Despite growing up around the family business, Meredith didn't feel drawn to it early in her career. With an honors degree from Tufts University, she then completed her degree from Boston University School of Law. She passed the bar exam and went on to prove her competency in the courtroom, successfully completing several trials.

Still, something didn't feel right. In the late 1970s, Meredith's call to action came during a conversation with her father. As the two vetted possibilities for the company succession plan, Meredith realized she was in the wrong place.

"Ultimately, I had a love for the family business and an inexplicable pull to join it," she says.

Her father, fueled with excitement that the business would stay in the family, set his sights on expansion. From 1979 to 1982, he purchased four businesses throughout Connecticut. With its current building bursting at the seams, Eastern Bag rented space and began conversations to move the warehouse.

However, he found out in '82 that he had inoperable cancer, and those negotiations were suspended. He died a year later at the age of 59.

Gerry's death not only rocked the company, but the industry. Because of his leadership within Network and visibility throughout the region, people questioned the company's ability to survive without his leadership — particularly when they learned that Louise would take his place with support from Meredith.

"We received a lot pressure to sell," says Meredith. "Not to mention the rumors — I had just had a child and people said we'd be selling the business, because I couldn't handle both roles."

Meredith and her mother were undeterred, committed to not only fulfilling Gerry's vision, but further expanding the company's presence throughout the region. With unwavering support from their management team and invaluable guidance from Sugarman, then vice president, the two demonstrated their vision, hustle and determination — the same qualities exhibited by Meredith's grandfather and his brothers so many years ago.

"My father had many aphorisms, and one was that you need to maintain 'focal vision' if you want to be successful," says Meredith. "This means staying mindful of your goal and minimizing the distractions (which may be disturbing and hurtful)."

Meredith says that being a female leader in a male-dominated industry has required this skill. While not often, she has experienced pushback because of her gender. Focal vision requires that she works around this.

"I always tried to look for strategies where I could accomplish my objective without letting my ego take charge," she says. "With several extremely qualified males on our leadership team, we're able to work collaboratively and be evenly persistent to achieve the goal."

Under Louise's leadership, Eastern Bag focused on the janitorial side of the business. She also led the acquisition of City Supply and Paper in 1985, which gave Eastern Bag and Paper a statewide presence in Connecticut.

A year later, she identified a new site where Eastern Bag could consolidate the four locations, opening its current 166,000-square-foot headquarter location in Milford, Connecticut, in 1988. Shortly thereafter, Louise passed away following a year-long battle with cancer.

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