by Katrina Hall
photography by Ryan Sones
Griff Hopkins, chief executive officer of Paper-Pak Products, has watched his absorbent tissues become a sought-after and successful product. The business, located at 1941 White Ave., was listed in 1996 Chamber of Commerce records as being the largest industrial employer in the city.
Griff’s father, Marshall G. “Happy” Hopkins, founded the privately held plant 30 years ago. Starting in an orange packing plant in 1968, he founded a manufacturing plant that made protective wrap-around tissue that protected furniture from dust.
Griff started to work for his father as a sales manager. “I was involved with the company indirectly,” says Griff. “I joined my father in 1970 in handling the company. In October 1974, I took over as the president, and my father played CEO at home. He was a big help to all of us.”
Under Griff’s leadership, Paper-Pak started making adult absorbent tissue, diapers and protective linen that keep linen from being soiled. The products are used in hospitals and homes. In addition, the company began manufacturing meat absorbent pads that help give food a longer shelf life.
“The hospital pads were a commodity like toilet paper,” says Griff. “We went out and sold this, and we are now the leaders in the United States in this product.”
Griff’s move to involve his company in the absorbent paper direction took organization. At the time, absorbent tissue was government regulated, and the industry was tough to enter. Paper-Pak started out by purchasing paper from Antioch, Calif., in the open market, and a small tissue machine was built in the La Verne plant shortly after.
“We addressed industry changes and completed contracts from most of the groups, and, when the contracts expired, our company proved it was successful.”
Griff Hopkins, who followed in his father’s footsteps, lived out his own dream. His plant now makes a target to have double-digit growth each year. Now 24 years later, Griff has taken the company to new heights, gaining a profit of approximately $100 million a year in adult diapers and meat pads.
Paper-Pak’s pulp mill processes the tissue on site from scratch. The “smoke” visible to drivers on White Avenue is actually steam being released into the air. The tissue is converted into a finished product and packaged. Everything is processed on the plant grounds before being shipped to distributors. “We sell to poultry processors, grocery distributors and some grocery stores who process meat,” says Julie Lawrence, director of marketing since Jan. 1, 1998. “The absorbency is the common denominator; if the product didn’t absorb fluids, we wouldn’t be in business.”
Paper-Pak Productions, Inc., is the leading industry selling absorbent products to hospitals. “Our performance is superior,” says Lawrence. “That is what people want in a product. Products have to perform and be discreet, fit well and absorb so you have no leaks.”
The La Verne facility takes up three large buildings on the northwest corner of White Avenue and Arrow Highway, including an office, shipping yard and receiving yard.
Because Paper-Pak Products, Inc. has exceeded its goal each year and most of its business was east of the Rockies, the idea to build a plant on the East Coast came into fruition in the 1980s and was built in Washington, Ga. The money to build the plant was more than covered from the savings on freight shipping charges.
With more than 400 employees, the La Verne plant is the corporate office, with three board members including Griff, Dennis Murphy, chief operations officer, and Jolene Myers, chief financial officer. Administrative staff also includes the office of accounting, sales, marketing and human resources. With no intentions of leaving La Verne and no reason to move, the plant will continue to grow with the addition of people and technology.
Though company founder “Happy” died in 1990, his company continues to live on through the eyes of Griff. “I have certainly lived my father’s dream,” says Griff. “We are a $100 million a year company and as far as the dreaming, it is becoming a reality. We are a leading company in health care and food products. This opens the door for us because we have to come up with points and build for the future.”
“This is a great place to work with a great group of people with team desire to see us reach our goal,” says Lawrence. “It is a small company that remains entrepreneurial and has grown.”
Griff Hopkins is described by his employees as an unpretentious, approachable man. He is a man of concern who wants his employees to be happy. “He is down-to-earth,” says Lawrence. “He has visions and allows people to be responsible and authoritative. He walks out on the floor; he is interested and involved.”
Seeing the company and the people grow is what Griff enjoys most. “Being able to help assist in making Paper-Pak successful in the long term is an enjoyment,” says Griff. “People are the most important, and we are successful through and with our people. We build around our people through commitment.”