A Paragon of decency

It’s certainly been quite a year. As business conditions went from bad to worse, the size and scope of the multichannel merchant firms running into serious trouble was staggering.

Has there been any positive, uplifting news to report? Actually, yes. As Jim Tierney’s story on page 7 notes, Gardens Alive! in October bought The Paragon, one of the gift catalogers felled when parent company BlueSky Brands abruptly shut down in March. (Gardens Alive! had already acquired BlueSky’s games cataloger Bits and Pieces in May.)

What’s the big deal about a larger company swooping in to buy a shuttered cataloger — something that seems to occur every month? Two things.

For one, Steve Rowley, a previous Paragon CEO, knew that the merchant’s Westerly, RI-based distribution center and former work force were sitting idle. He called Gardens Alive! founder/CEO Niles Kinerk and asked him to lease the space and reopen the plant.

“Here we had 180 of my former employees who already knew how to use this equipment, and [Gardens Alive!] had a need for warehouse space and additional fulfillment staff,” Rowley told Tim Parry for an article that appeared on MCM’s Website in October.

The other thing? Kinerk actually listened. Gardens Alive! reopened the Westerly DC in October, starting with about a dozen former employees hired back to handle Bits and Pieces and Paragon fulfillment.

Kinerk told Multichannel Merchant that Rowley “worked tirelessly on behalf of the people” at the Westerly DC. After meeting some of the facility’s former workers, whom Kinerk described as “self-starters and dedicated,” Gardens Alive! was convinced. “We overcame the difference in costs as to operating [in Rhode Island] as opposed to the Midwest,” he said.

That’s a pretty amazing story during a difficult time when merchants are so constrained by cost pressures that doing the right thing isn’t always a viable option. Kudos to Rowley and Kinerk for making a difference.

And on that note, on behalf of everyone at Multichannel Merchant, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and a prosperous New Year.

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