Great manufacturing companies grow from the community. And having exceptional products designed and made right down the street does more than create jobs—it boosts local innovation, environmental responsibility, quality of life and pride. That, in a nutshell, is the idea behind Heath Ceramics, a manufacturer of artisan pottery that’s been part of the Bay Area since 1948.
When owners Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey, who bought the Sausalito-based business in 2003, wanted to open a facility in San Francisco big enough to have design, factory and showroom facilities under one roof, they thought local banks would be natural partners. With the help of New Resource client SFMade, a nonprofit that supports San Francisco’s manufacturing sector, they had identified a great space in the heart of the Mission. Petravic began approaching local banks.
New Resource takes a collaborative approach
“I couldn’t tell the difference between so-called community banks and regular banks,” Petravic says. A partnership was never on the table, just a spreadsheet. And although Heath Ceramics was a stable and profitable business, the banks offered to lend Petravic only as much money as he could currently pay back—“which is absurd,” Petravic says. “Why would I borrow money I don't need?”
After frustrating meetings with five other banks, Petravic was introduced to New Resource. “For the first time, a bank was interested in helping our business grow. They visited the Sausalito factory, saw how we make things and talked to our employees. Together we drafted a loan agreement that worked for both parties,” says Petravic. Heath Ceramics soon had a $250,000 line of credit and a $2 million term loan to finance the company’s expansion into San Francisco.
This get-to-know-your-clients approach is central to New Resource’s business philosophy. “We are a relationship bank,” says Gary Groff, vice president and relationship manager. “Because we take time to understand an organization’s needs and market, we assess risk differently. Yes, financial viability is a given, but the work we do up front allows us to factor in intangibles like community impact and the integrity of the people involved.”
A vibrant addition to the city
Heath Ceramics’ San Francisco facility opened its doors in early 2012. At 30,000 square feet, it employs 28 people and includes a warehouse, a showroom, a gallery space, a viewing court, a Blue Bottle Coffee café and a tile factory that starts production in the fall. And that’s just the beginning. The plan is to grow into more of the building’s 60,000 square feet, adding new jobs and boosting the local economy. It’s growth that New Resource looks forward to supporting.
Photo courtesy Heath Ceramics.