In 1914, young Denver Wright raced home after a long day in the shoe factory, carrying a piece of leather hide and a novel idea. In his kitchen, he cut the leather into a billfold shape and stitched it together, creating a wallet. He sold it to a co-worker the next day, and continued buying pieces of hide to craft small accessories that became increasingly popular.
It was then that Wright, who lacked business experience, financial resources and a high school degree, founded Wright Leather Company. As his enterprise grew, Wright became aware of the ad specialties industry and the opportunities for growth that it presented.
“He later offered vinyl products because leather had become too expensive during the Great Depression,” says Jenny Straub, director of marketing at Vitronic Promotional Group (asi/93990). “He started debossing and hot stamping products and sold these across the country. He realized that plastics were going to revolutionize both the industry and his business. So, in 1945, he renamed the business Vitronic: ‘Vi’ from vinyl and ‘tronic’ from the electronic method of heat sealing vinyl.”
In 1983, EBSCO Industries saw the potential for growth in the promotional industry and purchased Four Seasons, a screen-printing business that specialized in embellishing caps and jackets. Twenty-one years later, the Wright family sold Vitronic to EBSCO, which combined it with Four Seasons. In 2005, EBSCO acquired Admanco, thereby adding tote bags and Coleman coolers to its product line-up. It was at that point that the combined services of Vitronic, Four Seasons and Admanco formed Vitronic Promotional Group.
“Three years ago EBSCO purchased MCM Group,” says Straub. “Now, we sell plush animals under the Chelsea Teddy Bear and Gund brands. And last year, EBSCO purchased Andrew Philips/Millennium Leather (asi/36205). One hundred years later, we’re once again selling a leather line featuring padfolios, tablet cases, and, of course, wallets.”
Throughout 2014, Vitronic will celebrate its 100th birthday with both the industry and its loyal employees. “We announced in January that all employees will receive a gift every month in celebration,” says Straub. Gifts include pens, first-aid kits and tech toys. Employees also receive a paid vacation day on their birthdays.
Distributor customers can also take advantage of the milestone by earning Vitronic Birthday Bucks throughout the year. Each month, both the client with the largest order in a specified category and a winner picked from a monthly drawing receive a $100 Visa gift card.
Vitronic wants the industry to know how proud they are to have reached this milestone. “We created a special logo that we’ve incorporated into all self-promotion pieces and e-mails,” says Straub. “We’re using social media to keep our fans aware of the celebrations, and we’ve received many compliments and congratulations. The response has been great.”