HOLYOKE, MASS. — Small town living is sitting quite well with Jay Kumar.
Take a dinner outing he and his wife, Pia, made to Cal's Wood-Fired Grill & Bar in nearby West Springfield soon after he purchased Universal Plastics Corp. Kumar ordered his favorite whiskey, 10-year-old Laphroaig. Unfortunately, Cal's did not stock the brand despite its extensive list of spirits.
The Kumars returned to Cal's a month later. When seated, a staff member — without prompting — informed them that Laphroaig is now on the menu. The former JPMorgan Chase trader who worked for years in Manhattan left impressed, another small reason he feels good about his family's new path.
Kumar's introduction to plastics is uncommon. He bought Universal Plastics with his father, Sunil Kumar, in 2012. Later that year, he bought out his dad who was looking to retire. In 2013, he added Universal's long-time rival Mayfield Plastics Inc. from nearby Sutton, Mass., to take advantage of its customer base. Together, the two thermoforming facilities primarily serve the aerospace, medical and industrial industries.
“I was on Wall Street,” said Kumar, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Cornell University in 2001. “It was a relatively ivory tower-style job. Reading research reports you think you're better than everyone else. You think you know the companies better than the CEOs themselves because you read the research report on it or whatever. But [my Dad's] the one who showed me there's a lot more to manufacturing than what people think.”