Made on Long Island: Pizza box empire

- Who doesn't love pizza? Statistics show 93 percent of Americans eat at least one slice a month. If that's a takeout order, it'll probably come in an old-fashioned clay-coated box. Buy a pie and you'll get a sturdier corrugated one. But this wasn't always the case. In fact, back in the early 1900s--

"It was like a roll of paper, like a butcher paper, you'd pull it down, place the pie on top and roll it back on top again and we'd hand it to you," said Gil Korine, owner of Freeport Paper Industries.

Since then, boxes have become standard with any order. They're what keeps Long Islander Korine in business. Multimillion-dollar company Freeport Paper Industries is one of the largest pizza box manufacturers in the world.

"The box is a key factor of the actual pizza," he said. "It needs to stay warm, it needs to stay put when you get a delivery and you need to know where it comes from."

Not knowing is what led Gil to change his career from medicine to manufacturing.

"I was home one night studying for an exam, I went downstairs to look for a slice of pizza, there was an empty pizza box on the kitchen table -- it said 'fresh hot pizza,'" he said. "I had no idea where the pizza came from." His thought: every box should be branded. He has been selling pizza boxes since 1990 and opened in Central Islip in 1999. The business operates 24/7 and he has more than 200 employees.

Cathy Virgilio has been with the company since the beginning.

"We produce everything from a 7-inch box to a 24-inch box, we have 28-inch boxes," said Virgilio, a sales representative. "We specialize in small runs, large runs. Anyone can brand themselves and we produce our products in the USA, which is huge."

What's changed over the years? Boxes have gotten bigger because pizza toppings have become more creative. And when it comes to the design, it's about thinking outside the box.

"It's just a one- or two-color box, you put your logo and your information on it, and as you're taking it out of the store, people see your information and they want to know more," production artist Danielle Raimondi said.

The pizza man is a classic, she said.

"We kind of doctor him up. We see the 'OK,' we see him tossing dough, we see him pulling something out of a brick oven," Raimondi said. "He has a lot of different poses. He's our top model."

Freeport Paper makes 10 million boxes each week. Prices range from 20 cents to $1. The boxes are wrapped, packed, and shipped. More than 100 trucks go out every week.

"Our product is pretty much distributed all over the country, in all of the states, South America, some parts of Europe, so we do ship all over the world," Korine said.

Meetings take place every morning. On the table is his newest idea. PrintCup U.S.A., a paper cup factory just down the road. Gil's goal is to keep manufacturing local while continuing the trend of branding on paper cups.

"We make cups for one or two stores to large chains -- so that would be Kellogg's, the Waldorf Astoria, now the Dream Hotel, a lot of the coffee roasters and small coffee shops," he said.

Twelve machines crank out over 3 million cups in all different sizes weekly. The company is one of the first in the country to sell insulated cups with a built-in sleeve. Quality control conducts random checks on every batch.

Eat a slice of pizza and you'll probably want something to drink. Both items are sold globally and made right on Long Island. 

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