• Thursday, February 21, 2019 11:58 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Ed Johnson, MAS, who served as PPAI® board chair in 1995 and was previously a regional vice president at Geiger, passed away on February 15 after a long illness. He was 77.

    “Ed was the chairman of the PPAI board who hired me as president in late 1995,” says Steve Slagle, CAE, past president and CEO of PPAI. “In fact, Ed called to offer me the job following a weekend of interviews with the search committee. During my first year as president in 1996, Ed finished his board tenure as immediate past chair and I got a firsthand view of Ed’s leadership style. I recall that Ed was so easily approachable, and I found that I liked him immediately. Ed was a gentleman, very generous and gracious, and truly interested in what was happening in others’ lives.”

    Johnson joined the U.S. Army after high school and served in Vietnam. After his time in the military, he went to college on the GI Bill and earned a degree in industrial design from the University of Illinois-Chicago. He began his career in the industry as a graphic designer working with promotional products companies in the Chicago area. In 1973 he moved to Seattle, Washington, and joined distributor Walter W. Cribbins Company in a sales role. He rose within sales management and in 1987 purchased the San Francisco division of the company from Carl Rosenfeld. He later sold the Walter W. Cribbins Company to Geiger where he and his wife remained active. Johnson became a regional vice president at Geiger and oversaw its in-house education program until his retirement, then he continued on with Geiger in a sales capacity.

    “Ed was one of the great characters—of great character—that I’ve come across in my work life,” says Gene Geiger, MAS+, co-owner and CEO of Geiger. “His interests and accomplishments were as varied as a Renaissance man. He had sensibility of an artist and the grit of a fighter. He helped elevate our industry and all those he worked with. And when I think of him, I am so appreciative I was able to know and enjoy him.”

    A longtime industry volunteer, Johnson was elected to the PPAI board of directors in 1991, when the organization was operating as Specialty Advertising Association International. During his term, he was instrumental in the Association’s name change to Promotional Products Association International.

    “Ed was a great friend both as a distributor customer and as a colleague on the board,” says Barry Chase, CAS, former PPAI board chair. “But above all he was a visionary who knew the future would be better than the past if we would only look ahead, not backwards, in our lives and careers.”

    Prior to serving on the board of directors, Johnson also served on the PPAI Technology, Terminology & Standards Task Force, Leadership Advisory Committee, Membership Services Committee, Strategic Planning Committee and as a PPAI Ambassador. A tireless supporter of education, in 1980 Johnson and his employees donated $10,000 to the Association in Rosenfeld’s name as a birthday gift for its industry education certification program.

    Slagle adds, “Ed was a very effective leader, in his quiet and typically reserved manner, because those around him had such respect for his integrity and his experience. Ed exhibited love, loyalty and dedication to the promotional products industry, which was only surpassed by his love and affection for his lovely wife Tanya and his daughters. Among Ed’s amazing gifts were his infectious sense of humor, his wry smile and twinkling eyes, and his willingness to have fun. Ed’s leadership by example, his professionalism and his respect for his colleagues will be sorely missed by all those who knew him. He truly was one of the really good guys.”

    Outside of the industry, Johnson’s passion was restoring vintage automobiles. He installed a grease pit in his garage and spent countless hours rebuilding cars. In addition, he built the first pickleball court on Bainbridge Island and hosted many competitive pickleball tournaments.

    “Ed was my friend and mentor,” says Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, iPROMOTEu’s director of affiliate marketing. “I had spent a few times at his home with him and his wife Tanya. I loved Ed’s calm disposition and his willingness to always share. Ed was kind enough to write the forward in my first book, I will cherish that, always remembering what an amazing guy he was. I remember sitting with him and prejudging Geiger’s Pyramid entries several years back. We had such a good time. I remember being at his home, walking through his amazing garage, looking at his amazing antique car collection, pickleball tournaments and having a glass of wine, eating wood-planked grilled salmon overlooking Puget Sound and the great conversations that would just blend into the night.”

    Johnson is survived by his wife Tanya, his five children—Ericka Frink, Paula Burke, Carla Johnson, Grant Johnson and Laura Yu—eight grandchildren and one great granddaughter, and his brother Bill and family.

