The sagging economy and increasing Internet shopping has forced the hand of Hysil Outlet owners to announce that their Northgate Revere store will be closing before Christmas.
It will mark the first time in exactly 100 years that the Hy-Sil name will not have a business presence in Revere or Chelsea.
Owners Peter and Barbara Dusseault told the Journal this week that they will throw in the towel, closing the store permanently when everything is sold.
“The last day is when the last thing is sold,” said Peter. “We anticipate that will be the middle of December.”
The Dussealts bought the store in 2005 after working in their family’s Chelsea electrical contracting business – Rudolph Electric. The Hysil store and factory had been a client of Rudolph, and when the electrical business got sold to another entity, the Dusseaults switched gears and went the way of a retail store.
“It was known that they wanted to sell the store and, when our business was sold, one married the other,” said Barbara.
Those were happier days, and the owners and several long-time employees are unanimous in saying that the closing is bittersweet and unwanted.
There have been scores of people who come in frantic, saying they don’t know what they’ll do without the store. Others have even cried when learning of the closing, as they had been long-time shoppers and one-time employees of the Hy-Sil Company.
The Dusseaults said if they could keep it open they would, but despite all the tears and well wishings, things have just changed. Peter said they realized about this time last year that something big had to change if they wanted to stay open.
“In 2006 and 2007 we had strong, stable years and we had the store at a good level of activity,” said Peter. “Then the recession struck and the last five years we’ve seen 30 percent of our foot traffic evaporate. It becomes impossible to keep up with the rising costs and rent on a big space if you don’t have the volume. We recognize the long history of the Hy-Sil name in the community, but if people can’t afford to come out and support it…”
“Then neither can we,” finished Barbara.
One of the major problems, they said, was that people windowshop in the store and then make their purchases online using the Internet.
“A big part of the decline is the Internet and online party products,” said Peter. “People can just sit at home and click and buy.”
Added Barbara, “People come in here and check the prices and the inventory and then go home and buy online. They come in with their phones and cameras and take pictures and then order it at home.”
At the same time, many of their suppliers are offering more limited inventories and have cut back on staffing.
“Our suppliers have also downsized their workforce so it takes longer to get a product on order,” said Barbara. “It takes less time on the Internet and nobody wants to wait a week or more for us to get it. The Internet offers more products than we do and that’s a result of our suppliers not offering as much. That’s also been an issue.”
Additionally, both said the expansion into party goods and greeting cards by retail pharmacies and supermarkets has cut into their bread and butter sales.
“Even when customers come in frantically and ask, ‘How am I going to find X, Y, or Z?’ My response has been, ‘Well, apparently you haven’t needed it in awhile,’” said Peter.
For several employees of the store, the closing will mark the end of a lifetime association with Hy-Sil.
Three families, who comprised the Hy-Sil owners, began manufacturing leather post cards in Boston in 1903, and soon after introduced the world to gift-wrapping paper. When their business took off, they opened their Revere factory in 1912 at the foot of Fenno Street where the Prospect House Assisted Living now sits.
The company employed thousands of Revere and Chelsea residents, both full and part time. They made paper products and even invented some groundbreaking materials. Richard Silverman (the ‘Sil’ in Hy-Sil) actually invented Mylar – the silvery material that many character balloons are made of. That material was not only used for balloons, but also was used by NASA astronauts in space. It is used in countless products today.
Among the other innovations developed at the Revere factory were tinsel ribbon, metalized ribbons and wrapping foil. It also was the first American manufacturer to develop a process for depositing metal under vacuum conditions onto plastic films – a process that was used in the making of gift wrap but soon realized its own worth for use in solar window films.
Above all, the factory was known for its employees who mostly came from Revere and Chelsea during the company’s 80-year run – which ended in Massachusetts during the 1990s when American Greetings moved the plant to Georgia. Employees during the heyday of the factory enjoyed great camaraderie, a family atmosphere and decadent holiday parties.
After the closure of the factory, Hy-Sil kept the store outlet in Chelsea’s Parkway Plaza, then moving to Northgate in Revere 10 years ago.
At least four of the current store employees started their working careers in the old Hy-Sil Factory on Fenno Street many decades ago.
Ron Rennie said his whole family worked at Hy-Sil and he has worked there for nearly 45 years – all of which will come to an end this December.
“I started out as a stock boy and went into shipping eventually and stayed on at the store,” he said. “My father was a machinist there and my mom worked in the factory store. My sister worked in the order department. My two brothers even worked at Hy-Sil.”
Said Helen Gurska, who helped start the original factory store on Fenno Street, “Everyone in the City of Revere worked there at one time or another. I know my mother worked there during Christmas every year. Our saying was always, ‘We are Family.’”
Pauline DeMeo did just about everything at the factory during her days there.
“I did whatever they had,” she said. “I did blocking, reeling, counting, packing, bows, folding paper and phone orders. Whatever they had for me to do, I did.”
And, just like that, so goes the city’s historic 100-year relationship with the Hy-Sil name.
Currently Hy-Sil Outlet employees Vita Mazzone, Phyllis Scuzzarella, Ron Rennie, Pauline DeMeo, and Helen Gurska. Several of the above employees have worked under the Hy-Sil name for decades, starting out in the old factory on Fenno Street in Revere. The outlet store will close this December.
A group of happy employees pose for a picture in front of the Hy-Sil Manufacturing Company’s Tinsel Goods division on Fenno Street, Revere. The pictured was taken in 1928, when the factory was in the midst of an unprecedented manufacturing and innovation heyday.