All CEOs do not have a sense of humor.
Which is why people were startled into laughter when Alan Jania sometimes answered the phone at his company by saying: “You lick ’em, we stick ’em.”
Mr. Jania, who never finished college, founded Diamond Envelope 32 years ago in his Park Ridge basement. It has become one of the nation’s top envelope manufacturers. The family-owned firm has grown to 85 staffers and produces more than 1 billion envelopes a year.
If you’ve ever received advertising mail with coupons or credit-card offers, chances are pretty good that the envelopes were made by his Aurora company. Diamond has also produced envelopes for solicitations from the American Heart Association, Divine Word Missionaries and Smile Train. Corporate clients include AT&T, General Motors, Disney and Discover Card.
Mr. Jania, 67, died of squamous cell cancer on Saturday at his home in St. Charles.
Raised in Humboldt Park, he went to St. Fidelis grade school and St. Patrick High School. His father worked 40 years at Wilson Sporting Goods and his mother was a secretary at Montgomery Ward. After two years at Quincy University, Alan Jania married Judy, his high-school sweetheart.
His mother, Armida, helped him get his first break. In 1972, Alan was at Ward’s with his mom when she introduced him to an executive from Transo Envelope Co., saying: “This is my son, Alan, and he’s looking for a job,” according to his son, Michael Jania. It worked. He was hired.
After eight-hour shifts as a junior accountant at Transo, he trained at night to learn the manufacturing side of the business. “Seven or eight years later, he’s an executive,” Michael Jania said.
Around 1980, he became a partner with Royal Envelope in Forest Park, according to another son, A.J. Jania. He helped build the business from $880,000 to $4,800,000 in gross sales revenue, his company biography said.
In 1984, he founded Diamond. It operated in Broadview and Naperville before a move to Aurora in 2000. His sons and a daughter, Susan Foley, help run the company.
In 2012, inspired by the creation of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Robert May, an adman at his mother’s employer, Ward’s, Mr. Jania wrote a children’s book, “The True Tale of Dasher.”
Unlike Rudolph, his Dasher did not have a whimsical glow-light nose. But Mr. Jania’s reindeer had a stick-to-itiveness valued by many CEOs — especially self-made ones. His college friend, Pat Henning, wrote a song to go with the book, “Dasher, the Dependable Reindeer,” with the words:
“Dasher, the dependable reindeer
Works hard the whole year long
Training everyday to pull Santa’s sleigh
Even when he wants to play.”
He had the tune recorded by vocalist Gary Pigg and the City Lights Orchestra. Mr. Jania enjoyed reading the book to a crowd of kids at a 2012 French Market Christmas celebration.
He believed success came from the details. He was a sharp dresser. The magazines in Diamond’s lobby had to be kept neatly stacked.
The CEO liked cheesecake, and treating employees to paczki, the Fat Tuesday delicacy. His well-padded beagle, Snickers, sometimes shared in his snacks.
He enjoyed playing craps in Las Vegas, where he stayed in Caesars Palace.
The company’s success is partly attributable to his appreciation for his workers, Michael Jania said. “He would walk up to them, put his arm around them, welcome them, and make them feel like the most important person on earth,” he said.
Mr. Jania was proud of an honorary doctorate he received from Quincy University. He volunteered at churches and his childrens’ schools, including Our Lady of Ransom and Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, and, in St. Charles, at St. Patrick and St. John Neumann parishes.
He is also survived by seven grandchildren. Mr. Jania was buried with a bag of Peanut M&Ms, a golf ball, dice from Caesars Palace, and a kit of samples from Diamond Envelope.