    No services are scheduled for Johnson at this time, but the family is planning to celebrate his life with an event near his home in the spring or summer. For anyone wanting to make a contribution in his memory, the family requests donations to Holt International, the adoption agency through which his daughter Carla joined the family and an organization he supported. Holt International, 250 Country Club Road, Eugene, Oregon 97401,

  • Tuesday, February 12, 2019 7:46 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    This past week, ASB held a 5K Run/Walk to raise money for the local United Way while hosting their national sales conference in conjunction with the ASI Show Fort Worth. Over 130 individuals donated and nearly 100 participated in walking or running the race on Monday, February 3rd. In addition, 13 suppliers stepped up as event sponsors to donate product and monetary contribution. These suppliers include: SanMar, Dubow Textile, BamBams, Spector & Co., Raining Rose, Catania Medallic Specialty, Showdown Displays, Logo Mats, OTTO International and Evans Manufacturing.

    “We’re incredibly grateful for this opportunity to give back to our host city,” said Dana Zezzo, ASB’s VP of Marketing, Vendor Relations & Events. “We set off with the intention to raise awareness and hopefully get 20 or 30 people to participate – we had no idea it would blow up like it did! We have some of the most passionate associates and vendor partners and are looking forward to exploring even more ways to give back to our communities.”
  • Tuesday, February 12, 2019 7:31 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    HALO Branded Solutions (PPAI 106462) has hired Heather Bridges as the company’s new chief financial officer. Bridges will succeed Linda Janczkowski who announced her intention in July to reduce her role with the Sterling, Illinois, distributor. Bridges will report to Marc Simon, CEO of HALO.

    Bridges’ career in finance and strategic planning at major consumer product companies includes 18 years at S.C. Johnson, where she most recently led the finance function and served on the executive committee for North America.

    “HALO is well positioned for continued profitable growth,” says Bridges. “The positive culture and complete focus on creating opportunities for key stakeholders drew me to the opportunity. I look forward to contributing additional leadership and expertise.”

    Simon adds, “Heather was the obvious choice after a very thorough search. She will be an exceptional addition to our leadership team. Her success in managing organizations of tremendous scale through acquisitions and ERP conversions and the development of sophisticated financial planning and analysis teams will add tremendous value to HALO. I could not be more excited to welcome Heather to HALO.”

  • Monday, February 04, 2019 9:13 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Pennsylvania-based Polyconcept has appointed Neil Ringel as its new CEO replacing Gene Colleran, the company has announced. Ringel will take over full group responsibilities for the firm including PCNA and PF Concept.
    “We appreciate Gene’s many contributions to Polyconcept and wish him the very best,” said Josh Klevens, managing director at PE firm Charlesbank Capital Partners, which has Polyconcept among its portfolio companies. “We’re delighted to welcome Neil to the company and are confident that his impressive experience and leadership track record will allow Polyconcept to continue its positive momentum while finding new and better ways to serve its customers and forge an even stronger future.”
    Ringel has more than 20 years of experience at Staples, where he held various executive roles with responsibility over the salesforce, digitization and M&A activity, as well as oversight for the Staples Promotional Products (asi/120601) business. As president of Staples’ North American delivery business, he helped grow the company’s B2B division into a $10 billion enterprise supporting more than 1.5 million customers. Most recently, Ringel headed the company’s Corporate Development activities, where he was charged with executing and integrating multiple strategic acquisitions.
    “Polyconcept is a market leader known for its innovation, global capabilities and strong customer service,” said Ringel. “I’m proud to join this talented, passionate management team and look forward to leveraging my experience to help the company strengthen its position as a market leader.”
    Added David Nicholson, president of PCNA: “We’re excited to welcome Neil to the Polyconcept family. His leadership and experience – both within the B2B domain and our market – will be an asset to the company. We’re looking forward to working with Neil to build upon Polyconcept’s terrific foundation and to enhance our value to our distributor partners.”
    In its most recent listing, Counselor ranked PCNA as the third largest supplier in the industry, with reported annual North American promotional products sales of $606.3 million. Follow and Counselor PromoGram for more details on this developing story.

  • Saturday, February 02, 2019 10:02 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF), the industry's nonprofit founded to recognize and encourage scholastic excellence and academic performance among promotional products industry employees and their college-aged children, will award $230,000 in college scholarships in 2019. Since 1989, PPEF has awarded a total of $1,942,000 in college scholarships to 1,113 students.

    In 2019, the $230,000 in scholarships will fund 34 recipients' renewal payments on scholarships awarded in previous years and 117 new scholarships. PPEF will present 10 Four-Year College Scholarships, two Chairman's Scholarships, 104 One-Year College Scholarships including the Named Scholarships and one Friends of PPMN Scholarship. Awards are determined through a competitive application process with the recipients being announced at the end of May each year. The deadline to apply is March 15 at midnight PT. Application links and more information can be found here.
  • Friday, February 01, 2019 8:26 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    A record-breaking deep freeze has gripped the upper Midwest for the past two days shutting down schools, halting UPS, FedEx and USPS deliveries, closing some businesses and keeping most people indoors.

