PRINT IT: Charles Perkowski, vice president of Central Paper Co. Inc., at the company’s new location in downtown Providence. The storefront targets the growing number of people interested in letterpress and traditional printing techniques.
Charles Perkowski wants other New Englanders to be as excited about paper as he is. Vice president of Central Paper Co. Inc., a regional paper distributor that’s been in his family for more than 60 years, Perkowski grew up around reams of white copy paper, boxes of envelopes and all imaginable types of stationary.
While some may have sought out a more fashionable career when they got out of college, Perkowski couldn’t wait to put his own mark on the paper industry.
“I was excited by the family business through and through since birth,” he said.
To bring some of that excitement to others, Perkowski is helping Central, and its retail affiliate Paperworks, move into more specialized, high-end and boutique papers.
Last summer, Paperworks opened its first retail shop in downtown Providence, in a Dorrance Street storefront targeted to Rhode Island School of Design students and the growing number of people interested in letterpress and traditional printing techniques.
“The retail side is incredibly specialty focused,” Perkowski said. “We have all-cotton paper or Italian metallic paper and all kinds of wild colors.”
After getting out of college in 2007, Perkowski launched online stores for both wholesale and retail. Although businesses buying wholesale still prefer placing their orders with the help of a salesperson, Perkowski said about half of retail sales are now made over the Internet.
Significant as they are, the rise of online sales and the popularity of specialty papers are only two of many changes that have shaped the business since Central was founded in 1950.
The Perkowski family’s first exposure to the paper business was in printing, which Charles’ great grandfather took up after moving to Central Falls from Poland in the 1930s.
Charles’ grandfather was more of a salesman and in the 1940s began buying and selling paper in bulk between different printing houses.
Eventually, he decided to drop the printing business altogether and focus on selling paper as Central Paper.
In the early years of the company, most printing was done using letterpress, the direct application of ink with metal blocks, technology first developed in the 15th century.
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