After 10 years, Janesville office supply company continues to expand

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Jim Leute
Monday, March 11, 2013

— In 10 years, Jamin Arn has started four companies.

He bought three others and assumed ownership of two more, including a recent merger with Clark Office Supply, a decades-old, family-owned business in Elkhorn.

“I like to start companies,” said Arn, sitting in his office at OfficePro, his flagship operation in Janesville.

OfficePro started in 2003 in a tiny Janesville storage unit, selling pens and paper to small retailers. Today, the company operates out of 35,000 square feet of leased space at 615 N. Parker Drive, just south of Traxler Park.

It offers a variety of office, school and janitorial supplies; new and used office furniture; document shredding; and recycling services to businesses and school districts in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. It's got a catalog of 40,000 items that ship from more than 40 supplier warehouses throughout the country.

In 2009, Arn started Recycling4U, which remanufactures toner cartridges for office printers.

The company has since been renamed Cheese Head Toner, and it's exploding in a second-story space above OfficePro. The company that started with rebuilds and refills on just four types of cartridges now services about 120 types, which Arn said represents about half the market.

The company takes in used toner cartridges, replaces all their moving parts and then refills them with toner, which is the only component not American made, Arn said. The remanufactured cartridges often carry private labels.

Cheese Head is closely integrated with OfficePro and now represents about 10 percent of the company's revenues.

“This is a big growth area for us,” Arn said. “Remanufactured cartridges are not regulated, so it's easy to look offshore and get cartridges at half of my price.

“But the quality is not there, and that's what we sell.”

For the most part, Arn's philosophy has been that all of his businesses support OfficePro, which also has a showroom with hundreds of pieces of used office furniture and loading docks to receive and prepare daily deliveries.

“I started the business thinking I would never carry an inventory,” he said. “We'd be just-in-time and operate under the radar with very little overhead.”

He started the shredding business when he saw an opportunity to buy the equipment at a great price.

The division now shreds about 10,000 pounds of paper a week, most of which comes from OfficePro customers such as banks, law offices and other small businesses.

The merger with Clark gives OfficePro added access to the Walworth County market and Clark's loyal customers.

“People over there don't know OfficePro,” he said. “We are very similar to Clark in many ways, but the difference is that I got into what was a changing industry and was able to adapt.

“The industry has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, and if you're still operating an office supply store the way you did 20 years ago, you can see the writing on the wall.”

OfficePro's growth has been impressive. In the last five years, it has been a regular on Inc magazine lists of the fastest growing companies in the United States.

And in 2012?

“Best year we've ever had,” Arn said.

Last updated: 7:58 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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