In the digital age we live in, it’s no surprise that we’re exchanging electronic cards, but what about traditional paper greeting cards? What role do they play? Kevin James, the plant manager at American Greetings in Ripley, Tennessee, shares insight into the role traditional greeting cards play as the cornerstone of the celebrations marketplace.
“People ask me all the time about paper cards and electronic cards,” James said. “We’re in the business of both, and paper cards continue to be some of the most loved ways people share joy and support. There is something to be said about being able to hold a paper card – it’s a piece of art.”
American Greetings was one of the first companies to commercialize greeting cards in 1929. Throughout the Great Depression, these cards were used to lift the spirits of those living in a dark period of history.
Fast forward to 1972, more than 40 years later, the successful card company opened its manufacturing facility in Ripley, Tennessee.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, an occasion that is often synonymous with heartfelt greeting cards, James gave our team a tour of the Ripley plant and explained what goes into creating the popular greeting cards we all love to give and receive.
Paper to Product
American Greetings receives paper in the form of large rolls that are cut into sheets, and, using information sent by the company’s creative team in Westlake, Ohio, the printing presses put ink to paper.
“Our plants have some of the most technologically advanced presses that you can find in the world,” James said.
Once the artwork is on the sheets, embellishments can be added to enhance the design. Finally, the cards are individually cut, folded and packaged.
“We have great product, great artists and writers and awesome technology, but the people are the ones that really make these cards come to life,” James said.
Today, the Ripley plant employs many associates who have been with the company 30+ years, which is more than half of the plant’s lifespan.
“The company embraces diversity, equity and inclusion and expects respect in the workplace,” James said. “I think that is why people tend to stay with us so long. Plus, we have very competitive wages and benefits.”
A Celebrations Company
Valentine’s Day is one of the many occasions for which American Greetings manufactures cards and other celebrations products. For 2023, the company produced millions of Valentine’s Day cards in Ripley alone. To keep up with numbers like that, the plant stays several months ahead of each season, so this year’s Valentine’s Day cards were printed in mid-2022.
According to James, the act of sending a card is an unspoken message and one of the most personal ways to show someone you care.
“Getting a card lets them know that somebody is thinking about them, and it brings a smile to their face,” James explained. “Maybe they’re going through a hard time. We all like to know that someone is thinking about us and cheering us on.”
The mission of American Greetings is to make the world a more thoughtful and caring place, and for James, it doesn’t get much better than that.
“I’ve got the best job in the world because where else can you come and create happiness, laughter and love every single day?” James said.
“I’ve got the best job in the world because where else can you come and create happiness, laughter and love every single day?”
Mastered in Tennessee
American Greetings not only manufactures cards in West Tennessee, but they also make printed gift wrap and ribbon at a facility in Greene County. So, why does the company choose to do business in the Volunteer State?
“The state’s got a great business-friendly structure,” James said. “They’ve also done a great job with the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT) and preparing students for the workforce. Plus, again, we’ve got great people here in Ripley and West Tennessee.”
Overall, hundreds of millions of cards are manufactured in Ripley, and James gets to approve every single one of them. The real question is, does he have a favorite?
“I’ve got a grandson that had cancer, and he’s cancer free now, but they called him ‘Smiley Riley’ because even despite all the things he went through, he always had a smile on his face. I call my favorite card the ‘Smiley Riley card’ because it’s just got smiles all over it.”
An unspoken message that elicits a world of emotion. That’s the power of a greeting card, mastered in Tennessee.
For more information about American Greetings, visit corporate.americangreetings.com.