Patti Lang had had many offers to buy her regional direct mailing firm, SHM Mailers, over the years, but didn’t feel comfortable with any of them.
When Ken Maisel gave her a call, she was ready to move to the next phase of her life. Her husband had retired, and with two teenage boys still at home, she wanted to be able to spend more time with them as well as “doing stuff I want to do.” She also probably learned a lesson from her mother who, now in her 80s, is finally selling off her real estate investments “and trying to have a life,” says Lang, “which she should have done a long time ago.”
Although the time was apt for her to sell, it was perhaps more important that she felt Maisel was the right person to take her business into the future. “It was only when a perfect candidate, like Ken, came along that I took the plunge. Ken’s extensive experience in the mailing business ensures that he will take SHM to a level with even more services and expertise to handle the changing and expanded needs of our clients. I feel that Ken will make a great company even better.”
She also felt that her loyal staff would be well taken care of. “I built the business from nothing,” she explains. “It’s like a child. You give birth, raise it, and then it’s time to move on, or let the child move on. I decided that the industry had really changed and needed someone else to take it in a new direction.” And she believes that Maisel will “make sure the baby continues growing.”
Born in Detroit, Patti Weisenthal Lang grew up in Villanova, Pennsylvania. She majored in sociology and psychology at the University of Cincinnati. Her dad owned a real estate business in Philadelphia, and after he died, her 40-something mom took over the business.
Lang was living in Princeton and working for an advertising company when she started SHM Mailers in 1978. She had no business plan, but an opportunity to do a mailing “came her way.” She completed the job successfully in her living room, then opened her phone book, wrote five letters, and ended up with three more mailings.
“The industry was a lot different then,” says Lang. “I did everything manually, bagged it, and shlepped it out to the post office.” Even the postal discount system was easier then, with only three choices.
She named the business after the initials of three friends (her married name was Howley at that time and her friends were named Muha and Smith). After a few months the friends went separate ways, but Lang decided to continue, kept the name, and incorporated.
The business quickly spread to the basement, then the garage, and by the time she remarried and got pregnant with her first child, it was all over the house.
In 1981 she moved to Skillman with her new husband, David Lang, who was then in the insurance business. (In 1987 he would open the first Compact Disk World store in what grew to be a 19-store retail chain).
In 1985 David Lang took 18 months off to help his wife get her business out of the house to a 500 square-foot space on Camp Meeting Road in Skillman. She quickly expanded to 2,500 feet, then to 3,000 feet there. In 1986 she bought a 10,000-square-foot unit on Everett Drive, where the company still resides, albeit with an additional 20,000 square feet of rented space.
When they purchased that space, she says, “I thought to myself, oh, my gosh, how are we every going to fill this up?” But they did, partly, she suggests, because SHM Mailers was the first mailer in the area to move from labels to direct imaging onto the mail piece with inkjet machines.
When Maisel decided to buy the company, his idea was to make a good thing better. “Part of my reason for getting involved,” he says, “is that I believe what the former owner, Patti Lang, created was worth perpetuating and trying to make better.”
Maisel did not need an introduction to Lang’s firm, because he lived in Princeton and had been working in the business for about a quarter of a century. After graduating from the State University of New York at Brockport in 1976, he worked for a company with a national client base, Coupon Service Corporation in Jersey City, for 22 years. He stayed two years after it was acquired by Direct Group in Swedesboro before buying Lang’s firm. For the negotiations Maisel had a team of financial and legal advisors. Scott Borsack (who at that time was a partner in Szaferman Lakind) handled Lang’s legal matters. Lang’s husband, who operated his consulting practice from a small office in his wife’s company, handled the negotiations.
“Patti had asked me to take a look at the financials and get the company ready for sale,” says David Lang. Anticipating the changes in the music industry, in 2003 he had sold some of his Compact Disk World stores and closed the rest, so he was well prepared for his wife’s negotiations. “It was a natural for me,” says Lang, “yet Patti was always in charge. It was her business. But we had been married for 25 years, and I knew what she wanted.”
