ANDROSCOGGIN VALLEY — Toilet paper has been a hot commodity since the coronavirus outbreak and local stores have struggled to keep up with the spike in demand. Stepping in to help out, Gorham Paper and Tissue has made its White Mountain Tissue available to its employees and to local stores.
Mark Kelley of White Mountain Lumber said they normally carry a small supply of toilet paper at their ACE Hardware Store for customers.
“It’s never been a big item,” he said.
But with the local demand spurred by COVID-19, Kelley said he decided to reach out to an old contact at GPT to see if the mill could possibly help out. It turned out the mill was interested.
CFO Wayne Johnson said the mill had a limited supply of its packaged White Mountain Tissue. The mill produces the large parent rolls of the tissue on the $35 million tissue machine that came online in 2012 and the parent rolls are sent out to be converted into individual rolls.
Johnson said the company’s first priority was to make sure its employees were supplied.
“But then, we wanted to offer the White Mountain bath tissue to local businesses to help our community. As you can imagine during this uncertain time, the response has been very good. In addition to what was in our limited inventory, we are also reaching out to tissue converters to see if they have capacity for us to produce additional White Mountain bath tissue that we can distribute in the community. It’s good to see bath tissue with White Mountain on its label produced right here in Berlin/Gorham New Hampshire,” Johnson said.
“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” said USW Local 75 Vice President Dan St. Armant.
"I enjoyed getting to take home a product that I had a hand in making. It reminds me that the tissue we send out the door doesn't just disappear, it goes to real people,” said GPT employee Mitchell Thayer.
Kelley said the first trailer load of White Mountain Tissue arrived at his store Thursday afternoon. He said he called around to see if local institutions were in need and some was set aside for Androscoggin Valley Hospital.
As the toilet paper was being unloaded, Kelley said a corrections officer driving by the store immediately stopped and asked if it was for sale. Word spread and by the time the store closed at 5 p.m., half of the 135 packages of 20-rolls had been sold and the remainder were gone by 9:15 a.m. Friday morning. The store received a second, much larger load on Friday and it was still flying off the shelves despite a limit of one package per customer.
“I’ve just had one customer after another,” said Kelley, as the news there was toilet paper for sale spread on social media. He estimated half the customers had never been in the store before and said he hopes many will return now that they see what the store offers.
Kelley said he likes being able to sell a local product and especially one sharing the name “White Mountain.” Caron Building Center and Berlin Marketplace also received deliveries of White Mountain tissue to sell.
Johnson said the Gorham mill is running full at this time and staying up-to-date on the CDC recommendations and implementing controls to limit exposure to COVID-19.
“We are taking the situation seriously and are focusing on the health and well-being of our employees and their families, our suppliers, customers, visitors and the community,” he said.