Nice-Pak: The Biggest Company in Rockland County You Probably Didn’t Know About

The world’s largest creator of wipes, Nice-Pak, employs over 900 in the county. Moist towelettes have morphed into many applications

BY KATHY KAHN

Robert Julius and his son, Zachary, are the third and fourth generation of the family-owned company that put disposable towelettes on the consumer map
Robert Julius and his son, Zachary, are the third and fourth generation of the family-owned company that put disposable towelettes on the consumer map

Have you ever wondered where those disposable wipes you use so often got their start?

Wonder no more—many of them come right here from Rockland. The wipes were originally the brainchild of Arthur Julius, who got the idea for a disposable wet napkin that could be tossed when the job was done. Back in the 1950s, while working for Russian cosmetic pharmacist Myram Picker, Julius got the idea of putting a disposable wet paper into a package and selling his “Nice ‘n Clean” product to the restaurant industry.

Arthur saw how the potential the disposable cloth had. Could either imagine the company that started making restaurant wipes in 1957 would be pumping out over 125 billion wipes 24 hours a day, five days a week 54 years later? (The answer is probably yes!)

“Table Turners,” one of Zachary Julius’ latest ideas, for use in cleaning tabletops in restaurants.
“Table Turners,” one of Zachary Julius’ latest ideas, for use in cleaning tabletops in restaurants.

“When my father met with Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, he asked Sanders how his customers could eat that ‘finger lickin’ good chicken’ and get their fingers clean once they were done eating,” said Robert Julius.

The result? It’s hard to find a restaurant today that doesn’t offer those little packets of wet wipes to their patrons, and Kentucky Fried Chicken was one of Arthur’s first customers.

Machines do most of the work in Nice-Pak’s production facility with people there to make sure the machines do it right.  The founder’s original machine is still on the production floor next to its 21st century counterparts.
Machines do most of the work in the Nice-Pak PDA production facility, with people there to make sure the machines do it right. The founder’s original machine is still on the production floor next to its 21st century counterparts.

Nice-Pak is the company’s name, hygiene is their game….and the company’s products have been a game-changer in restaurants, baby care, women’s cosmetics and healthcare—those little wet towels in a tube you probably carry in your car, those pre-moistened makeup removers and countertop wipes—are probably being manufactured as you read this—since Nice Pak is the largest producer of pre-moistened wipes for personal, home, healthcare, food service and commercial use in the world and the leading producer of baby wipes in America.

Robert Julius and his son, Zachary, are always looking for innovative ways to put disposable towels to good use-from a tiny alcohol or peroxide patch for hospital use or one that that make your tabletop sparkling and sanitized —to de-greasing a mechanic’s hands or disinfecting Fido’s poopy paws.

Now in the third generation, Arthur’s son and grandson have kept the family’s business alive and well, moving the business from lower Manhattan in 1986 and building what has eventually grown into a 165,000 square foot manufacturing operation and a 240,000 square foot distribution center in Orangeburg that employs nearly 900 people.

The family has come a long way from the first “Wet Nap.” Today, the company and its 2,500 worldwide associates create wipes for just about anything that needs cleaning—with ideas that come from the father and son, their research and development team and the employees as well.

While many people rely on anti-bacterial liquids to cleanse their hands, “What they are really doing is just moving the dirt around,” said Zachary. “With a towelette, you are wiping your hands, killing germs and removing them…a much more effective way to keep clean.” Ditto for using towels and cloths to wipe down countertops—“If you are going to use it over and over, what are you really doing—again, just moving the dirt around….by far, disposable wet towels are the dominant form for service cleaning in hospitals today and increasingly in the home.”

Up until recently, Nice-Pak has been producing primarily private brands for companies like Walmart, CVS, Neutrogena and Johnson & Johnson, but they are also introducing their own brands to the market: “We are reintroducing Clean’ and GrimeBoss and the iconic Wet-Nap brand  to the consumer market  in various applications—from floor and counter top cleaners to disposable toilet wipes—and yes, even a disposable towel to tidy up your best friend’s paws: Pet Naps.”

Nice-Pak has committed itself to “green” practices, from one of the largest solar panel installations in Rockland on its headquarter’s roof to the material used to create the wipes—“It’s plant based fiber, so it’s biodegradable,” said Zachary. “We also manufacture wipes that can be flushed down the toilet—but for those products that can’t be flushed, there’s an icon at the top of the container letting the user know it’s to be thrown in the trash, not in the toilet.”

The biggest offender? “People who throw paper towels in the bowl,” said Robert Julius. “If you watch the commercials and see how strong they claim to be, do you think they are going to break up and go down without a hitch? Educating the public on proper disposal of paper towels and other non-flushables is something we are committed to.”

The company has two primary markets of its operation: Nice-Pak, which makes consumer products, and PDI Healthcare, its sister division that focuses on the discovery and development of infection prevention solutions for hospitals, doctors’ offices, other healthcare facilities, food service and other commercial uses where keeping it clean and germ-free are key.

“Nurses used to carry around cotton balls and a bottle of alcohol to clean patients’ wounds,” said Zachary. “The cotton easily got dirty from being handled and stuffed in the nurse’s pocket…that’s when we got the idea to package alcohol pads, clear colored iodine pads and disposable swabs —just a few of the products we’ve created that have really helped cut down on infections, one of the greatest challenges hospitals and healthcare face. The more they can cut down on infection, the better the outcome for the patient.” PDI partners with the Center for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on its healthcare products.

Some disturbing news for Nice-Pak and other Rockland manufacturers: The manufacturing tax credit Gov. Cuomo proposed to give counties outside the MTA region has state Senators pushing to give Orange and Dutchess the same credit, while still leaving Rockland manufacturers out of the equation. “We have a lot of manufacturing here in Rockland and I do hope to see us included in the Hudson Valley counties they are asking for up in Albany,” said Robert Julius.

“We already pay the MTA tax, and we didn’t get here by bus or train,” added Zachary. “To leave Rockland out is a double whammy.”

In the meantime, you might see Nice-Pak’s newest innovation in your favorite restaurant—disposable towels to clean tabletops once the customers have gone. “Have you ever watched the waiter wiping down the table with a wet rag?” said Zachary. “Think about it. It’s pretty unsanitary….but some restaurants are getting with the program. P.F. Chang is one that uses our product—the waiter can just pull out the towel, wipe the table, and dispose of it in a container underneath the box—it makes you feel a lot better about sitting down to eat!”

Nice-Pak also said they are proud of the local charity work they do, especially for Rockland ARC.