Joe Baerlein picked the day of the first game at Fenway Park to announce the “opening day” for his new communications firm, Baerlein & Partners.
Baerlein unveiled a star-studded lineup, even though his team members aren’t as famous as Dustin Pedroia or Chris Sale.
Baerlein broke away from his longtime partners Larry Rasky and Ann Carter earlier this year. As a result, Rasky changed the name of their former PR and public affairs firm Rasky Baerlein to Rasky Partners. (Carter also left to start her own venture.)
Baerlein’s new team members aren’t his employees, or partners in the strict legal sense this time. Rather, they represent a roster of subject-matter experts who can be called on in a moment’s notice to help meet a client’s particular needs.
The crew includes Jonathan Karush, president of digital tech firm Liberty Concepts; Eran Lobel, chief executive of Element Productions; media planners/buyers Rosemary Petta and Susan Ryan; opinion polling expert John Marttila; and security guru Ed Davis, Boston’s former police commissioner.
Baerlein has worked with most of these folks for years, some of them at his side in hard-fought ballot initiative battles. His new firm is based in Element Productions’ office on Stuart Street.
The goal of this collaboration: to make available senior-level, highly skilled professionals to clients.
The “virtual agency,” as Baerlein calls it, will specialize in crisis and reputational management along with strategic planning for policy advocacy and ballot campaigns.
“It’s senior-level people working consistently on a client’s project,” Baerlein said. “I’ve got very experienced people in their trade. . . . It’s in some ways putting the band together in an organized fashion for work that we collectively all want to pursue.”
Hill Holliday loses TJX
When one door closes in the advertising world, another one often opens.
Hill Holliday CEO Karen Kaplan would know. Her Boston-based agency’s Trilia media planning and buying arm just lost TJX Cos. as a client.
The Framingham retail giant, the parent of Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, opted instead to hire WPP’s Mindshare agency to do its media work, ending a 26-year relationship between Hill Holliday and TJX. The loss follows John Hancock’s recent parting of the ways with Hill Holliday after three decades as its main creative agency.
TJX issued a statement saying that the media industry has changed significantly in recent years, and the retailer hired Mindshare so it could ensure its discount chains can keep up with those changes.
Hill Holliday, meanwhile, was a gracious loser, describing TJX as an amazing client, adding that the agency is proud that “we always got an unfair share of the customers’ attention and engagement” on behalf of TJX.
But Kaplan also had good news to share with her team: New Jersey-based Party City just hired her firm as its lead creative agency, to replace incumbent agency Zimmerman.
No word on whether Kaplan shopped at one of her new client’s local stores for the celebration.
Helping Syrian students
One of the countless tragedies of Syria’s civil war is its damage to the country’s educational system.
Many young Syrians are unable to go to school because their school buildings have been destroyed, their teachers killed, and students forced to flee to other countries.
Books Not Bombs is trying to improve that terrible situation.
An initiative of the Illinois-based Karam Foundation, whose mission is “to build a better future for Syria,” it’s urging US colleges and universities to offer scholarships to Syrian students.
So far, four have signed on: Barnard College, Columbia University, Michigan State University, and the University of Southern California.
Petitions are circulating to encourage others to do the same, including in Massachusetts. Among them: Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis, Bridgewater State, Clark, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, MIT, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and the Fletcher School at Tufts.
A similar campaign is underway by the Institute of International Education’s Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis.
“A huge number of young people are displaced out of the country, and they’re out of the school, so they’re not developing the skills they’ll need to be leaders in rebuilding Syria,” said Books Not Bombs campus coordinator Chris Records. “This is one tangible thing we can do.”
The rise of ultra-fast pizza
It might seem odd that a former executive at the fitness chain Equinox is now the chief executive of a Boston-based company that sells, of all unhealthy things, pizza.
Patrik Hellstrand is just that.
The 40-year-old runs Oath Craft Pizza, a five-store chain planning to launch between eight and 12 new shops this year with $9 million in dough from venture capital investors like Boston-based Breakaway Ventures , which also funded online retailer Rue La La . Real estate investor New England Development is a coinvestor in the pizza chain.
Oath offers a thin, avocado oil-infused pizza crust that is prepared and flash frozen in its Pittsfield, N.H., commissary. Delivered to its shops, the crust can then be loaded with toppings, cooked, and ready to eat in 90 seconds.
Ultra-fast pizza is a competitive business, with chains like California-based Blaze Pizza, which has several Boston-area locations, offering a pizza with a 180-second cook time.
Hellstrand said Oath is different.
“We’re trying to play in the broader food space, like Sweetgreen, where people obsess about beautiful, great food,” he said.
Sadly, however, the calories are “not materially different than any other pizza,” he said.