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VOL. 125 | NO. 30 | Monday, February 15, 2010

American Resource Systems Keeps Communications Going

By Tom Wilemon

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Martha Briggs, chief executive officer of American Resource Systems Inc., holds invitations being sent out by a state judicial organization. The Bartlett company specializes in direct mail, storage services and fulfillment orders. Photo: Tom Wilemon

When an important order comes due at American Resource Systems Inc., the “super-duper crew” gets the job done.

Martha Briggs, chief executive officer of the Bartlett company, credits these six retirement-age women for consistently doing quality work that has allowed the shipping, storage and fulfillment firm to keep core customers and attract new ones.

These workers aren’t whiners. All but one of them worked for years without air conditioning in the old Sears Crosstown building.

These days, they don’t have to worry about glitches such as the chute that consistently got stopped up in the old 10-story landmark in Midtown Memphis.

Sybil Troxel, who has been with American Resource Systems for 20 years, yells out “Chute blocked, throw something down,” eliciting laughter from her coworkers. Then the women start talking about a former co-worker, Clyde, who would jump down the chute when a big box wouldn’t do the trick.

“I was over the shipping room,” Troxel said. “When I came out here, I had my little black book with all my packers’ names in it. They needed some help out here. They needed some packers. I had my little black book, so I brought everybody with me.”

Range of services

American Resource Systems is like many businesses in that it was created when its founders identified a niche. Thomas W. Briggs II, the husband of Martha Briggs, founded the company 37 years ago. He married new technologies with traditional needs.

“He was a computer consultant,” Martha Briggs said. “Because he was storing files for customers, they said, ‘If you’ve got the files, why don’t you just mail it and go ahead and handle that.’ He got into direct mail like that. He went from computer consulting to direct mail.”

The firm broadened beyond direct mail to begin providing storage space and package fulfillment services. Today, its customers range from institutions such as Rhodes College and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare to individuals such as Memphis-based conservative political satirist Paul Shanklin.

“We ship all his orders,” Brigg said. “He is very popular on talk radio. He sells these CDs. He has about six out.”

American Resources also stores, then ships, promotional items, such as kits for Thompson’s WaterSeal.

The mail-out materials are printed and personalized with individualized addresses put on the items at the same time as the other type. The addresses are big, dark and clear and the type is clear of smudges.

“It’s a very high-quality addressing system,” Briggs said. “We don’t have extraneous numbers and things that don’t need to be on there.”

Changing model

The economic downturn has not affected business so far.

“We’ve been real fortunate,” Briggs said. “We have seen some changes. People aren’t mailing as much. They are doing more e-mail. However, there are certain things that people just want to have to be able to pick up and hold in their hand.

“We’re still doing quite a bit of mailing. Our fulfillment business has grown more than anything. Of course, that’s the best business to be in. Not only are you handling it, but you are storing it.”

American Resource Systems Inc. has a wide customer base and employs six full-time people and 25 part-time people.

“We do local, national and international mail and fulfillment,” Briggs said. “We have customers that regularly mail out all over the world. We actually store materials in other languages here. We have had items in Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.”

However, most of the business comes from the Memphis area, and the nonprofit community here accounts for about half of it, she said. Fundraising drives around the holidays make October, November and December some of the most hectic months for the business.

That is when Briggs said she’s especially grateful to have her “super-duper” crew.

“I would put this group of ladies up against any mailroom across the city,” Briggs said. “They are fast. They are accurate. They are conscientious and they know their business.”

PROPERTY SALES 56 289 2,908
MORTGAGES 55 226 2,009
BUILDING PERMITS 108 1,002 6,703
BANKRUPTCIES 42 248 1,225