    HALO Branded Solutions closed six of its offices across Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin on Wednesday because of the dangerous weather conditions but resumed normal operations at noon today.

    Supplier Howard Miller’s Michigan plant was also closed Wednesday for the safety of its employees, along with supplier Raining Rose, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which has since reopened, but a number of promotional products companies across the region remained open, operating with fewer employees and with some employees working from home.

    At supplier ADG Promotional Products in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, some of the company’s marketing and salespeople worked from home but the customer service team was in the office all day. President Bill Mahre, CAS, says the biggest challenge has been that schools and daycare facilities have been closed for the past three days. He says folks in the region are hardy and capable of handling adverse conditions, but this week’s temperatures were exceptional. Still, he closed the office every day by 4 pm so his employees could make it home before dark.

    When Jodie Schillinger, CAS, executive vice president at supplier Maple Ridge Farms in Mosinee, Wisconsin, woke up at 5 am the thermostat read -27 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, she says the bitter temperatures have not affected their employees or customers’ orders, even though shipping carriers have experienced a few delays in some deliveries.

    “Ironically, over the past two days, we gave all employees the opportunity to rideshare or call leadership teams for a ride, bring child/pet to work or simply stay home. We only had one employee who did not make it to work. We love to believe that it is pure passion for our amazing Maple Ridge Farms culture (and our fun industry) that brings people to work safely each day. We are fortunate to have such an amazing team,” she says. Company owner and founder Tom Riordan adds, “We are rugged, tough Wisconsinites and never let a little winter weather bother us. Please continue to send orders!”

    Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS+, CEO of distributor Competitive Edge in Stevensville, Michigan, reports employees are working in the office and from home as they choose using a cloud-based system that allows them to do all CRM sales and customer service functions remotely. “Aside from being miserably cold today, we had a very good sales day and business continued as usual,” she says. She also brought in pizza and soup this week, so team members didn’t have to brave the cold for lunch and allowed them to wear jeans or whatever else they needed to stay warm. “Customers don’t stop in on days like today … or tomorrow.”

    FedEx’s website says it’s closely monitoring the winter storm and has contingency plans in place to ensure safety and to minimize the storm’s effects on service. The site recommended checking with local offices regarding service delays. For today, UPS is reporting no service because of severe road conditions to cities across some areas of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and New York, and limited service to cities in those states, as well as in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Likewise, USPS mail service has been suspended to dozens of ZIP Code locations in the region.

    David Glenn, president of supplier CoasterStone in Carmel, Indiana, says the temps there got down to -37 degrees but the company has been open for business as usual, although FedEx was not operating in his area. “So, I loaded up my car and took the packages to the terminal. Our customers have events and we need to do what we can to get their items to them. We cranked up the heat in the warehouse and brought in a heater to get the warehouse to 68 degrees, keeping things toasty. For lunch, we brought in soup and salad to warm up and keep everyone from having to go out in the cold.”

    Dan McIlroy, CAS, president of distributor ProAdSpec, Inc. in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, is glad he moved his office home nearly two years ago, so his commute is up a couple of flights of stairs and he says he has no reason to go out. “The whole state is essentially shut down so appointments and meetings for the past three days are being re-scheduled,” he says. “Fortunately for me, I have clients across the country, so business has not stopped.”

    For other promotional products professionals, the show must go on—literally. Michael Reisbaum, director of national accounts for supplier New Jersey-based Blue Generation, braved the dangerous temperatures to fly into Chicago this week for his planned visit with clients, to work a trade show and then drive to Wisconsin for more appointments. Despite driving 163 brutal miles on a snowy and treacherous highway, he says he arrived safely, had excellent meetings with his customers and was expecting a great trade show today—even though its opening was delayed. “When it comes to challenges on the road, weather related or otherwise, toughen up, buttercup, and just do the job,” he says. “Respect your clients, respect your company and respect yourself. Be a professional and do what you promise to do.”

    Still, everyone in the region is holding their breath for Friday’s forecasted high in Chicago of 21 degrees.

  • Thursday, January 31, 2019 8:25 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    This week, delegations from the U.S. and China are meeting in Washington, D.C. to continue negotiations on the trade dispute between the two countries. The talks come only one month out from the deadline when U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products are set to increase from 10 percent to 25 percent.

