NORTH ADAMS — One of the oldest names in American manufacturing plans to shutter its North Adams facility in June, stranding 270 employees and ending a more than two-century run in the Berkshires.
Crane Stationery, which traces its corporate lineage to a paper-making plant launched by Zenas Crane in 1801, plans to cease operations due to the impact both of the coronavirus and a decline in stationery use in the digital age.
Dean Daigle, the company’s chief operating officer, announced the closing in an email to employees late Wednesday.
North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard told The Eagle he was called by an employee around 5:30 p.m. and has attempted, so far unsuccessfully, to reach company managers.
The firm, located in the Robert Hardman Industrial Park, was purchased in 2018 by Mohawk Fine Papers of Cohoes, N.Y., about three years after splitting off from Crane & Co., the Dalton company that makes the nation’s currency paper.
“It’s devastating news for a company that has a global reputation,” Bernard said of Crane Stationery. “We’re scrambling after-hours to find the questions we’ll be asking tomorrow.”
Bernard said he will work to ensure that employees have access to all the government support available to them. He said he will press for the closing to be reconsidered. The plant is one of the largest employers in the city.
“I would love to find a way to see this decision changed so we don’t have to see our folks put in a vulnerable situation,” Bernard said.
Two years ago, when Mohawk acquired Crane Stationery for an undisclosed price, the company’s chief executive officer spoke of expanding.
"We have no intention of moving anything from here or eliminating any jobs," Mohawk CEO Thomas D. O'Connor Jr. told The Eagle at the time. "We will work on growing the business and adding people over time."
And in 2019, Crane officials spoke of doubling the company’s workforce and investing millions of dollars in the firm in an effort to put it on a new and successful footing.
For generations, Crane Stationery has been considered a luxury brand and leader in its sector. Its line has included paper for boxed stationery, wedding invitations and special events cards.
O’Connor said that sterling reputation drew Mohawk’s interest.
In Daigle’s email, the company attributes its current financial crisis in part to a bankruptcy filing by its largest customer, Papyrus. It shares with countless other businesses new strains imposed by the coronavirus. The North Adams firm shut down operations in March as a nonessential business under restrictions put in place by Gov. Charlie Baker.
"Now, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, and the unanticipated and dramatic restrictions in gatherings, travel, and business operations on a local, national, and international level, have in turn caused enormous losses to Crane's business,” Daigle told employees in the email. “These losses could not be foreseen. Unfortunately, they have also proved to be unsustainable.”
Daigle told workers they will be paid through June 19 and that the company would contribute to health insurance coverage through that month.
Mohawk Fine Papers, founded in 1931, has been in the same family for four generations.
Bernard said he plans to work with the county's legislative delegation and with state workforce officials in the days to come. “The first priority here is taking care of our workforce,” he said.