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Weiss Bros. celebrates 70 years

January 13, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - He has camouflage toilet paper on display, and even a roll from China.

Richard Weiss says his toilet paper memorabilia collection is a source of pride - likely because sanitary supplies are a large part of his life. Weiss is the owner of Weiss Bros. of Hagerstown Inc. on Oak Ridge Drive.

The company is a wholesale distributor of industrial packaging, food service disposables, safety supplies, sanitary paper products and janitorial supplies in the quad-state area.

Weiss Bros. has been in business in Hagerstown since 1938 and will celebrate its 70th anniversary this year.

The company's largest customers are Washington County Hospital, Washington County Public Schools, AC&T, Quad Graphics, the City of Hagerstown and Washington County government.

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When the company began locally in 1938, Weiss' parents, Norman and Rae, sold shoemaking supplies, tape, paper cups and other items, mostly to small corner shops and shoe repair businesses.

Bernard Weiss, Norman's nephew who began working for Weiss Bros. in 1948, began selling not only to corner stores, but to large industrial customers. Richard Weiss said that was fortunate as most corner grocery stores began to close by the 1960s.

"Our customers were gone," he said.

Richard Weiss joined the company in 1971. He said his company is the Tri-State area's largest locally owned and operated independent paper distributor. Weiss Bros. is a branch of a family-owned business from Norristown, Pa.

When his parents started the Hagerstown business, it had only about six employees. Weiss now employs 48 people.

"For this county to have someone be in business here for 70 years and evolve and change is very impressive," said Sales Manager Steve Johnson.

Weiss said that most of his competitors have closed or have been bought out over the years.

The company's first location in Hagerstown was in an alley off of Potomac Street. In the 1950s, Weiss Bros. moved to a storefront on Franklin Street. In the 1980s, it moved to a larger facility on Pope Avenue.

Since 1990, Weiss Bros. has been in a 40,000-square-foot warehouse on Oak Ridge Avenue. A 13,000-square-foot addition recently was constructed.

Part of the business' success is tied to the company's ability to anticipate changes in customers and in their needs, Johnson said. When there was demand for a "hands-free" approach to using a public restroom, Weiss Bros. responded with automatic paper towel dispensers, soap dispensers and other items.

Johnson said there is growing interest in more environmentally friendly products, and Weiss Bros. is keeping up by selling soy- or citrus-based products.

"We are evolving to the needs of what's going on in the marketplace," he said.

Weiss said that his company also is offering more of a high-tech approach to ordering. Customers now can go online to the Weiss Bros. Web site, www.weissbros.com, to place orders, and about 9 percent of orders are placed that way, he said.

A CD-ROM catalog also is available.

Weiss said that he isn't certain how the company will evolve in its next 70 years of business.

"I don't know how we'll operate, or what we'll sell," he said. "But it will be local people offering good service and a quality product."




On the Web

For more information about Weiss Bros., go to www.weissbros.com.

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