You cannot stand on one leg. Gerhard Klein has taken this aphorism to heart for a long time. Leads a group of companies in several locations. He owns a wholesale paper business, is the master of luxury warehouses and sells a colorful 30,000-piece batch from crayons to Europaviertel Christmas decorations. If things don’t go smoothly in the split, Klein remains quiet.
Because he is a “clever fox” who knows where good work is waiting elsewhere.
On the left is the black and red “Coffee to go” mug, and on the right is the light brown “Recup” mug. One is a disposable product, and the other is the more environmentally friendly reusable alternative. From January 2023, restaurants, retailers and bakers must have both options offered, because an amendment to the packaging law will apply in the new year. The document says that the “end distributor” must offer a reusable alternative, and Gerhard Klein has long been ready for this.
He sells to his customers all the looks they want or need. The fact that high-quality reusable forms are more expensive to buy and sell than previous “to-go cups” is not a problem for middlemen, but for bakers or restaurateurs. Especially since they have to put the mugs back in and clean them so they can sell them again. “Let’s wait and see what happens,” Klein says. The 82-year-old has already gone through a lot in his career and is comfortable with the new challenges. At the same time, he closely monitors how the market is changing and quickly senses new opportunities. He explains: “You can’t stand still.” A look at his company shows that he has always remained true to this guiding principle. In this way, the small family business on Bahnhofstraße became a paper wholesaler, selling not only office supplies and packaging materials, but also gifts, crafts, decoration items, household and pharmacy products as well as kindergarten accessories from wooden beads to wheelbarrows. . “It just happened that way,” the owner explains the unusual range of about 30,000 pieces.
Over the years, Klein has acquired a number of companies. Most of them were small companies that he had had business relationships with for a long time and that he wanted or had to give up for various reasons. The Klein Group with several subsidiaries in Bad Nauheim, Gemünden and Koblenz, among other places, now includes Kaisser-Kartonagen, Wilhelm-Lich-Kartonagen-Fabrik, Papier Nonn and Becker (kindergarten and school supplies). Klein has approximately 80 employees. Many of them have been with us for many years and are almost part of the family. Speaking of family: Klein’s son Alexander is also on the board.
Recent accomplishments include a small business that sells bubble wrap, a division Klein sensed and took over—again—there was room for improvement. If he finds a suitable niche and can offer what others cannot, then “like Bolle” he will be happy. This was the case for the young industrial writer and remains so to this day. Klein recently met a new neighbor near one of his warehouses. He sells heating pipes and needs boxes of unusual dimensions. “Now we make it ourselves, that’s not a problem,” says the packaging specialist happily.
The decisive factor for the company is the storage capacity. There are 10,000 square meters on Europaviertel, 2,500 on the former AAFES site and 1,200 on the Gail site. That’s a pound Klein can use and is guaranteed to do a good job. “Our customers need bags or boxes next to a pallet, but they don’t have the space,” says Klein. So he buys products in bulk and delivers them as soon as customers need supplies. He takes a stack from the shelf: brown pointed bags for fruit, there are also square bags in all shapes. It is standard goods that are printed according to customers’ requirements. The same principle applies to a carton box factory. Here, too, are all kinds and sizes that are taken from here to customers. Smaller to medium-sized runs are produced in-house, and other companies take care of the larger orders.
In the entrance area and in two large warehouses, there are festive flickering lights, and the rooms are well stocked with Christmas decorations. The rooms are filled with candles, trinkets, fairy lights and cards to the brim. A sight Klein wouldn’t necessarily like to see. “Sales are not going well,” he admits. This is mainly due to the fact that Klein’s “famous” indoor exhibitions have not been held since the beginning of the Corona pandemic. Klein used to receive both retail and gastronomy clients twice a year. Not only was there plenty of shopping and goods being ordered on site, but it was also a social event where Klein and his staff cooked up a meal together. The people had not yet returned to this ancient custom, which meant that at the beginning of Advent there were much more goods in stock than the chief would wish.
It is questionable whether the trade fair alone will stimulate business. “Of course we feel the changes in retail,” says Klein. Store closures are also having an effect on him, as many stores – primarily stationery stores, but also other retailers – are among his regular customers. Since exercise books, crayons, and pads became available in every supermarket, these specialty stores could not survive. This is bad for one mainstay of the company, while another company is benefiting from the crisis of traditional retail: Of course, online retail provides many opportunities for the packaging company. Here she is again, the one-legged wisdom that’s hard to stand on. Where one door closes another opens. Another example: During the lockdown, there was a good business in pharmacy products such as toilet paper and sanitizers, and the store was thriving because the catering business had to shift to out-of-home delivery and needed all kinds of packaging,
Klein hasn’t found the perfect Christmas decorating solution yet, but he’s working on it. Until now, the paper wholesaler did not address end consumers, but was primarily aimed at trade customers who buy in larger quantities. This principle has not been strictly applied in recent years, and now four candles are sold instead of 400 candles.