Bennett Box closes after 84 years

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 25, 2005

AHOSKIE – After being in business for 84 years, Bennett Box and Pallet Company closed its doors on June 10.

According to company president and CEO Barbara Bennett Perry, the decline in manufacturing in the United States along with increased competition led to a downfall in profits that the company could no longer sustain.

Perry commented that while Bennett Box and Pallet was closing, she would continue in the business world, possibly starting a business that handles payrolls for other companies.

Perry’s grandfather, Russell Bennett, started Bennett Box in 1921 in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The son of a wooden barrel manufacturer, Russell Bennett’s company originally manufactured pine boxes used to ship and transport goods.

At one point, Bennett Box made pine shipping boxes of all sizes, some big enough to ship two automobiles in.

In 1946, Russell Bennett moved part of the company to North Carolina after he began having trouble finding timber in the New Jersey area.

Perry recalled hearing a story about her grandfather coming to North Carolina.

&uot;He got on a train and stopped in Boykins, VA because he saw a lot of trees,&uot; she said.

That led Mr. Bennett to open the Ahoskie location at its present site.

At one point, Bennett Box’s Colony Pine division also had locations in Texas and Iowa.

&uot;World War II created a labor shortage in the country,&uot; added Perry, which led to the widespread use of the forklift and subsequently the introduction of wooden pallets. The company eventually became Bennett Box and Pallet after the introduction of pallets.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s the business transitioned through another phase switching from pine boxes to corrugated cardboard boxes.

&uot;Over the years Bennett Box and Pallet has manufactured ammunition boxes, shipping boxes, ping-pong tables, chairs and has been recycling pallets for the past 20 years&uot; said Perry.

Ms. Perry started working for Bennett Box and Pallet 26 years ago after working for 10 years in the banking industry.

&uot;I was very excited about the opportunity,&uot; commented Perry.

According to Perry &uot;the world of manufacturing was and still is a male dominated industry&uot; and the opportunity to take over the &uot;reigns&uot; of a successful manufacturing company was a rare one.

Perry spent a year as a Sloan Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology after coming to Bennett Box and Pallet.

The Sloan Fellow is a middle management Masters program and to attend the program you must not only be accepted into this prestigious program, but your company must sponsor you.

However, Perry was quick to point out this story is not about her, but rather about the &uot;wonderful&uot; people who have worked for the company over the years.

Perry was hesitant to single out individuals, but she said that area natives Ernest Parker and Shirley Walker have been excellent employees for Bennett Box and Pallet over the years.

Parker, a plant manager, worked for the company for 35 years.

Walker started as a secretary and worked her way up to Vice President of marketing and sales over the course of her 30 years with the company.

Mary Larsen, Secretary Treasurer, has played a vital role with Bennett Box for 27 years and will continue working with Perry.

The decision to close Bennett Box &uot;weighed heavily&uot; on the heart of Perry, but the company was no longer profitable and she had no choice.

According to Perry &uot;Bennett Box and Pallet is directly linked to manufacturing in the United States&uot; and as manufacturing has declined in the U.S. over the past 10 to 15 years, so has the need for wooden pallets needed to ship materials.

NAFTA and other free trade agreements have led to the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States particularly in North Carolina.

Most of Bennett Box and Pallet clients were regionally located in NC, VA, TN, and the Delmarva Peninsula.

Bennett Box will hold an auction on July 29 for the trucks, trailers and tools as well as the recycling operation located in Millennium, which repaired and resold pallets.

They will hold another auction on July 30 for the sawmill, pallet mill and planing mill.

Presently the company is selling off its remaining lumber.