By Paul Lonardo
“Made in America is a declaration that few businesses today can claim,” says Richard Beaupre, the founder and CEO of ChemArt in Lincoln. “But it’s something that all of us here are very proud to say, I can tell you that.”
ChemArt has been designing and manufacturing custom decorative and commercial ornaments and collectibles right here in northern Rhode Island since 1976. As the only fully vertically integrated photochemical etcher in the country, ChemArt touches on all aspects of development from design, tooling, etching, plating, screening, finishing, assembly, packaging, and distribution under one roof. Besides ornamental keepsakes, their product line includes items ranging from lapel pins to cuff links, money clips to paperclips. The items are made of solid brass and can be completed in a variety of finishes.
As a young research chemist in the early 1970’s working in California for DynaChem Corporation, Beaupre is credited with developing a revolutionary dry film photo resist that was environmentally friendly, eliminating the need for chlorinated solvents and making the photo-etch production process more efficient and consistent.
“I started out at DynaChem working on photo resists,” Beaupre says. “Photo resists refers to a liquid film that goes on metal and takes an image. That’s the basics of it, with the image developing as the acid etches through the metal.”
After two years on the West Coast, at the behest of his wife, who never got accustomed to living in the California, Beaupre requested that the company transfer him to a facility they operated back in Rhode Island. Not long after returning home, however, DynaChem was sold to another company, which decided to close the East Providence facility. Suddenly out of a job, a former colleague and friend, Dr. Harry Crowe, approached him about a little operation he had going in Cranston and asked Beaupre if he was interested in helping out once in a while just to keep busy.
“It was more of a hobby for my friend,” Beaupre says. “But something was telling me that I should make my participation full-time. Maybe that was my wife, who did not want to go back to California. In any case, I saw an opportunity.”
When Beaupre informed his friend that he wanted to quit his job and work together, his friend told him he didn’t want anything to do with it himself, but that if Beaupre wanted he could buy the company and all the equipment at its net worth. So for a modest $1,400 investment by Beaupre, ChemArt was born.
Beaupre initially moved the operation to an abandoned ice cream factory in East Providence. The company grew rapidly, however, and soon needed more space, so Beaupre designed and built the facility in Lincoln where ChemArt has been located since 1980, having expanded further over the years.
“Looking back four decades on how this company evolved is very humbling,” Beaupre says. “It started out with just me, my wife and an artist. At the time we were only making jewelry findings. We weren’t making Christmas ornaments. Today, we employ hundreds of people.”
When the jewelry industry started leaving Rhode Island, Beaupre saw his business evolve dramatically when several customers came to him and commissioned ChemArt to make Christmas ornaments.
“That changed everything,” Beaupre says. “That has become our niche. And it has been a blessing.”
Beaupre graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry in 1962, after serving 2 years of active duty with the Navy in the mid-fifties.
This past September, a beautiful, new $68 million, 135,000-square-foot building named after him opened on the campus of URI. The Richard E. Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences Center replaced Pastore Hall, which Beaupre frequented when he was a student there.
ChemArt continues to grow because of its success in three avenues of development: decorative business, industrial, and retail.
The ChemArt Collection is the face of the retail side of the business. These highly complex collectible ornaments are a showcase for ChemArt’s design and manufacturing expertise. According to Beaupre, the retail segment brings many challenges and opportunities to the company.
“Conversely,” Beaupre says, “the retail challenges provide a platform for the continued growth of ChemArt’s decorative business division. We work with various health, education, military groups and governmental agencies to create unique custom keepsakes that are used to raise funds, increase awareness, generate revenue, commemorate a special event and engage donors and volunteers.”
The visibility of ChemArt in the market place is greatly enhanced by the distribution of the White House Historical Association ornament collection, which ChemArt has been manufacturing since 1981.
There is also ChemTec, a division of ChemArt, which is the industrial side of the business, serving the photochemical machining industry. Using specialty metals and precision etching, products are created to meet the tolerances and specifications of industrial and commercial clients alike.
It is amazing to see the full range of what ChemArt creates and distributes from their plant in Lincoln, and to see the massive workforce that provides a wide range of jobs.
For more information about this year’s White House Ornament or ChemArt’s other lines of decorative keepsakes and collectibles visit http://www.chemart.com/