Negotiations started in 2005 and concluded, after a hiatus, in May 2006. Lang declines to specify terms of the sale, except to say that there was no “earn out” (help from the previous owner) attached to the contract. “We entertained a couple of offers and, over a year, successfully negotiated the sale.”
“You have no idea how proud I am of my wife,” says David Lang. “She started this business hand sealing envelopes in her basement and, 30 years later, successfully sells a company that made a profit every single year, a company that occupies 30,000 square feet. I am bursting with pride in her accomplishments.”
The 28-year-old company now caters to a client base primarily in Princeton, Lawrenceville, and Skillman, handling mailings that range from a few hundred to a hundred thousand pieces. Maisel is retrofitting the plant and offices and investing in equipment to increase speed and quality. “At the existing location, we are taking 30,000 square feet and making it more production friendly,” says Maisel. “It was set up to accommodate existing business. We’re trying to create a different space esthetically and to be able to produce more consistent, larger jobs, and more jobs.”
The new equipment will include cutting-edge printing technology that produces a clearer, sharper image, that “makes it look like the address was printed at the same time as the card,” says Maisel. “If someone is providing a mail piece where they are spending a lot of money on postage, they want it to look good esthetically and to stand up in the mail. Anything less diminishes their offer.” Where appropriate, the company also works with graphic designers to create mail pieces.
SHM Mailers can also offer speedy hand assembly. Suppose a company wants to send out a directory in a jiffy envelope, rather than shrink wrapping it (which can be done mechanically). SHM Mailers would pack the envelope, match up a personalized, laser-printed letter with the address label, and complete the task quickly enough so that it can be competitively priced. Other SHM Mailers services include trucking, warehousing, and storage.
Maisel expects growth to follow quickly on the company’s more sophisticated capabilities and anticipates expanding to a second shift by the end of the year, which would nearly double the current staff of 30. Lisa Edelstein, who has been sales and marketing director at SHM for three years, says that the current staff is viewing changes instituted by Maisel as very positive: “The vibe and energy being created here is really exciting.”
— Michele Alperin
SHM Mailers, 39 Everett Drive, Building D, Box 7696, Princeton Junction 08550-7696; 609-799-1717; fax, 609-799-9613. Ken Maisel, owner. Home page: www.shm-mailers.com
Apprise Inc., a nonprofit research institute that evaluates public programs, recently moved from Research Park to 1,750 square feet at 32 Nassau Street, above Talbot’s Kids. Apprise’s growing reputation in research on conservation energy programs throughout the country has fueled its growth. Starting four years ago with just five employees, it now has seven full-timers and one part-timer and hopes to hire three more full-timers by the summer.
Jacqueline Berger, the director of program evaluation, studied economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, because, she says, it is “that perfect balance” between the quantitative and the qualitative.” Today at Apprise she still walks a similar line in the research and evaluation she does, primarily for low-income energy programs.
Berger and Apprise’s president David Carroll had been working in the social and policy research group at Response Analysis Inc. when it was acquired consecutively by three different companies. The two colleagues specialized in energy research and “were given an opportunity to take our existing clients and contracts and leave and start a nonprofit.” They did so, realizing that nonprofit status would enable them to apply for grant and foundation money to fund their research.
One area of their work involves programs, run by utility companies and state governments, to help low-income customers make their homes more energy efficient. These programs install insulation and air sealing (to prevent warm air from escaping), replace old and inefficient refrigerators, replace incandescent with compact fluorescent bulbs, and educate consumers in reducing energy use.
The goal of these programs is to make energy more affordable for low income customers, and Apprise evaluates their impacts in terms of energy savings and consequent cost savings for the consumers.
Apprise also recommends program improvements. Often, explains Berger, a program has good procedures for educating customers and changing behavior, but the people going into the homes are not following those procedures and need more training. Or representatives in customers’ homes may not be making the right decisions, for example, not installing sufficiently high-quality insulation, using a poor procedure for deciding whether to replace a refrigerator, or not educating consumers on which bulbs should be replaced by compact fluorescent lights. Apprise also determines whether a program is collecting the data needed for management and evaluation.
