CKS’ Arvanites shines in latest role

Sept. 13, 2022
Corporate Operations Manager Chaz Arvanites has found success at the Atlanta-based company, which believes in extending a Second Chance to people.

By Karen Hanna 

From a bicoastal scheme to hustle scam diamonds to chasing his dreams in the entertainment industry, 41-year-old Chaz Arvanites has lived a life that’s a series of second acts. 

The latest iteration — as a man who hit rock bottom and bounced back to help others — might be his best.  

“People go off what you do, not what you’ve done, so, really, it’s about where you’re at, not so much feeding into a stereotype of what people think you should be,” said Arvanites, a corporate operations manager for blow molder CKS Packaging Inc., where he found refuge at a time when he’d lost everything. 

He — like the company that employs him — revels in second chances. 

Of the 3,000 or so people that CKS employs, at least 10 percent have spent time behind bars. Arvanites is one of them — a fact that helps motivate him to visit encampments of the unhoused with arms full of food, and to volunteer for CKS’ charity, Maximum Impact Love 

About seven years ago, Arvanites was a client of SafeHouse, an Atlanta-based outreach that connects people in need with resources like food and shelter. It was through the organization that he landed an interview with CKS. 

“I was literally just looking for a job to be able to get on my feet,” he said.  

CKS’ offer was an entry-level position.  

Arvanites took it.   

“And then also CKS and SafeHouse [were] able to find me housing and an apartment,” said Arvanites, who in August was celebrating the culmination of a long journey.  

Once a client of SafeHouse, he’s been named to the board.  

“This was a pretty big, kind of like a full-circle, moment,” Arvanites said. 

Overcoming the past 

Arvanites uses a car analogy to explain his life’s philosophy now: A car has a huge windshield, but small mirrors — a reminder that, no matter what’s behind you, it’s the future that should grab your attention. 

Over the last six years, he’s worked his way up from third-shift machine operator to the manager of a corporate warehouse he set up to choreograph the shipment of spare parts from CKS’ hub in Atlanta to 26 facilities nationwide. He also oversees an on-site machine shop. 

“I started making a digital file system to basically track what assets that we have, that we’re taking in from overseas. And essentially started building up a file and inventory system digitally in hard file, so that when something got sent out from our tool or parts warehouse at the time, then I could track the asset, and then I could take in the receiver and get it paid out through accounting,” he said. “So, basically, if we have a machine down anywhere in the country, I can get that screw, barrel, up to a whole entire machine, to the plant within 24 hours.” 

Previously, downtimes could drag into months, as plants waited on shipments from suppliers overseas. 

In addition to setting up the parts warehouse, Arvanites also has been instrumental in setting up new machines and planning the layouts of plants. 

But the road to his current success was hardly straight. 

More than 20 years ago, Arvanites was a promising college kid, with a middle-class family and recommendation from a mayor in a town near where he lived in Rhode Island. He had scholarships to attend a prestigious art school, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and an interest in rocks that would soon get him in trouble. 

A industrial design student, Arvanites knew that diamond-testing involves a beam of light, which, when aimed at diamonds, produces a unique single refraction. But, as Arvanites discovered, a diamond’s refraction can be tricky to distinguish from moissanites. 

With a partner taking possession of moissanite stones on the West Coast, Arvanites began passing off fakes.  

“I was selling them throughout the Northeast to diamond brokers. I was selling them loose,” he said. 

He quickly got in over his head. 

“One of the places found out and they wanted a whole bunch of money back that I didn’t have, so, I robbed this jewelry store with a fake gun to try to get their money back, and it didn’t work,” Arvanites said, “And I got arrested and got charged with armed robbery." 

He spent two years in prison. 

With a felony on his record, Arvanites said he faced some adversity to returning to the workforce. But his second act was exciting, as he spent some of his 30s cooking up food for the sets of a couple movies filmed in the Atlanta area. 

But that success proved fleeting, too. 

“In between films, I had basically decided to try to take my shot at being like a producer in the music industry with an independent label. I ended up spending a pretty decent amount of time with people I guess, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have really been around and ended up going through all my savings and 401(k),” he said. 

By the time he found SafeHouse and CKS, he had nothing. 

Looking ahead

Speaking from his office at CKS, Arvanites described helping others who have followed the sort of circuitous paths he’s traveled.  

Three weeks earlier, he had hired a man who had just been released after 10 years in prison — “I’m working with him, as far as him getting back on his feet, and I bought him a wallet the other day, just stuff that people need and things that have helped me along the way,” Arvanites said.  

A father of three kids, Arvanites still caters food and creates art — but mostly for a cause. The grandson of a Greek man, he serves up Mediterranean dishes to the homeless, and he’ll have mixed-media and oil-paint pieces for benefactors to bid on at an upcoming gala for SafeHouse.  

He said he thanks God every day for giving him a second chance, and is always looking for more ways to improve. 

If he can turn his life around, he thinks others can, as well. 

“Whatever feelings you may be feeling about catching up, you’re not in competition with anybody. ... God loves and appreciates you, and there are people that love and appreciate you,” said Arvanites , who offered encouragement to those who are struggling. 

“Take it one day at a time,” he said.  

Karen Hanna, senior staff reporter

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About the Author

Karen Hanna | Senior Staff Reporter

Senior Staff Reporter Karen Hanna covers injection molding, molds and tooling, processors, workforce and other topics, and writes features including In Other Words and Problem Solved for Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Plastics Recycling and The Journal of Blow Molding. She has more than 15 years of experience in daily and magazine journalism.