One of the most thriving commercial office and warehousing locations in the Williamsport area is the Water Tower Square at 1000 Commerce Drive, near the foot of Chestnut Street in Williamsport. It occupies the site of the former C.A. Reed Paper Products Company. C.A. Reed Paper Products Company was a flourishing part of Williamsport’s commercial landscape for more than 75 years.
John Nittinger uses a machine to seal the bottoms on cups during the manufacturing process at the C.A. Reed Paper Products Co. [GRIT February 4, 1945]
According to a November 1967 Sun-Gazette article, the C.A. Reed Paper Products Company began in April 1907. The company began as an investment by C.A. Reed and two partners who put up a combined $135 investment. They opened a small retail store downtown; the main product was post cards.
Two times in the next eight years the store moved to larger quarters. By 1915 he had expanded into the post card wholesale business, while still in the retail business, his business became the largest wholesaler of post cards in the nation. His sales staff also sold novelty items.
At about this same time the greeting card business in this country was starting to emerge and Reed added these to his business. As greeting cards grew in popularity, manufacturers of the cards started to deal directly with retailers and Reed believed that this would mean the end of his business in this trade.
He spent much time and effort in trying to develop a product line to replace greeting cards, so he came up with the idea of making nut cups, by covering soufflé cups with crepe paper.
Save In 1916 he had eight to ten girls at his business making little novelty items out of crepe paper.
Reed tried to interest the F.W. Woolworth Company in his new product, but was not successful in convincing them. He was able to find other businesses to try them out in a limited fashion and the idea took off.
His business started to increase enough that by 1920, Reed was able to purchase an old building and convert it into a three-story factory.
Several individuals from the Dennsion Company recognized the sale and profit potential of Reed’s operation. One of them, A.H. Stockwell, came to Williamsport and helped Reed form a corporation that was capitalized for $300,000. As the result of this, a new modern factory building was constructed, with 63,000 square feet of floor space.
Machinery for the manufacture of crepe paper was installed in the new factory and Reed’s business commenced on larger scale than it had ever been before in the making of crepe paper and related novelty products.
Not long after this, a machine was installed that was used for the embossing of napkins and other paper products.
The C. A. Reed Paper Products Company continued to flourish enough that by 1928 a new addition was built for the factory.
As the demand for Reed products increased, the need for additional machinery did as well. In 1930 new machinery was installed as well as the construction of a one-story addition that contained 10,349 square feet of floor space.
By the mid-1930s an art department was established by the company to help make its products more attractive and saleable.
During this time neighboring properties were acquired of about three and one half acres with an additional 25,000 square feet.
Another two-story annex to the plant was built in 1940. In 1942 Reed opened a West Coast office in Hawthorn, California to handle business in that part of the country.
By 1967 the C.A. Reed Paper Products Company had an export office in New York City, district offices in Chicago and Toronto and a sales staff of more than 42 that serviced all regions of the country, as well as Puerto Rico and Central and South America.
By that same time, the Williamsport operation had about 475 employees. The business had assets of more than $5 million; $7 million in annual sales and more than 450 stockholders. C. A. Reed Paper Products Company here in Williamsport was at one time the world’s largest maker of paper plates.
C.A. Reed Paper Products Company was sold to the Westvaco Company in 1967 for $6 million.
C.A. Reed Paper Products Company was acquired by several other companies as well, including Mennen. Mennen moved the marketing, sales and management offices to Indianapolis during the 1980’s.
Finally, the James River Corporation based in Richmond, Virginia purchased it, and on June 1, 1993 announced that it was shutting down C.A. Reed Paper Products Company, throwing more than 350 employees out of work
For a time a C.A. Reed Paper Products Company outlet still operated for several years after the company shut down.
In June 1997 the former C.A. Reed factory complex became Water Tower Square, a home for various offices and businesses. Developer Keith Eck was the major force behind this project. Several natural gas companies and related businesses today are finding space at Water Tower Square, keeping the commercial legacy of the former C.A. Reed Paper Products Company going.
By Lou Hunsinger, Jr.