April 3, 2017
Product Design & Innovation Award

F&M quadruples sales with new storage container

F&M has taken a simple storage container and grown its revenue by providing new colors, styles and a mobile application.

If you're on an organizing binge this spring and you walk into a big box store for supplies, you might not realize that one of your main choices for plastic totes and cabinets, Bella Storage Solution, comes from an unassuming company located right in Leominster: F&M Tool and Plastics Inc.

The company started in 1974 as a tooling company and moved into lines of plastic goods. Yet, it wasn't until 2008 that it launched Bella Storage Solution, which is now the company's main line.

Since then, despite the Great Recession, the company's quadrupled its sales revenues, although the company declined to give specifics. Partly, that's thanks to F&M's work rolling out innovative products in various colors.

"We want to be the solution," Mark Gasbarro, the company's owner and president said. "Because of this, we are always striving to innovate and create whatever our customers may be needing."

Christopher Watson, senior vice president for commercial lending at UniBank, who's been F&M's commercial banker for almost a decade, said Gasbarro has succeed in a very competitive market.

"He's continually fighting against Rubbermaid and Sterilite, and he's more than holding his own," Watson said. "It's weird he's been kind of under the radar."

Growing in Leominster

F&M spent $5.15 million this year on a 227,422-square-foot production facility in Leominster, near its headquarters. The company has other facilities in Tennessee, California and Michigan.

Watson said Gasbarro's success has been a product of his engagement with customers. By talking with women who buy the Bella Storage Solution products, he learned that they wanted new color options beyond the ugly green and blue once standard for totes, as well as more comfortable handles.

The product line now includes a variety of transparent locking chests with 360-degree wheels, bright colored utility baskets, and sturdy storage units.

The storage app

Just last year, F&M launched the "Bella" mobile app, which lets customers scan their totes to create a complete record of what they have stored where.

"We saw that there was a high demand and need for a simple, easy-to-use method to get organized from our customers," Gasbarro said. "We wanted to provide a free way for our customers with a solution for those needs in the most efficient and convenient way."

To Watson, F&M's success demonstrates Gasbarro's innovation in a market with little room for improvement.

"It's simple things, and people love them," he said.

Read about the other 2017 Manufacturing Excellence Award winners

Manufacturing Excellence Award, small company

Manufacturing Excellence Award, midsize company

Manufacturing Excellence Award, large company

Green Manufacturing Award

Workforce Development & Productivity Award

Collaboration in Manufacturing Award

Emerging Manufacturer Award


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