My former boss is from Berwick and shared this news with me yesterday. Sad.
Offray outlet suddenly shuts
By SUSAN SCHWARTZ
Press Enterprise Writer
BRIAR CREEK — Berwick Offray's outlet store, which supplied crafters, brides and others with yards of inexpensive ribbon and wrappings, suddenly closed for good Tuesday.
People stopping by the store, next to the ribbon and bow manufacturer's headquarters on Route 11, found handwritten signs saying it was closed.
An answering machine message said the closure was permanent and thanked customers for their patronage.
Yet only a few weeks earlier, the outlet had been advertising its services, and the company website still included the shop's hours of operation.
The outlet was a treasure-trove for bargain hunters, selling ribbon by 100 or 1,000 yards, according to an ad it placed in this paper's Progress edition a few weeks ago. People could get 10 rolls for $1, and occasionally could come in for further discounts of 15 percent or more.
Customers could also order handmade bows, or take classes to learn how to make bows themselves.
In addition to ribbons, the store sold wrapping paper, gift bags, gift tissue, scrapbook material and Halloween and school items.
"I'm so sad," said Laura Davis of Bloomsburg, a frequent customer. "They were so nice and friendly there. And they were very generous to the community."
The shop donated ribbons and bows to Special Olympics volunteers to use at their gift-wrapping fund-raiser at the mall every Christmas, said Davis, former manager of the volunteer group.
Davis said she and others also bought a lot of ribbon there to make the Bloomsburg High play costumes every year.
"For the play, I'd get rolls of satin ribbon, five yards, for $1," Davis said. "You could get rolls with from two to 50 yards of ribbon. The most I ever saw it cost was $6."
Four or five women worked there, Davis said.
It was unclear if any of them still had jobs with the company.
The company's second outlet in Hagerstown, Md., was still open as of Thursday.
Company officials didn't return messages.
However, papers filed with the Security and Exchange Commission show that CSS Inc., Berwick Offray's parent firm, has been struggling.
Between 2007 and 2010, CSS lost 15 percent in net sales, despite buying new companies and products.
As of last Dec. 31, the company saw its sales down 2 percent compared to the previous year, falling from $396.2 million to $387.9 million. For its third quarter, one of the more lucrative quarters for the seasonal business, sales were down 4 percent, from $182.2 million to $174.6 million.
And its net income as of Dec. 31 was down 9 percent for its fiscal year, coming in at $15.6 million.
In their report, company officials said sales of ribbons and bows — the products of the Berwick-area factories — were down, along with sales of gift wrap, boxed cards, gift bags and tissue paper.
The economic downturn made the problems worse, the report said. So did overseas competition.
One bright spot for the local facilities was Christmas — sales of Christmas ribbons and bows were up compared to the previous year, the reports said.
"While sales in the third quarter were 4 percent below the prior year, we continue to believe that we are making progress in the market and that sales will start to gradually improve," said company President Christopher J. Munyan in a recent press release.
He expects higher sales in the company's last quarter, which ends March 31.
Susan Schwartz covers the Berwick area. She can be reached at 752-3646 and firstname.lastname@example.org