When CEO and Chair Jonathan Isaacson and the team at Gemline were searching for a new banking relationship, understanding the business and a commitment to relationship banking were important priorities.
Gemline is an award-winning supplier of high-quality, corporate branded promotional products, headquartered in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where Gemline maintains an integrated manufacturing and distribution center. While they operate globally, they are also a proud supporter of the local community. For Isaacson and the team at Gemline, working with a bank that shares their values, cares about people, and has the financial products and resources to meet the needs of the business was essential.
Taking a Family-Owned Business Global
Sam Isaacson started a small reseller business in Saugus, Massachusetts in 1956. In the 1960s, the company started to develop its global footprint and the current model.
In 1988, Jonathan Isaacson joined the business and six years later, in 1994, with an optimistic vision of the potential of the company and the industry, he bought the business from family members. Today, the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) ranks Gemline as one of the ten largest industry suppliers, and they are one of the most awarded companies in the industry, including receiving Supplier of the Year in 2021.
The company has continued to evolve, with a focus on innovative, high-quality products sold to leading companies in the world. Gemline has a diverse product line, including bags, business gifts, stationery and writing instruments, electronics, drinkware, and gourmet foods.
Starting in the spring of 2020, as a result of the pandemic, the company leveraged its deep international supply chain, quality, and logistics capabilities to deliver over 70 million units of high-quality PPE (personal protective equipment). Keeping with their community orientation, during this time Gemline donated supplies to those in need, including hospitals, shelters, pantries, and community institutions.
Finding the Right Fit
Being a locally-based business with a global footprint drove Gemline’s decision to look for a bank that would understand the company's unique needs and challenges, and focus on personalized customer service. Two primary requirements stood out in their search: the bank had to prioritize relationship banking and have the resources to support Gemline's needs.
"For us, banking is personal," says Isaacson. "You want people who we feel understand our business. The goal was to find a bank that was small enough to be human and big enough to meet our needs. Given the nature of our business, including the global footprint, our business is complicated. We wanted a bank we knew wouldn't run out of resources for us."
As Isaacson and the Gemline team began the search for a new bank, Eastern Bank stood out as an option, and Isaacson’s personal connection to Bob Rivers, Eastern’s CEO and Chair of the Board, helped cement the decision to make the switch.
Isaacson explains, "I've known Bob for a long time. We sat on a board together and had some good conversations about why he was at Eastern and what the bank stood for. I wanted a bank where we could have conversations with bankers. Being able to talk to people directly was really important. I trusted Bob and thought Eastern's Commercial Banking and Asset-Based Lending team would understand our business. At the same time, we were trying to get away from a banking experience that felt automated. We wanted to have conversations with our relationship bankers and work with a team that understands the region and our focus."
The relationship began with Eastern providing financing to Gemline, for working capital and real estate needs. Shortly after, Eastern supported the installation of solar panels at Gemline’s headquarters in Lawrence, providing another $1 million in solar panel financing and attending the ribbon cutting ceremony where the new solar panels were unveiled with the Mayor of Lawrence and other local leaders.
Embracing Shared Values
Another point that's important to Gemline, especially with regard to banking partners, is shared values. Operating out of Lawrence, Gemline is committed to the community.
Says Isaacson, “Our engagement in the local community is partly driven by our commitment to support the people who work at the company. This is the community where many in our team live, so we feel it is critical to engage in order to make a difference. We believe our role as a major employer is about helping to create opportunity, whether contributing to local workforce development programs or supporting initiatives in education, financial literacy and healthcare.”
Eastern Bank's commitment to community support and working with businesses that contribute to greater economic opportunity in the region was another benefit to Gemline. “I thought the values of the bank in terms of focus on the community would align with ours, and Eastern would understand who we are and what we are trying to do,” adds Isaacson.
It’s why in May of 2022, when the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center recognized Isaacson with its Making A Difference Award for leadership in the Merrimack Valley during the pandemic, Eastern was proud to honor not only Isaacson and Gemline but also a community where it is actively involved in economic revitalization and development efforts. The bank, through the Eastern Bank Foundation, supported the recognition event and a number of people from Eastern Bank were among the event’s 400 attendees.
This shared focus on community, caring, and people ultimately brought Gemline and Eastern Bank together. As Gemline continues to grow and pivots to new and innovative opportunities in the market, the Eastern Bank team has the resources and knowledge to help them expand its success.
Learn more about how Eastern Bank can support your commercial banking needs. Eastern Bank has a range of asset-based lending and other solutions to help your company improve cash flow, secure working capital, and plan for the future.