In 1920 an entrepreneur named Harold Keil opened the doors of The Millcraft Paper Company in Cleveland, Ohio. Over the last 84 years, Millcraft has become one of the premier, independent paper merchants in the country. The company remains, through three generations, family owned and has expanded beyond Cleveland to 14 locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan and New York.
In 1985 The Millcraft Paper Company announced Chuck Mlakar as its new president and CEO. For the past 20 years Mlakar, who represents the third generation to run the company, has helped guide Millcraft through an incredible growth cycle and a radical change. Under his leadership the company has experienced a seven-fold increase in sales going from $50 million in 1985 to over $200 million in current sales.
As evidenced by the tremendous growth in sales the company has enjoyed during his tenure, Mlakar has been focused throughout his term on taking the company to the next level. Through a series of acquisitions, a focused mission, a well-defined set of core values and a great team of people, he has succeeded.
Asked about his company’s success Mlakar says, “We’re different from everyone else because we are a family business. Not only are we owned by a family but we’re really run by a family. Many of our people have been with us for 15 to 40 years and each of them has been integral to our success over the years.”
When asked what his secret is Mlakar says, “Its simple. We have 250 people working toward one common goal, being easier to do business with.” In 1990 the company formalized this “secret” by publishing its mission statement which proclaims: “The Millcraft Group is committed to being a premier, independent merchant and converter of printing paper that is rooted in the Midwest and viewed as the easiest to do business with by its customers and suppliers.”
“Every day we strive to make sure that we are doing what it takes to be easy to do business with,” says Mlakar. “For us, it’s all about relationships – they’re extremely important. And, the only way we can hold onto relationships is to make sure that we are helping our customers and vendors. We need to be a true partner.”
Not only has Mlakar managed to grow the company into one of the premier independent paper merchants in the United States, but he has also secured the company’s future by diversifying the business and expanding the company’s focus to include three distinct businesses that make up what is today referred to as The Millcraft Group. These businesses include Millcraft Paper, which serves Cleveland, Akron and Canton, Ohio as well as the Pittsburgh, Pa. area and two stores in Erie, Pa. Millcraft specializes in distributing fine commercial papers used for brochures, calendars, annual reports and coffee table books.
The second is Infocraft, a company devoted to facilitating the distribution of information throughout the Millcraft Group as well as to its customers and suppliers. Recently acquired is Millcraft Express Envelope, an envelope converting and specialized envelope and service company designed to support customers involved in the direct mail and fulfillment business.”
The big step
In 1995 Mlakar took perhaps the biggest step of his career when he purchased a converting company in Buffalo, N.Y. Deltacraft buys large rolls of uncoated offset, coated offset and C1S cover grades of paper and sheets them into custom sizes for customers. With over $4 million of inventory, Deltacraft is able to put together stocking programs or custom sheeting programs for customers throughout the country.
Since its acquisition 10 years ago, Deltacraft has been at the center of Millcraft’s growth and Bill Grubich, Millcraft’s Vice President of Converting Sales, has been responsible for much of that. “Right after we bought the business, Chuck Mlakar told me to jump in my car, drive to Buffalo and go figure out this converting business,” says Bill Grubich.
With a capacity to sheet nearly nine million pounds on a monthly basis, Deltacraft provides Millcraft with a truly unique competitive advantage. Deltacraft’s service oriented approach enables the company to deliver special sizes, packed according to customer preferences within three days after receipt of order. In a world where just-in-time inventory is the norm this gives The Millcraft Group a distinct competitive advantage.
Housed in a spacious 90,000-square-foot facility, Deltacraft operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The sheeting equipment includes a state-of-the-art, 60-inch by 64-inch Jagenburg that is capable of sheeting 50# offset up to 24pt C1S board. In addition, the company has a sheeter designed for heavier board stock (up to 32pt C1S), a another sheeter that specializes in large format sheets up to 54 inches by 80 inches, a 105-inch surface slitter and rewinder and a semi-automatic carton line to ensure that they can offer customers a wide range of services.
This flexibility coupled with the company’s quick-turn capacity enables Deltacraft to provide world class service.
“I remember one customer who called into our Cleveland operation around 7 p.m. one evening and he needed a huge order by 5 p.m. the next day. We didn’t have enough sheets to accommodate him at our Cleveland facility, but we had the rolls on hand that could be converted into sheets in Buffalo. We got the job done, overnighted it and he got what he needed in time. That’s what we specialize in – tall orders in short time frames,” says Grubich.
The company, however, never puts quick-turn around ahead of quality and consistency. Since it was acquired, Deltacraft has made quality a top priority. “Our quality process is extensive,” ensures Grubich. “There are actually eight different inspection points along the way and every skid goes through 25 different checks points to ensure that we are meeting the highest levels of quality and consistency. We do a complete and thorough inspection of every roll of paper delivered to us. If there is anything wrong we file a claim immediately back to the warehouse. While it is very time consuming it is necessary to ensure we are meeting our customers’ expectations, upholding the fact that Millcraft has always had a name for quality in the market place and ensuring that Deltacraft remains one of the premier converting facilities in the country.”
To continue its growth phase, The Millcraft Group has continued to search for ways to add more services to their mix and expand via acquisition into new businesses.
In the near term the company plans to buy more equipment and grow into the digital paper market to service the change in equipment being used by printers.
“We’ll continue to work hard and strive for the quality we put out into the marketplace. And we’ll be constantly asking questions on how our business can help to strengthen the businesses of our customers and suppliers. We want them to know we are here to make their life easier and there is absolutely nothing we can’t do for them.”
Building on that theme the company has truly lived up to its entrepreneurial, adventuresome reputation. In 2003, it opened an envelope converting business in Cleveland, Ohio called Millcraft Express Envelope, specializing in converting pre-printed stock into custom sized envelopes. This is the latest venture into adding value-added services to its portfolio and it represents the company’s growing converting prowess in the marketplace.
But the company is not finished yet. In addition to the growth on the converting side, The Millcraft Group has continued to expand its retail store business. In the last 1-18 months the company has opened or acquired six store operations in four different states. These stores are focused on extending the company’s reach and helping it to focus its services more efficiently As the world changes around it, the Millcraft Group seems poised to continue its long history of growth and adaptation.