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VOL. 37 | NO. 23 | Friday, June 07, 2013

Nashville Wraps profited as pioneer of recycling

By Linda Bryant

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In less than 20 years, Nashville Wraps has grown from a small company with one product to its current 15,000-item catalog. Its products range from the common to the exotic.

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Nashville Wraps was green before green was cool.

The eco-friendly gift, retail and gourmet food packaging company has been making and selling recycled paper products since it was founded by Robby Meadows in 1976.

The company has grown from a basement in East Nashville to a large headquarters on Molly Walton Drive in Hendersonville that now employs 100.

Nashville Wraps primarily focuses on sales to other businesses via the Internet. Customers come from throughout the United States, but also include local businesses such as Pangaea in Hillsboro Village, Plaid Rabbit in Green Hills and The Green Wagon in East Nashville.

“Every year our business has grown and made a profit,’’ says Buffie Baril, Internet marketing manager. “We are very hopeful for the future. We are one of the largest wholesale gift packaging companies in the country.”

Kraft shopping and gift bags and tissue are among the comapny’s biggest sellers, as are plastic shopping bags, gift wrap, cello bags, and 100 percent recycled gift and apparel boxes.

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Meanwhile, paper recovery remains a popular trend, by far the most successful of all recycling efforts in the United States. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, paper recycling has increased 89 percent since 1990.

The industry has exceeded a 60 percent recovery rate every year since 2009 and is in line to achieve a goal of recovering more than 70 percent by 2020.

Recent figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show other industries lagging far behind paper when it comes to recovery rates.

In 2012 about 27 percent of glass was recycled. Aluminum and plastics were even further behind, achieving recovery rates of 20 percent and 8 percent respectively.

Nashville Ledger asked Baril to explain more about the company.

Q: What’s the background of Nashville Wraps? How did you get started? Who started it and why?

A: “Nashville Wraps was founded by Robby Meadows in 1976. His father was an apparel rep, traveling Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina. One of their customers had a textile business in Mountain City, Tenn., printing beautiful polyester fabrics.

More information on Nashville Wraps

“During a tour of the facility, Robby’s father asked about the eight-foot rolls of paper stacked high out behind the building. They were rolls of beautiful florals and other patterns from the iron-on process, but the printed side was on the inside of the roll.

“Mr. Meadows helped design and build a machine that re-rolled the paper, turning it pretty side out, and then cut it into 24-inch rolls to sell to their customers – cheap. He would include a few rolls of the reclaimed wrapping paper when he went on the road with his dress samples. They quickly sold out.

“Because Mr. Meadows was busy with the apparel business, he sold the machine and everything to his son, Robby, who was interested in being in the paper business.’’

Q: How fast did the company grow? Is business up this year over last year?

A: “The business quickly grew out of Robby’s sister’s basement to a building on Woodland Street in Nashville, then to a new building in 1995 on Myatt Drive in Madison. In 2003, the company moved to its present location in Hendersonville. Another warehouse in Goodlettsville was purchased bringing us to 160,000 square feet total.

Nashville Wraps has come a long way from that first roll of gift wrap to the current 140-page, 4-color catalogue and successful website with 15,000-plus products.’’

Q: What’s your target market?

A: “We distribute gift and gourmet packaging products to retail businesses, gourmet shops and the gift basket industry. Our focus is small to medium independent retailers, so basically it is your Main Street USA type of business – gift shops, florists, candy stores, etc. Many of them offer complimentary gift wrapping or use our packaging in merchandising like candy boxes.’’

Q: What are your best-selling products?

A: “Our best-selling products are 100 percent recycled kraft paper shopping bags and tissue paper, plastic shopping bags, gift wrap, cello bags, 100 percent recycled gift and apparel boxes, candy boxes, gift basket shred, pull bows, along with ribbon like raffia, organza, satin, grosgrain and tulle.

Q: What are a couple of your most unusual products?

A: “Abaca Twine Ribbon is made from Manila hemp fibers from a species of banana native to the Philippines. These products are made by artisans in remote villages around the world, creating jobs and fair wages for hard working communities.’’

Q: What is the biggest challenge of your business?

A: “There is increased competition especially in this Internet age, anyone can open a “store” online and sell packaging. However, it may not be in stock, and no one can compete with our fantastic customer service. When you call Nashville Wraps, you get a real person who is both knowledgeable and friendly.

“The other challenge we are facing is that many cities are beginning to ban certain types of shopping bags, and are very particular about the recycled content and labeling on the bags. They view plastics as evil and the non-woven reusable bags as good, which ironically is made out of plastic and not recyclable.

“What they don’t understand is that if you recycle the paper or plastic bags, it doesn’t harm the environment. There is a human factor in the “doing” of the recycling. Also, the reusable bags can become toxic from not washing them, and many times will just end up in the landfill. It’s an education process. That is why we are working very hard to supply “legal” bags. We sell both 100 percent recycled paper and 100 percent recycled plastic bags.’’

Q: Where do you see the business in two to three years? Are there still things you want to accomplish?

A: “Of course, we want our business to continue to grow and provide great products for our customers. With the political challenges mentioned earlier with banning bags, we want to help our customers have the products they need to package their merchandise without worry that it is not legal.

“We also want to grow our Made in the USA products which is 77 percent of the products we sell which supports jobs in this country. We’re very proud of that.’’

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