ST. CLOUD (AP) -- A landmark building rising along Interstate 94 will bring more visibility to one of the city's fastest-growing businesses.
Creative Memories, the direct-selling scrapbook supplies unit of Antioch Cos., is spending $15 million for land and construction on a new manufacturing, distribution and warehouse center.
When it opens in April, the 328,000-square-foot building will rival St. Cloud's CentraCare Health Plaza in size. Only three buildings -- Fingerhut's main distribution center, the Crossroads Center Mall and new Sauk Rapids-Rice High School -- will be larger.
Company officials say the new facility is needed to facilitate a grab for market share before the scrapbook industry hits a plateau. "By 2004, if we're not in place, we'll be in trouble," said Asha Morgan Moran, the company's chief operating officer.
The 14-year-old company had domestic sales of $250 million last year and overseas sales of around $30 million.
Creative Memories intends to grow international sales 35 percent annually, aiming to reach domestic levels within a decade. "We should be expanding quite aggressively into Europe," Moran said.
The new building represents the company's sixth expansion in St. Cloud. And it comes after a $2.6 million remodeling project and $1.7 million addition that reshaped the space and image of its headquarters.
The new plant will be nearly six times the size of the one Antioch Co. bought here in 1986 from the bankrupt Holes-Webway Co.
Antioch, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, bought the plant without realizing an after-hours phone call would spawn Creative Memories.
That call came from Rhonda Kanning Anderson, who inherited her mother's passion for creating scrapbooks with the flexible-hinge album Wilbur Holes had invented.
Cheryl Lightle, then an assistant to Antioch CEO Lee Morgan, was overseeing the St. Cloud office when Anderson called from her Montana home. Anderson had just taught a mothers group her scrapbooking techniques, and she feared the Holes-Webway albums would be discontinued when she needed them most.
As a result of the conversation, a new market opened to the Holes-Webway albums.
Anderson became the first direct-sales consultant and took her scrapbooking class on the road. Lightle pitched the new concept to customers who had written letters of distress about the pending loss of Holes-Webway albums. The new subsidiary was named Creative Memories was born and the two women held top roles until a leadership shift in early 2001.
Today, busloads of the company's direct-sales reps visit, some on their own and others during annual conventions in the Twin Cities. "They do associate St. Cloud with the birth of Creative Memories," Moran said.
Creative Memories will concentrate U.S. and Canadian production at the new St. Cloud plant. A plant built last year in Richmond, Va., will supply Europe while one operating since 1996 in Sparks, Nev., will serve Asia.
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