Pennsylvania Paper & Supply Co. was born in 1922 when a 23-year-old entrepreneur named Jacob Fink saw an opportunity. All the mom ‘n pop grocers in Scranton needed paper bags, so why not create a supply company to fill that need? It was as simple as that.
Jacob’s success was immediate and built on 3 core values that guaranteed a steady stream of loyal customers—some of whom still do business with us today! The values were simple:
Listen to the customer.
Fill their needs.
Do it better than anyone else.
It didn’t take long for Jacob’s catalogue to grow, along with the business. Soon after starting the company, he moved the business into a little building at 25 Lackawanna Avenue—complete with a warehouse, small showroom, and a few offices. The fledgling company was strong enough by the 1930’s to survive the Great Depression, and when things became very difficult, warehouse day workers unloading boxcars were paid with a dollar and a shot of whiskey. PPS would spend the next 48 years on Lackawanna Avenue, growing steadily through the Great Depression, World War II, and the Industrial Boom.
Jacob’s son, Jerry, joined the company’s ranks in 1946 at the age of 19. He’d just been discharged from the army and wanted to get into the family business. After a few years of learning the ins and outs, Jerry set to expanding the company’s reach into cleaning supplies, equipment, and repair services. That was back when the best we had to offer was bleach, ammonia, carnauba wax, and this brand new gadget called a “Hoover.” It wasn’t until 1967 PPS moved into its 100,000 square-foot building at 215 Vine Street in downtown Scranton. In 1978, we tacked on another 125,000 square feet by purchasing the historic building next door at 225 Vine Street.
The post-war period hit Northeast Pennsylvania hard. When the coal mines tapped out and closed, many of the businesses in the area were forced to shut their doors. Still, PPS kept marching on. The 1970s brought more upheaval—this time on account of the supermarket chains and their impact on all the mom ‘n pop grocers that made up our early customer base. It was a difficult time, but we kept moving forward. When a major competitor called McGargee Brothers went out of business in 1972, PPS absorbed their share of the market, added more employees, spun up new product lines, and continued to build on Jacob’s legacy.
Jacob passed away in 1978. But, under his son Jerry’s leadership, PPS continued to listen to customers, fill their needs, and outperform all their competitors. Up until the 1980s, we’d managed to do all that with little more than pencil and paper. But when computers came on the scene, PPS decided to ride the technological wave that was sweeping the business world. At first, it seemed like a whole lot of squeeze and not a lot of juice. We invested heavily in a room full of equipment whose computing power could barely stand up to today’s average alarm clock. There wasn’t a day that went by when our new supercomputer didn’t crash on us. Not so super, but that was the 80s.
Jerry’s son, Doug, joined the company in 1985. With his help, we leveled up our technology until we had the cream of the crop in distribution and financial management software. This carried us comfortably into the 90s when the owners of two longtime competitors (D&L Supply and Paper Sales Company) decided to retire and sell their companies to us. In 1993—the same year Doug succeeded Jerry as President—PPS completed the acquisition and doubled its volume in the process. That’s when we became a true leader in the marketplace—a position we continue to hold 30 years later.
The 21st century has brought many more challenges and opportunities for PPS. We’ve responded by staying true to Jacob’s values and finding creative ways to fill customers’ needs. And by creative, we mean creative. When PPS picked up 125,000 square feet of extra space in 1978, we devoted the excess to warehousing and storage. That “side hustle” eventually became an affiliate company named FlexStore that survives in small form to this day. In 2002, we decided to sell not just cleaning supplies, but cleaning itself. Just like that, Sovereign Commercial Services was born. In just a few short years, Sovereign became the largest and best commercial cleaning company in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
If you’ve ever watched the hit show The Office, then you might recall the first frame of its opening theme: a tower with the words “PENN PAPER” emblazoned at the top. Well, that’s us! The shot was taken in February 2004 when a young John Krasinski left his job waiting tables and joined a cameraman to interview our team and snap a few shots around town. John also spent several hours interviewing some of our people and taking the footage back to the writers, but we disavow any resemblance to actual characters on the show. Wink-wink.
Almost two decades later, fans show up at our headquarters every day from around the world in search of the “real Dunder Mifflin.” We’re happy to welcome them, but what they find isn’t an office full of colorful half-wits. It’s a team of 300 professionals steeped in 100 years of history.
We’ve also met a significant need in the market for education, building the Facility Management Resource Center in 2006. This move has allowed our Certified Consultants to train clients’ staff in the products, procedures, safety, and compliance issues that have made the janitorial/sanitary supply industry so much more complex than it used to be. In 2008, we published our first comprehensive Facility Management Resource Book—the best place to find just about everything you’ll ever need to operate a building. Thanks to our website, this resource has expanded our reach into the national market, allowing us to attract and serve clients from across North America.
The past several years have brought even more growth and expansion for PPS. In 2012, Master Chemical of Wilkes Barre, PA ceased operations, and we brought their key staff members into the fold, which helped to increase our market share further. In 2019, we acquired Independent Chemical—a leader in the regional industrial chemical and specialty equipment marketplace since 1975. In 2020, we added American Janitor & Paper Supply—another significant provider in regional facility supply and safety. With each acquisition, we’ve been able to add new ways to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations.
As much as we’ve grown over the past century, much has stayed the same. Local institutions, like Community Medical Center and the Jewish Home of Eastern PA, have been loyal clients since the early days of PPS. Clients like these are more than just customers; they’re cherished friends. Many of our employees have been with us for decades, as well. Doug’s first hire back in 1987 is still working for the company, and it’s not hard to find folks on our payroll who’ve been around even longer than that.
That kind of longevity—on both the customers’ and the employees’ side—doesn’t come easy. It takes an unyielding commitment to the values that have guided everything we do. At the end of the day, that’s been the secret to our one hundred years of success. We’ve never forgotten who Jacob taught us to be: people who listen and serve with excellence. That’s what has helped us provide so much value to the community, our employees, and the marketplace—and it’s what will continue to guide us for the next one hundred years.
We also codified the core
values that kept us so
valuable to our customers
and adaptable to changing
meticulously teach them to
each new generation of team
OUR CORE VALUES - CARE A
eliance on Facts
xpectations Set High
ttitude to Win
pportunities for All
rust and Respect