You can't blame U.S. Specialty Packaging Inc. President Ralph Castriotta for looking ahead to 2004. The last half of 2003 was a near disaster for his 6-year-old firm, but he is optimistic about its future.
The company lost its biggest customer in August, laid off 20 workers and filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in November 2003. It currently is working on a reorganization plan and has nine employees at its 60,000-square-foot facility.
U.S. Specialty Packaging makes high density polyethylene pails and covers of varying sizes. It was making a 5-gallon pail and cover for U.S. Gypsum Corp. of Chicago, but that changed in August.
Castriotta, who retired as president of Plastican Inc. of Leominster in 1992, said U.S. Specialty Packaging formed in March 1998 when U.S. Gypsum was looking for a new supplier of pails for its joint compound. That contract had doubled in recent years, although U.S. Specialty Packaging has worked to diversify its customer base.
``They went from 100 percent of our business down to 65 percent, and in another year would have been down to 50 percent,'' Castriotta said.
Castriotta said he had invested $1 million in new machinery when he received a week's notice that U.S. Gypsum was dropping his company as a supplier. The suddenness of the decision forced the drastic action by U.S. Specialty Packaging.
Lyn Castriotta, his daughter and vice president, noted that since the company has recovered from the initial shock of the loss, it has been able to find more work. One customer needed pails for an ice-melting product. She said the early winter has been good for business.
The company filed for Chapter 11 at the request of one creditor and is working on a reorganization plan. She said the lease in the current building expires in June and the company hopes to hire back its workers and move to a bigger facility.