CLINTON, Iowa – Big River Packaging prides itself on being a small company that is nimble enough to quickly respond to customer needs. But the packaging manufacturer is about to get a lot more elbow room with a major expansion planned at its 1905 Lincoln Way facility in Clinton. Construction will begin soon on the […]
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CLINTON, Iowa – Big River Packaging prides itself on being a small company that is nimble enough to quickly respond to customer needs.
But the packaging manufacturer is about to get a lot more elbow room with a major expansion planned at its 1905 Lincoln Way facility in Clinton.
Construction will begin soon on the project that will add about 33,000 square feet to the Big River’s current 88,000-square-foot building. The expansion is expected to be complete this summer, said Kip Simpson, the company’s assistant vice president.
The added space will allow the company to grow by creating room for more loading docks, more storage for raw materials and more machinery.
“We’re simply out of space. … This will be an investment in our future,” Mr. Simpson said.
During a tour this month of Big River – often referred to within the company and community as “The Box Shop,” Mr. Simpson pointed out many of the company’s operations involved in making various packaging products for its customers. Some of those jobs include designing and making stock paperboard packaging including boxes; bakery cartons; cupcake, cake and cookie boxes; and much more. The company makes about 450 different packaging products.
On a day in early March, much of the company’s production floor was crowded with raw materials, finished products and machinery. Mr. Simpson said the building addition will give the company the expanded room to be more efficient and better help its customers.
“This (new expansion) will give us some elbow room; it’s going to give us some breathing room,” he added.
Ironically, it was not that long ago that Big River, which opened for business in 2005, thought it had plenty of room. About 10 years ago, the company moved from 823 S. Third St., Clinton, to its much larger current location on Lincoln Way – the former home of Shopko department store, and a Jack’s store previously.
But over the years, the company has grown – adding more products, customers and employees. Big River currently has about 60 employees.
Mr. Simpson said a huge part of the company’s success comes down to great customer service. That service can be seen by the way it listens and responds to customers, and makes changes to its products to meet changing demands and changing times. It’s also the speedy way it gets products to its customers. For instance, he said that if a customer places an order before noon, that product can be shipped out that same day.
And if a customer is not sure what they need, the company can send out samples of their products before any big, or small, order is made.
“We’ve had people call up and ask ‘What would be a good box for 12 of my cookies?’ Well, it depends on the size of the cookies. … That’s where samples are good,” added Mr. Simpson.
He calls the fast, attentive customer service the “beauty of being small.”
The company’s passion for top-notch customer service is well known in the community, according to Andy Sokolovich, interim president and CEO of the Clinton Regional Development Corporation (CRDC).
“One of my favorite Clinton-based companies, Big River Packaging understands the importance of culture. When you walk in their doors, you are greeted with a smile, and a quick loop around the plant floor reveals an atmosphere full of collaboration and teamwork,” said Mr. Sokolovich. “People genuinely enjoy their time spent making boxes. But it’s not the boxes they adore; it is the customer. Big River Packaging’s customers are artists that put a tremendous amount of time and effort into their products.”
The CRDC leader added: “What makes ‘The Box Shop’ successful is the employees’ desire to match their customers’ passion for presentation. Sure, they create boxes, but those boxes become an experience once filled.”
That passion for presentation also has gained the company a bit of online fame in recent times. Mr. Simpson said some customers have used one of their cupcake holder boxes – referred to as item 3512 on the company’s website at www.brpboxshop.com – and filled them with wine, roses and strawberries to create a memorable Valentine’s Day gift.
“I usually don’t ever leave reviews, but I will definitely take time to leave one here. These boxes are exactly what I needed for Valentine’s Day sale. Very sturdy and the quality is definitely great,” according to a review posted on the company website.
The cupcake-boxes-turned-wine-boxes went viral for a time, Mr. Simpson said.
The company official added that Big River also has been very fortunate. That’s because, unlike many companies, Big River has not taken a drastic hit during the pandemic and labor shortage. In fact, during the pandemic months, the company saw solid business activity as many companies in the food industry needed packaging to deliver their products to customers.
Also, the company has not faced a labor shortage because their employees enjoy the work, enjoy working for the company and there has not been a big labor turnover, said Mr. Simpson.
He added that the company’s founders – Bob Simpson and John Huling – always had this goal: Make Big River a good place to work.
Kip Simpson is the son of Big River Packaging President and co-founder Bob Simpson.
As for the future, the company’s main goal remains the same: Keep listening and reacting to the customers, said Mr. Simpson.