FAIRMONT — When Josh Pearson attended Fairmont State University, he drove by the vacant Coca-Cola bottling plant nearly every day.
“I must’ve driven by this place a thousand times, always knowing it as the Coke plant,” Pearson said. “To now be in it is surreal, its exciting to have a successful business and to put it right down the street from where you lived in college.”
Pearson is the owner of Mountaineer Packaging, a Charleston-based wholesale packaging distributor. Just recently, he moved his northern office out of Morgantown, down the river to the east side of Fairmont.
When the company expanded to Morgantown, Pearson knew he’d need more space eventually, but didn’t know just how quickly the business would grow in the new area.
“When I leased the facility in Morgantown, I told the owner I’d need more space in about six months,” Pearson said. “It only took about four months. When we needed more space ... everybody kept telling me to look at the old coke plant. ... That’s where we ended up.”
Tuesday, employees of Mountaineer Packaging and members of the Fairmont business community gathered in the 20,000-square-foot facility on Morgantown Avenue to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and welcome the business into the city.
But while the company is new to the city, many businesses in North Central West Virginia are already patrons of Pearson’s packaging products.
T&L Hot Dogs, Yann’s Hot Dogs, Oliverio’s Peppers, Novelis Industries and several other local businesses rely on Mountaineer Packaging, and that need has been even more important since COVID-19 brought about a slew of supply-chain issues.
“Just look at any news story and all the supply chain backups we’re having right now,” said Tina Shaw, president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce. “To have somebody local that provides this type of product and help that all of North Central West Virginia needs in the worst way is a huge benefit.”
One of the goals of Mountaineer Packaging is to give local businesses one less thing to worry about. One of the products hit hardest by the supply-chain backups is packaging materials, so Person tries to fill that void.
According to Pearson, many of the larger packaging companies are occupied by the big-box buyers such as Amazon and Walmart, leaving smaller businesses behind.
“What we do for the customer is take those supply-chain issues off their plate,” Pearson said. “That way they can worry about their product and trying to get it out the door. That’s the role we play for them.”
Shaw said that one of the most exciting things for her is seeing the old Coca-Cola plant, which sat unused for years, finally house a tenant – and one that plays such an important role in the local business community.
“When I was a little girl, they bottled Coke products here. It was a true manufacturing facility, from start to finish,” Shaw said. “It sat vacant for years, but now it has a new life. They’ve done a fabulous job remodeling and renovating. This new business is dealing with a ton of other local businesses, so it’s all about business-to-business interaction locally.”
Pearson and his wife Lauren are both graduates of Fairmont State, and both have felt right at home returning to the friendly city. The Chamber of Commerce, the Marion County Regional Development Corp., and other organizations have given them a warm welcome, Pearson said.
“Anytime we have a new business into Marion County, we’re thrilled,” Shaw said. “And what’s great about a local business like Mountaineer Packaging is they employ locally and spend their dollars locally. We’re thrilled to have them.”
And the Pearsons are thrilled to be in operation locally, they said.
“Fairmont is just as I remember it,” Pearson said. “We’re happy to be here.”