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One piece of the puzzle

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PUZZLE BOX: D.L. Hurd holds up one of many puzzles ready for shipment in the distribution center. Hurd has worked for SunsOut Inc. for a year and a half and since working at the distribution center, he said his interest in jigsaw puzzles has definitely increased. He said on a cold evening sitting inside and working on a puzzle is a good stress reliever.
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OVERSTOCK:Seth Acord, who does Inventory Control at the local distribution center, lifts a pallet of boxes in overstock on Wednesday morning.
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ROWS OF BOXES:D.L. Hurd explains the system of the distribution center.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

SunsOut Inc. sends out millions of jigsaw puzzles to places all around the world out of thousands of distribution centers, including one in Marion.

The distribution center was located in Kokomo for 11 years before needing a bigger space and making the move to Marion in July 2018. Manager D.L. Hurd was born and raised in Marion, so when the facility was trying to make a move to a bigger location, he did some networking and found the building in Marion on Park Avenue.

Hurd said the move more than doubled their square footage as they went from a facility that was 43,000 square feet to one that is 100,000 square feet – a space that was a bit too big at first but that they are continuing to grow into. The center now employs 12 people, a mix of Kokomo and Marion residents.

With more than 2,000 designs to choose from, SunsOut Inc. is the world’s largest distributor of jigsaw puzzles, Hurd said. The closest competitor to the company has 490 designs, according to Hurd.

Being centrally located in the Midwest helps with the logistics of distribution, Hurd said, so Marion has been a successful location for the company.

“We believe in our community and love this community,” Hurd said. “And we want to be able to plant roots and dig deep and see what we can make of it here.”

Though the Marion center doesn’t stamp out the puzzles onsite it is close to one of the company’s die-cut locations in Tipton.

Despite being located in Marion for nearly a year, the distribution center has been a bit of a hidden gem, Hurd said. Several people have visited the center to take a tour, he added, and are amazed at the number of puzzles waiting in rows of boxes.

One of these tours led to a local partnership with Carey Services, an organization that provides services for people with disabilities in Grant County.

Tim Kendrick, employment services manager at Carey Services, said he met Hurd on a tour of the facility. Since Carey Services works to help individuals with disabilities identify their interests and skills to ultimately find work in the community, Hurd suggested bringing some of their clients out to the SunsOut center.

There, they work alongside SunsOut employees packing boxes or filling glue bottles, for example.

Kendrick said this evaluates if the individual has an interest in pursuing a similar job while also building self-esteem and confidence. Although the SunsOut facility is currently fully staffed and unable to hire the individuals, Kendrick said giving them the opportunity to try a warehouse job out before pursuing one elsewhere is very crucial.

Having the facility in Marion is a plus, as it’s a great company Kendrick said.

While they ship puzzles out nationally and internationally, SunsOut does not sell puzzles to big box stores, Hurd said. Instead the company chooses to focus on mom-and-pop stores in an effort to support local businesses. Individual customers can also order the puzzles from a catalog or online.

Aside from puzzles, SunsOut has sold other items like adult coloring books and is now selling felt roll-up mats. These can be spread out on a table and individuals can work on a puzzle on top of the mat. If they need to move the puzzle or take a break from solving, they can roll it up in the mat and preserve the work that’s been done, Hurd said. 

The facility is looking to expand and continue diversifying their products as well, he said.