“We’ve navigated some incredible challenges we’ve had to overcome in order to just persevere and get through this,” he said. “If you just solve one problem at a time, day after day after day, eventually 100 years goes by and you get here.”
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