Apprise also evaluates programs that give discounts to low-income customers as well as market transformation programs targeted to the commercial and industrial and general residential populations to encourage adoption of more energy-efficient technologies.
In New Jersey Apprise works with the New Jersey Comfort Partners program, which works to improve energy affordability for income-eligible households, and the New Jersey Universal Service Fund Program, which provides subsidies for electric and gas bills to low-income consumers. It also advises the board of New Jersey SHARES, a fuel fund that helps working poor who are above the level where they can get energy assistance.
After graduating from MIT in 1989, Berger worked at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York before moving to Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, where she received a doctorate in economics in 1976. She has been doing energy-program research for eight years.
Although Berger had wanted early on to work on programs that helped the low-income sector, she feels lucky to have landed in the energy area. “I think it is one of the most important needs in society, to figure out how to be more energy efficient in light of global warming.” Both of her parents are retired teachers, her mother in elementary school and her father in high school science.
Berger’s colleague, David Carroll, received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Williams College in 1979 and a master’s in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School. He has worked in energy research and evaluation for more than 20 years. His parents were also involved in service professions, his father the principal of a public high school and his mother a nurse. — Michele Alperin
APPRISE Inc. (Applied Public Policy Research Institute for Study and Evaluation), 32 Nassau Street, Suite 200, Princeton 08540; 609-252-8008; fax, 609-252-8015. David Carroll, president. www.appriseinc.org.
Integrated Data Solutions Inc., 127 Route 206, Suite 17, Hamilton 08610; 609-587-9961; fax, 609-587-9964. Nancy Brenner, president. www.IDS-Info.com
Integrated Data Solutions Inc., a family owned firm, has moved from 2,000 square feet at 14-16 Thomas Rhodes Industrial Drive in Mercerville to 4,000 square feet in Hamilton to accommodate growth, especially in the area of document management and scanning. The company scans paper backfiles, books, and large-format documents and also does film conversion scans. It also does web surveys and analysis and provides virtual office services.
Three of the seven employees are members of the Brenner family: Nancy Brenner, the president, her husband Blair, and her son Eric. The Brenners started out as a home-based secretarial service, under a different name, in 1982. “Document imaging and scanning has taken off in the last five years,” says Eric.
ATL Consulting, 215 Commons Way, Princeton 08540; 609-921-6676. Fax: 609-921-6678. Jeff Davner, registered principal.
After five years with a brokerage firm, the Legend Group, Davner has opened his own new firm, to recruit — nationally — for financial representatives. His offices are still at Montgomery Commons, but the phone has changed. He has a dozen staffers.
Davner grew up in East Windsor, and his father commuted to Manhattan’s garment district. After majoring in political science at Tulane University, Class of 1990, he worked for various recruiting firms before becoming a partner at Bluestone Capital, which had offices on Wall Street and in Metropark. He took charge of recruiting for a small broker dealer before joining Legend five years ago.
Davner is still a registered principal at Legend, which has its headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The Legend Group’s Princetonphone number now rings through to another Legend site.
Rhodia Inc. (RHA), 8 Cedar Brook Drive, CN 7500, Cranbury 08512-7500; 609-860-4000; fax, 609-860-2250. James Harton, president, North America. Home page: www.us.rhodia.com
When the deal closed — Rhodia’s January 31 sale of its global silicones business to China National BlueStar Corporation — it left a dozen former Rhodia employees working at Rhodia’s 90,000 square-foot building at Cedar Brook Corporate Center. They will stay, says Rhodia spokesperson David Klucsik, until they decide where to relocate.
“As an organization fully dedicated to the silicones market, we will benefit from a more responsive, efficient organization with enhanced resources to aggressively grow in the markets we serve,” says J. Christopher York, president of the new $700 million entity, Bluestar Silicones North America.
Bluestar has production sites in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Ventura, California, as well as in Roussilon, France, and Xinguo, China. The headquarters will be in Lyon, France, with Olivier de Clermont-Tonnere as the CEO. BlueStar’s silicone materials are used in specialty elastomers, paper and textiles coatings, and dental and healthcare applications.
