Editor's note: a communication from Mohawk Papers puts the number of jobs at 229. We have also changed to the headline to acknowledge some people will be working.past May.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The iconic 220-year-old Crane Stationery company will fold, the victim of an emerging digital culture and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employees were notified by email on Wednesday that their last day would be June 19. Chief Operations Officer Dean Daigle wrote that the brand had been buffeted by a weakened invitations market and the January bankruptcy filing of its biggest customer, Papyrus.
"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. These losses could not be foreseen. Unfortunately, they have also proved to be unsustainable," he wrote.
"Crane is a 220-year-old iconic brand. However, in the face of these unforeseeable circumstances, we have had to make the very difficult decision to wind down operations at Crane."
The company said it will continue to pay employees through June 19 and will continue to cover the share of group health insurance benefits through until June 30. Crane employs about 270 people.
Mayor Thomas Bernard said he was apprised of the closure by an employee. He has reached out to the plant's owners as well as the Berkshire delegation to see if the company is certain of its plans.
"I have reached out to them to let them know first and foremost that I'm concerned for their workforce, for our folks, our friends, our neighbors, our family members who work for Crane who just got hit with incredibly difficult news at an incredibly difficult time," he said.
Just a year ago, owner Mohawk Fine Papers was touting its commitment to invest $3 million to $4 million into the facility in the Robert Hardman Industrial Park on Curran Highway. The objective, said company officials was to build on the luxury brand while catering to contemporary needs.
"We're going to double our size, there's no doubt in our mind that we can do that," Bart Robinson, chief revenue officer, had said at the time.
The company is in the midst of launching Crane Next, a rebranding that was to include bringing back the "& Co." a new website and expanded capabilities.
"I've got a call into management to understand what's behind this decision," he said. "How final is it? Is there anything that the city can do? Is there anything that we can do to bring state and local, whether it's workforce or economic development support to keep these jobs, to keep these people working?"
Crane is one of the larger employers for full-time workers in the city. Bernard said he has already reached out to the governor's office and 1Berkshire to see if there was anything that could be mobilized to keep Crane operating.
The facility shutdown in mid-March as Gov. Charlie Baker began ordering non-essential workplaces to close and setting guidelines for social distancing. Bernard said he learned about Crane's March closure after it happened and had asked to be kept informed about its plans and if there was anything the city could do.
"The Crane brand is a mark of quality everywhere," he said. "It's one of these North Adams stories that's so impressive, but also goes a little bit too far unsung, it's something that's made in North Adams that has a global reputation."
Mohawk Fine Papers, a Cohoes, N.Y., family firm founded in 1931, bought Crane in 2018 after a short period during which it was employee owned. Crane & Co. was established in 1801 by the Crane family in Dalton and, by the late 1800s, became the only supplier of currency paper to the United States mint. The firm has undergone a number of changes with several arms being acquired or spun off into separate entities.
Crane has had a presence in North Adams since 1970, when it acquired the Excelsior companies and moved Excelsior Process & Engraving to the Robert Hardman Industrial Park in 1985. It nearly closed the plant in 2009 to move closer to Dalton but was persuaded to stay by the administration at the time. It was highlighted by then Gov. Deval Patrick as a example of advanced manufacturing in the state in 2013.
None of that was enough, apparently, to keep Crane in operation.
"Many people have given their career to this company and helped it survive through different economies, management teams and philosophies. Crane has been considered in high regard for many decades due to the artisanship that you and your predecessors have accomplished. We thank you for your hard work and commitment," Daigle wrote.
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