Gils Appliance founders Gil and Sarah Almeida 60 years ago. Today, their daughters, NEAG members Lisa Sienkiewicz and Gail Parella, have taken the reins.
The BrandSource affiliate thrives amid six decades of change.
By Andy Kriege, YSN
In October of 1963, JFK was president, the last Studebaker rolled off the assembly line, The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was number one on the charts and the New England Appliance Group (NEAG), BrandSource’s Massachusetts-based affiliate, was founded. While most of these historical milestones are but distant memories, NEAG continues to grow, thrive and live its motto, “Our success is delivering yours.”
Looking Back: The Humble Beginnings
The concept of a group of dealers joining forces to collectively flex their buying power muscle was a bit novel six decades ago. The original charter for NEAG (then called NEAEG, with the extra “E” for electronics), was drafted in 1963 and included just eight members. These founders began their collective warehousing operation in a rented building in Fall River, Mass. They grew so quickly that they soon needed additional space and moved to a large building in Franklin, Mass., that once housed the Prince Spaghetti factory.
By 1969 the group swelled to 17 members and space was once again an issue. They then purchased a 32,000-square-foot warehouse in Franklin that would give them breathing room for the next 15 years.
In 1984 NEAG moved to its current headquarters facility, also in Franklin. The group’s first warehouse at this location was 120,000 square feet, and would be expanded three times over the next 40 years. Today the space has burgeoned into a 300,000-square-foot, state of the art distribution center that also houses the group’s office space and onsite training facility.
Looking Forward: Eye on the Future
NEAG continues to grow to meet the merchandising, technology, marketing and training needs of its diverse and ever-expanding membership, and always keeps an eye open to potential expansion opportunities. “Financially, logistically and leadership-wise, we are positioned incredibly strong,” said COO Brian Bowen. “By staying on the cutting edge of technology, we will continue to stay ahead of the competition for decades.”
Bowen gave props to a member of the Executive Committee that now benefits from “not only the experience of [NEAG president] Arthur Redding but also Jeff Allaire and Jessica Burzycki, two of the best and brightest young minds in the business.”
Redding, owner of Hudson Appliance, succeeded Steve Moran, who served for 22 years and guided the group through remarkable growth and many milestones. The leadership transition was smooth, as the two men had worked side by side for decades. (Redding has served on the NEAG board for 27 years and has been a member since the early 1980s.)
The newest president credits his affiliation with NEAG for his business’s success and longevity. “There is no question I would not be in business today had I not joined,” he said. “The group allows us to not have to warehouse our own inventory and procure it at better prices.”
Making NEAG the success it is takes a talented and dedicated team. Serving in the critical role of executive director of merchandising is Rob Balzano, while his colleague Kara Morgan holds the equally integral position of director of marketing/member services.
“The entire group watches out for one another,” Balzano said, in explaining NEAG’s longevity. “There have been many threats to our existence, yet we are still standing, stronger than ever, because we all know that if we support each other we will continue to grow and prosper.”
The group’s very structure is another secret to its success. “We will always be viable because we are not for profit, and we can deliver from point A to point B at a better cost than anyone,” he said. “Therefore we can provide products at a better price than anyone else; it’s that simple.”
Morgan too has seen a lot of changes in her 22 years at NEAG. “We were still using the old Tele-Key entry system when I started,” she said. “I saw the Internet come in and take us all to a whole new place. Our mission has always been to keep members on the cutting edge of technology.”
Like Balzano, Morgan also cited the family factor as a key component that binds the group together. “While it is a business, we are first and foremost a close-knit community of friends,” she said. “I get emotional thinking about how close I have gotten to so many people over the years.”
It goes without saying the members are the glue that have held the organization together for 60 years. Gary Doyon’s store, Doyon’s TV & Appliance, has been a member since his father joined in 1978. “The group has been a lifeline to our business,” he said. “Without it, none of us are here. It was the best decision my dad ever made.”
Michael Fortin of Fortin’s Appliance has been a member for 25 years. “The group has been extremely helpful in merchandising our floor,” he said. “Both Kara and Rob really do have a knack for helping us come up with the right mix. The group has had a tremendous impact on the growth of our business, and has been a fantastic partner over the years. They are indeed our extended family.”
Another key to the group’s success is its ability to deliver the goods, and NEAG’s nearly 40-year partnership with Danny Tibbits, owner of Stafford Motor Transport, is foundational. Despite seemingly insurmountable roadblocks over the years, Tibbits and his truck fleet have prevailed.
“We have seen it all,” he said, “including a five-day power outage when we had to take our forklift batteries to the New Hampshire border to charge them up, a cyber-attack in 2019 and countless snowstorms.” And while the pandemic remains the toughest stretch his team has ever experienced, “Through it all we never missed a beat,” he said.
Now, “We are the final mile and are an extension of the group,” Tibbits said. “I’m proud to have been a part of it for 40 of the group’s 60 years.”
YSN publisher AVB BrandSource is the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.