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Filed under: Press
Jun 14, 2018
Filed under: Press
By Matt Sheley
Newport Daily News staff writer
Posted Jun 10, 2018 at 11:48 PM
MIDDLETOWN — A local stationery and paper-product company with an international reach is relocating to Middletown.
E. Frances Paper recently announced it is in the process of moving its headquarters from the Point section of Newport to 114 West Main Road, the long-vacant commercial building once home to the Competition Imports car dealership.
E. Frances sales director Jenni Laundon told The Daily News the renovation is going well and the hope is for the company’s staff to be in the new location by the end of July.
She said new offices for E. Frances will be located in what was the former garage space, which is in the process of undergoing a sweeping upgrade. The 2,000-square-foot glassed-in showroom at the front of the building will be redone and rented out, with a number of interesting concepts being considered.
“I know we’re all really excited about it,” Laundon said. “It was the only space we looked at and when we saw it, everyone was like ‘It’s perfect.’ We can’t wait to make it what it can be, what it should be.”
Founded in 2012, the company specializes in positive, unique messaging with its paper products, Laundon said.
E. Frances stationery, Little Notes and other products are made in Maine and shipped here, where they’re assembled at the company’s current headquarters on Third Street in what was a former bubble gum factory.
Laundon said E. Frances started small, but has grown so much that the firm needs more space. For example, she said since the Little Notes line was first released, more than 5 million have sold to date.
She also said E. Frances has products in more than 600 stores across the United States. Those figures don’t include international sales in Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and at efrancespaper.com.
Laundon co-owns the company with Director of Operations Emily Roberts and Creative Director Ali Flippin.
“We come at the business a little differently,” Laundon said. “We don’t do snarky. We don’t do suggestive or mean. What we specialize is in unique, positive products that people enjoy. I can’t tell you the number of times wholesalers and shop owners have placed an order not knowing what to expect and are calling back a week later, looking for more because they sold out. That’s a really good feeling, knowing you’re heading in the right direction and making something customers want.”
Tim Downes of the Downes Building Co. on Aquidneck Avenue is the general contractor for the new headquarters.
Earlier last week, the location was a beehive of activity, with old concrete getting jackhammered out of the garage as other workers cleaned out the old showroom. More than one person drove by slowly, looking to catch a glimpse of the action inside.
Realtor Steve Kirby of Kirby Properties in Newport is marketing the front space and said there’s been a lot of interest. He said there have been significant talks with multiple people interested in bringing restaurants to the location. There have also been inquiries by traditional retail stores.
“What E. Frances wants to do is quintessential cool on so many levels,” Kirby said. “They have a great idea and they’re bringing it all together in a way that works with the neighborhood.”
A loan from the Rhode Island Small Business Administration — with help from BankNewport and Ocean State Business Development — went a long way too, he said.
“This property has been sitting there unused for a couple years and now look at it,” Kirby said. “Do you have any doubt it could be a focal point for that whole section of town? What they’re doing is taking an idea and running with it.”
Town Planner Ronald Wolanski said it is good to see a business going into the property.
“It’s great to see existing retail spaces being repurposed, keeping vacancy rates low,” Wolanski said.
Laundon said E. Frances looks forward to doing more community outreach, particularly with students and teachers at Pell Elementary School, which is nearby on Dexter Street in Newport.
“What a cool opportunity,” Laundon said. “The school is right around the corner and I can see us inviting the students and staff up here to show what we do. There are so many different things that make this the place we should be. I’m psyched about it. We all are.”