New in Town
Advanced Technologies Group LLC, 2681 Quakerbridge Road, Quakerbridge Commons, Suite A2, Hamilton 08619; 609-586-1088; fax, 609-586-2331. Maria Valente, owner. Home page: www.advancedbsys.com
Advanced Technologies Group has expanded its New York operations with a five-person office in Hamilton. Founded in 1986, the company provides information technology support, from computer repairs, upgrades, and integration to networking and software development, to corporate and individual clients. The company has authorizations from all the major computer manufacturers.
Citibank, 3321 Route 1 South, Lawrenceville 08648; 609-750-2675; fax, 609-716-7481. Becky Tamasi, manager. www.citibank.com
As part of an expansion into the New Jersey market, Citibank opened a commercial branch on Route 1 South.
Publishers Circulation Fulfillment Inc. (PCF), 745 Alexander Road, Princeton 08540; 609-514-4201; fax, 609-514-4208. Robert Moore, distribution center manager. Home page: www.pcfcorp.com
Last summer, when the Times of Trenton ceded some of its responsibilities to the Star Ledger, PCF took over daily delivery of the Times. According to its website, in September it began distributing an additional 5,000 copies daily of the Trenton Times. It has opened a distribution site on Alexander Road.
OSI Collection Services Inc., which formerly had an office at Windsor Corporate Park, has agreed to pay back to New Jersey money that it had allegedly overbilled in the process of collecting back taxes on behalf of the state. State investigators also charged managers in the Treasury’s taxation and revenue divisions with taking more than $65,000 in illegal gifts from OSI.
“This agreement provides full restitution to the state for all overbilling,” said state Attorney General Stuart Rabner on February 5. The payments, to be made by February 15, include nearly $1,184,662 for overbilling and $500,000 to reimburse the state for costs.
“OSI is pleased that, by deciding not to prosecute the company, the attorney general recognizes that the conduct of some former OSI employees is not representative of OSI as a whole or of the actions of its over 5,000 employees nationwide,” said Kevin Keleghan, chief executive of the Missouri based firm, in a release. Last year the firm moved out of 15,000 square feet on Millstone Road, where it had had 100 employees.
Eight former OSI employees have been indicted, and two more have been added to that list: Enos “George” Blake, 59, of Kendall Park (the OSI vice president responsible for managing state projects), and Carol Labbe, 39, of Jackson (who allegedly submitted the improper bills). They were charged with theft by deception, misconduct by a corporate official, and five counts of false contract payment claims.
“When OSI was notified initially of the state’s inquiry, we took immediate steps to determine whether any OSI employees had operated outside of the legal and ethical standards that OSI expects. OSI terminated employees who had failed to abide by our code of conduct,” said Keleghan.
OSI has retained John J. Farmer, a former state attorney general, now a partner at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham LLP, as an outside monitor. He will review “practices and procedures with respect to how OSI interacts with its government clients” and recommend any necessary changes. OSI has also agreed not to bid on new business in the state for five years. According to the Associated Press, the lawyers for Blake and Labbe said their clients would plead not guilty.
Earthbound Farm, 115 Melrich Road, Suite 1, Cranbury 08512; 609-409-6119; fax, 609-409-5141. Home page: www.ebfarm.com
After just one year in Cranbury, Earthbound Farm, a large grower of organic produce, has closed its distribution center there. The phone and fax have been disconnected.
Samuel Bellardo, 68, on February 6, in a car accident. He had taught music at Westminster Choir College and founded Opera International.
Shawn Maloney, 42, on February 9, from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The director of the New Brunswick’s Department of Water Utility, he was in charge of upgrading the water treatment plant. The previous day federal prosecutors had issued subpoenas at his office.
Jeffrey Alan Napoleon, 40, on February 8. An architecture major at Princeton with a degree from Rutgers Law School, he had an interior design firm, Jeffrey Alan Designs LLC.
John Allen Kutch, 90, on February 11. He owned Kutch’s Nursery on Prospect Plains Road.