By Brian Sherman
Most of Coastal Corrugated’s products are sold to clients in an area bounded by Savannah, Greenville, and Myrtle Beach. But the boxes designed and produced at the company’s North Charleston plant eventually end up traveling the world.
“Manufacturers of everything are our customers, and probably 95 percent of everything that’s manufactured goes into boxes before it goes to market. Just about everything is shipped in boxes,” says Jim Bozard, who along with his wife, Cathy, owns Coastal, as well as part of the company that supplies Coastal with corrugated material.
The company has come a long way in the past 30 years. When Bozard left his job with Union Camp Corp. in 1987 to start Coastal, he and his two partners were working out of a 15,000-square-foot facility in Summerville, getting by with three employees and three pieces of used equipment, and the plant was operating one eight-hour shift a day.
Today, Coastal’s 115 employees are on the job on three eight-hour shifts in a 100,000-square-foot plant built in 1996, and its 17 pieces of machinery are humming 24 hours a day. One of those machines, unique in the industry, according to Bozard, can handle a box 215 inches across.
“No one else on the planet has something like this,” Bozard says.
Coastal, which grosses more than $1 million a month, Bozard says, has another 20,000 square feet of space nearby.
Along the road to success, Coastal was cited by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce as one of its “Emerging 10” companies and was further honored as its “Small Business of the Year” for 1997-1998. Bozard has served on the chamber board and is now a member of its executive committee.
In 1998, Coastal and three other sheet plant owners decided it would be cost-effective to eliminate the middleman. They established Pinnacle Corrugated in Landis, N.C., near Charlotte, which supplies its owners with virgin craft corrugated material, “straight off the Southern loblolly pine trees,” Bozard says.
“The fibers are longer, stronger and smoother, and easier to print on than recycled material,” he says. “It costs more because it’s the best.”
He added that everything the company produces is recyclable “but it’s just not recycled yet.”
Coastal Corrugated makes a wide range of boxes and other items, such as floor and shelf displays. Almost all of it is custom work to take care of the needs of specific manufacturers. The challenge for his staff, Bozard says, is to make a cost-effective box that provides maximum protection for the product that is being shipped.
“That’s the genius of a good designer and a good team,” he says. “The package has to eliminate or at least cut down on breakage. A box that is designed correctly must be functional and cost-effective. It’s a challenge to get the cost to where it makes sense.”
“Whatever you want, we can do that kind of thing,” he says.
A small amount of Coastal’s business is selling stock boxes for moving and storage.
When Coastal Corrugated launched in 1987, Cathy Bozard was a stay-at-home mom. However, Jim said she came into the office one day to check out how things were going in the bookkeeping department. The Bozards fired the bookkeeper, and “It took Cathy a year to get current with the books,” Jim says.
Cathy is now a full-timer, serving on the company’s administrative team and on its board.
At the age of 60, Jim Bozard is transitioning out of the day-to-day operations of Coastal Corrugated, but his son and daughter-in-law are ready to step in and continue the company’s tradition of success. David and Jenn Bozard recently became co-chief executive officers.
“They are both brilliant in what they do,” Jim Bozard says. “They have made the transition awesome.”
Reducing his own role in the company will give Bozard the opportunity to pursue other less stressful activities. He is a scuba diver, and he participates annually in the Cooper River Bridge Run, reaching his goal – to post a time in minutes that’s less than his age – the past six years. He used to be a pole vaulter, and he proudly pointed out that on the final day of his and Cathy’s honeymoon nearly 40 years ago, he dived off the deck of a Carnival cruise ship into the waters of Nassau – twice.
So why has Coastal Corrugated thrived over the past 30 years? Bozard gives most of the credit for the company’s success to his staff.
“What makes the difference is our people,” he says.