The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 9, Number 6
Nov 1985

The Quest for P/D Paper: An Exchange of Letters

[From the Editor to a friend:]

I have put off answering your recent letter, requesting a source of permanent/durable paper for your family genealogy publishing project, partly because that question is hard for me to answer too. We can get information on what mills make permanent/durable paper, or at least alkaline paper, but it is almost impossible to find out which dealers sell it in retail amounts, and the mills don't want to deal with retail customers. The best I can do is to recommend Glatfelter, which offers a bewildering variety of alkaline paper and is widely available. Call your local paper dealers and find out which carry Glatfelter. Then, if you have the same luck I usually do, they will tell you that they will not sell the kinds you want a) at all, or b) in retail amounts (less than 44,000 pounds or so). You can ask them what other Glatfelter papers they have that will fit your description, and they may be able to suggest a few and send you the sample booklets. If not, I suggest you go down to the most likely paper company with your little bottle of chlorophenol red and test a few sample sheets of Mohawk, Warren, Glatfelter, Allied, Byron Weston, Curtis, Fox River, Monadnock, Nekoosa-Edwards and Strathmore paper until you find one that gives a mice purple color to indicate pH over 6.7. For this operation you almost need a friend in the plant, because after you test a sheet or a sample booklet they can't sell or use it. In the past, I have convinced the head of sales that he would benefit from knowing which papers were alkaline so he could sell to other people like me. This may not be possible all the time. You may have to bind them a book, or bribe or threaten.

It is apparently impossible to order the paper from another dealer further away who does carry the kinds you want, even if you pay extra. If you can make friends with a printer who uses a kind of paper you like, it is possible to piggyback your order on theirs, however. Printers can often order smaller amounts than ordinary citizens, too, because they place so many big orders. They can even have their paper sent to them directly from the plant, and they get a discount on price. Both dealers and printers can cut it to size for you.

This frustrating barrier between producer and consumer of permanent/durable paper has got to have a solution, but I don't know what it is. Currently I am trying a direct approach. I have asked the head of marketing at Ecusta, the source of paper for my newsletter, to send me a complete list of every dealer in the country from whom retail customers can buy Ecusta paper. If this approach works, I'll publish the names of all dealers, then approach another company, asking them to do the same.

[Friend's reply to the Editor:]

I have finally settled on [a make of acid-free paper] for my book. I enclose a sample. Isn't it gorgeous stuff?

Through trial and error, I discovered that there are three dealers in town who handle this paper. I first went to Dealer a (who had handled my first order a decade ago) out east of the city. They said they didn't stock it, but could order it, and it would take three weeks, and there was the 1000-sheet minimum. They quoted a price which I considered quite unreasonable. When I demurred, they suggested I might try Dealer B. Then I asked a to call B to check this out, which they did, only to report that B did not handle it.

Recalling that the paper I wanted is made by a subsidiary of Scott Paper, I drove over to the west side of the city to beard the Scott people in their den. I was told that they handled only toilet paper and kitchen towels, etc. There at the den, and that distributors A, B, and C handled the subsidiary's paper. They called a man at Dealer C, and put me on the line; he was very courteous and helpful, bet gave me about the same story, and wound up by suggesting that I try Dealer

B. When I told him that B had already been contacted by phone with negative results, he recommended that I call personally at their headquarters.

So I drove back across town and called on Dealer B, a new, large, handsome, and prosperous looking establishment. The receptionist asked me to be seated, while she summoned a salesman from somewhere deep in the bowels of the institution. The salesman was courteous, but said he was puzzled by my references to [the paper]; I had to explain that this was the name of the variety of paper that I wanted. So he checked by phone with another salesman, and reported that they didn't stock it. When I asked if they could order it, he retired into the depths for about 20 minutes; when he returned he reported that they had called the mill, that the mill was beginning a new run of this paper on September 9, that they could have some for me by the end of September, and that the minimum order would be 1000 sheets. When he quoted a price that was quite reasonable, certainly compared to that quoted by Dealer A, I accepted, and wrote out my check.

I had spent about six hours driving 75 miles back and forth across town. Now all I will have to do is to drive out to Dealer B at the end of September, load the paper in my VW (it will fit, as I learned before), and carry it down to a friendly printer (who has accommodated me before) to cut it into two stacks of 19 x 25, a size I can handle.

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