    Chinese Vice Premier Liu and 30 Chinese trade officials began negotiations with U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and others on Wednesday. The U.S. has identified over 140 items it wants China to change in relation to trade policies and practices. The Chinese Vice Premier has been tasked with conveying China's willingness to reform its economy to meet U.S. demands. Although the Chinese Vice Premier is reportedly prepared to offer significant concessions during this round of negotiations, trade experts have expressed little expectation of a major breakthrough resulting from the talks. So far, neither the USTR office or White House have released updates on how negotiations went on Wednesday.

    Negotiations continue today with Liu set to meet with President Trump. The president tweeted this morning, “China’s top trade negotiators are in the U.S. meeting with our representatives. Meetings are going well with good intent and spirit on both sides. China does not want an increase in tariffs and feels they will do much better if they make a deal. They are correct…China’s representatives and I are trying to do a complete deal, leaving nothing unresolved on the table. All of the many problems are being discussed and will be hopefully resolved. Tariffs on China increase to 25% on March 1st, so all working hard to complete by that date!”

  • Wednesday, January 30, 2019 1:16 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Top 40 distributor Brown & Bigelow (asi/148500) has announced the purchase of Washington, D.C.-based Specialties Inc. (asi/331340). Financial terms and valuations of the deal, made public this afternoon, were not disclosed.

    “We’re very excited to have an organization the caliber of Specialties, Inc. join the Brown & Bigelow family,” said Bill Smith, president and CEO of B&B, in a statement. “We look forward to continuing their excellent reputation and service to their clients.”

    Founded in 1984 by Joel Kaplan, Specialties, Inc. will maintain its “order processing and supplier relationships” in its D.C. and Rockville, MD, offices, the companies said. “It’s been a wonderful run for me in this industry, but it was time for me to sell my business and to partner with a national distributor to support our next stage of growth,” added Kaplan. “We chose Brown & Bigelow because their unique business model allows us to maintain our identity and to support our sales executives and customers locally.”

    In its latest listing, Counselor ranked Minnesota-based Brown & Bigelow as the 30th largest distributor in the market, with estimated 2017 North American promotional products sales of $57 million.
  • Tuesday, January 29, 2019 12:42 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The Dollars4Disasters Step Challenge raised awareness and funds for PPAI’s Promotional Products Disaster Relief Fund (PPDRF) at The PPAI Expo. This was a first-time event organized by Jeff Solomon, MAS, publisher of; Dana Zezzo, vice president of marketing and vendor relations at American Solutions for Business; and Dana Geiger, PPAI regional relations manager. Dollars4Disasters raised close to $2,000 for the cause.

    David Hawes, MAS+, Geiger, and Dan Livengood, CAS, of 2020 Brand Solutions challenged each other to help raise money on behalf of UMAPP for PPDRF. Livengood and Hawes raised $500 with their step challenge. Paul Kiewiet, MAS, executive director of the Michigan Promotional Professionals Association (MiPPA) also donated his speaking engagement fee to any regional association that raised $500.

    Megan Zezzo, S&S Activewear; Brian Stidham, EMT; and Laura Brewer, Ariel Premium Supply, provided products supporting the event and PromoCorner created the logo.

    The Promotional Products Disaster Recovery Foundation has been set up to help promotional products industry members and nonmembers get back to business in the wake of a federally-declared natural disaster. The fund can help replace lost equipment and supplies—computers, cell phones, office supplies, promotional products catalogs and samples—provide a work area or give other assistance as needed to get a business up and running as soon as possible. Learn more about PPDRF here.

  • Monday, January 28, 2019 12:41 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    HALO Branded Solutions (PPAI 106462) has hired Rick Goddard as the Sterling, Illinois-based distributor’s chief information officer. Goddard will succeed Dale Moir who last year announced his intention to reduce his role at HALO. He will report to Adam Weisman, HALO chief operating officer.

    “HALO is committed to driving the growth of the business with the most advanced technology available delivered by the most qualified people possible,” Goddard says. “I am excited to support the vision the company has for continued growth.”

    Goddard brings more than 15 years of experience in key technology leadership roles in a variety of high-growth companies to the role. He most recently served as director of technology services for Liberty Technology Advisors where he advised and assisted Fortune 1000 clients.

    Weisman adds, “I am very excited to have Rick join us with his strong leadership skills and track record of developing technology teams to bring high value solutions to our clients, customers, employees and investors. We are also thankful for Dale’s 18 years of service leading our IT area, and his willingness to stay on to effect the most successful transition to Rick in this very important area of the company.”

Promotional Products Association Southwest (PPAS) is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization.

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