Alan Woll, a longtime supplier of plastic materials, died July 12 at age 75.
Woll entered the market as a sales rep with resin distributor E. Helman Co. in Akron, Ohio, in 1968. In 1986, he and partner Marvin Becker struck out on their own with Network Polymers, an Akron-based resin distribution firm. Network later operated compounding unit Diamond Polymers before combining the two. Woll sold Network to A. Schulman Inc. for $50 million in 2013.
In 2007, Woll was part of Plastics News' 100 Years of Plastics special issue. He talked about his decision to start his own business, saying, "You need to reinvent yourself. … I never looked back."
Woll was born in Akron and spent his entire life and career there. He graduated from Buchtel High School and the University of Akron, playing football at both. He also was a golfer and supported many local charities. Woll also enjoyed travel and was an avid fan of the Cleveland Browns.
A local obituary said that Woll was voted class optimist in high school and "continued to live his life with his trademark positivity. … His warm and generous nature helped him see the best in everyone."
The obituary added that Woll "was known for his sense of style and was always dressed for success."
Plastics veteran Bill Ridenour knew Woll for many years and advised him on the sale of Network to Schulman. In an email, Ridenour, owner of Polymer Transaction Advisors Inc. in Foxfire, N.C., described Woll as "a kind, generous business owner who treated his employees like family."
Ridenour added that Woll "was well known and well respected for his fair business practices and customer service. … He grew his privately owned company from scratch to annual sales of $70 million or more, creating much-needed jobs for Akron and surrounding communities ... and he was a hell of a fullback for the University of Akron."
In the 2007 PN piece, Woll described the early resin distribution market: "In those days, if you had an opportunity, you went to a resin supplier and bought whatever they'd sell you.
"There were a lot of companies making automotive parts, housewares, toys, buckets, flowerpots and other products in that region," he said. "Big molders always bought direct from the resin companies, but there were a lot of small, one-location companies.
"At Helman, if there were six guys, one went out and the other five stayed in the office and worked the phones," he added. "Everything was price, and it still is to a certain degree.
"Now, our customers also have a much more controlled manufacturing mode. You can't get a mistake on your material or you'll get killed. You have to have more info when you walk in the door."
Woll was preceded in death by his wife, Janice, who was his high school sweetheart. He's survived by his three children, Rachel (Scott) Arnopolin, Jerrod (Andrea) Woll and Michael (Gregory) Woll Orenstein; and his grandchildren, Raleigh, Corinna, Bodhi and Jovie.
A graveside service for Woll was held July 15. In lieu of flowers, his family is directing contributions to the Woll Family Fund through Akron Community Foundation or The Akron/Canton Regional Food Bank.