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‘Ready for retirement’

Paper Factory owners note memories, gratitude

Submitted photo Ann and Bruce Mulkin have owned the Paper Factory in Fredonia for 29 years.

After 29 years, Bruce and Ann Mulkin are closing the doors on The Paper Factory at the end of the year. While a number of businesses have closed in the last couple years due to the pandemic, the Mulkins are doing so for a different reason.

“We’ve been here 29 years, seven days a week and we’re getting tired,” Bruce Mulkin said. “We’re ready for retirement.”

While the Mulkins have spent the last couple years trying to find someone to take over running the business, they haven’t found anyone willing to buy. This could be partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and no one wanting to get into retail, but whatever the case, Bruce Mulkin said that the Paper Factory is still a profitable business.

“We’ve created a monster,” said Ann Mulkin. “We started off small 29 years ago basically doing party goods and office supplies then we gradually got into the gift market and the Halloween market. We just kept getting bigger and bigger.”

The Mulkins were able to purchase their eventual longtime home on Route 20 just three years into business, which gave them the opportunity to do all the things they’ve been doing over the years. While they didn’t take on everything at once, the Mulkins kept adapting to what the community needed.

“When we got into the business, we were trying to cater to the needs of the community,” Ann Mulkin said. “We’re trying to do things nobody had or things people were getting out of. We kept expanding on the needs of the people. Now, there are so many businesses within the business. We’re just so busy all the time. We’re getting old and beyond retirement age.”

The biggest boon the Mulkins got in business was from their Halloween supplies and costume rentals. While they are also well known for their Christmas goods, the couple said Halloween sales during the last couple weeks of October serve as some of their favorite memories.

“Halloween is a big part of our business,” Bruce Mulkin said. “Ann was in charge of the rentals and had to clean every costume when they were done. The memories of Halloween will always stick in our minds.”

And their Halloween sales reflect how the Paper Factory evolved over time, as Bruce and Ann learned to expand their focus to cater to the maximum amount of people.

“When we first opened, we wanted to cater to the people throwing the party,” Bruce Mulkin said. “Our focus went from the people having the party to include the people going to the party.”

Serving the community as they have for so long, above all else, the Mulkins will miss their customers and employees that have reciprocated the kindness handed to them. Over the years, both have had many employees, some of them with no prior experience, who they took great pleasure in training.

“We take pride in the fact that we’ve hired a lot of people with no prior experience,” Mulkin said. “We taught them work ethic and got them going in the right direction when it came to their future endeavors. We’ve had a lot of people over the years.”

The Mulkins are also proud of the fact that they’ve been able to help several organizations over the years with various fundraising efforts, as the priority for them was always the community they lived in and catered to. Because of that, the clientele they served will be the thing they miss most about owning the business.

“We’ll miss the customers,” Bruce Mulkin said. “We’re very customer oriented and always have been. I’d like to think we did it as good as anyone when it came to customer service. We’re going to miss the people.”

But the Mulkins want people to know that they aren’t going anywhere. In their retirement from the business, they plan on hopping in their RV and doing some travelling, but for the most part, they will stay in the Fredonia area, where people can still see them.

“We’re not going anywhere,” said Bruce. “We’re still townies and always will be. We’ll be around.”

Bruce and Ann Mulkin are hoping to have as much stock gone by the end of the year as they can, and are holding a retirement sale through the end of the year at the Paper Factory. The customers who have shown generosity to the Mulkins over the past several years have a month left to support the business one last time.

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