As owner and operator of The Orange Stationer, Paul Dickerson has two pieces of sage and straightforward advice for other small independent dealers looking to say in business. “You need to identify problem areas and go after fixing them yourself because no one is going to do it for you,” he says. “And rather than suck out all the profits you can, you need to reinvest in the business for the future.” Paul is confident his company’s continued success comes from following his own counsel.
Raising the profile
The Orange Stationer was founded in 1952. Henry Seals purchased it in the early 1980s before Paul and his wife, Kim, bought it in 2015. Although the dealer was over 70 years old by then, many people had yet to learn it existed.
“We are located in a sort of warehouse district, so there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic; you had to know about us to find us,” Paul explains. “In many cases, people had heard of us but had no idea where we were or what we did.”
Paul realized it was up to him to fix the problem. “We added awnings and repainted the building,” he says. “We created a new logo and wrapped our delivery vehicles to make us as visible as possible. Being more visible has also given those who did know us the perception we are doing better.”
In fact, Paul attributes the company being named the town’s 2021 Small Business of the Year mainly to perception. “I’ve always served on a lot of nonprofit boards, been active in the Lions Club and Rotary Club, and invested in the community,” he says. “So, when we won the award, it wasn’t that we were doing anything different—it’s just that we’ve become a lot more visible.”
And being more noticeable isn’t the only secret to the company’s success.
“What we sell now is not what we used to sell,” continues Paul. “We are always looking for growth opportunities—some of those opportunities may be small, but they too add up.” Yet not all of these growth opportunities have been small steps; some have been large leaps of faith.
The company has a 12,000-foot warehouse but stocks little product other than used furniture—a business the Dickersons inherited from the previous owner that fills about half the warehouse. Until recently, the other half was a 6,000-foot showroom.
“We divided the showroom into three 2,000-foot areas,” Paul explains. “One is still a showroom; the rest is office space and a meeting room for people and organizations to rent.”
According to Paul, the company went to the city to seek funds and used economic development money to ensure the space would be state of the art.
“It has the fastest internet you can get besides fiber optics,” he says. “Also, you know how when you attend a presentation and the presenter has to hook up the laptop with all the cables? Getting everything set up can take longer than the presentation itself. We had one group that rented the room, and they called wanting to know what cables and wires they needed and if they could get in early to set them up. But our meeting room is plug and play. It’s all on a USB drive. You plug it in and download, and it’s ready. They couldn’t believe it.”
According to Paul, demand for the offices and conference room has been high—so much so that he recently bought the empty lot next door to provide parking. The new setup has been so successful that it is now a separate company named The Office Downtown. The business has expanded its new website to feature partners such as area restaurants, rental car companies, hotels and other attractions, to accommodate visitors’ needs. According to Paul, the new company fits the Orange goal: “We aim to solve all our customers’ problems.”
Company name: The Orange Stationer
Headquarters: Orange, Texas
Top management: Paul Dickerson, co-owner; Kim Dickerson, co-owner
Main wholesaler: Essendant
Annual sales: $1.5 million
Percentage of online business: 40%