By Keith Eddings
LAWRENCE — Nina Gaffny’s grandfather emigrated from Italy and then opened a bakery on Union Street at the height of the city’s industrial might in 1915, and for decades delivered bread and cakes by horse and carriage.
Many of the red brick mills that made Lawrence great by producing textiles for the world have gone condo. Gaffny’s grandfather, Orazio Fisichelli, died in 1978. There are few if any working horses left in Lawrence.
But the Fisichelli Pastry Shop has endured through three generations at the site beside Lawrence General Hospital where it opened 98 years ago, demonstrating a devotion to what is now the state’s poorest city that will be recognized in an ad campaign Eastern Bank will be broadcasting through the summer.
The ad will debut during the broadcast of the Red Sox-Yankees game Friday at 7 p.m. on NESN and will air 90 times through August, said Andrew Ravens, a spokesman for the bank.
It portrays a city of thriving families and small business owners and their hard-at-work employees, an alternative view of a city that even local councilmen concede has an image problem.
The ad hints at the hardscrabble image of the city that began evolving when the mills began closing after World War II, fed by media accounts such as the one that appeared in Boston magazine last year titled, “Lawrence, MA: City of the Damned.” Backed by a fast-paced and upbeat soundtrack, a voice-over says Eastern Bank’s decision to open a branch on Essex Street in 2011 grew from “an unwavering belief that sometimes the best business opportunities are found where others have looked away.”
“Our view is more productive than just continuing to harp on all the things that people have perceived about Lawrence over the years,” said Bob Rivers, the bank’s president. “That doesn’t get us anywhere.”
The ad opens with rolling images of some of the city’s iconic structures — the Duck Bridge, the Ayer Mill clocktower, the Prospect Hill water tower — and then shifts its focus to people and their workplaces, including Shaun Donohoe, a baker for the Fisichelli Pastry Shop for 27 years. Donohoe provides a goofy wrap-up to the advertisement when he pulls a tray of cherry-topped cookies from a brick oven and places two over his eyes.
“I grew up there, at that location,” Gaffny, 48, said of the family bakery. “It was once a thriving city. I used to see all the mill workers with their lunch boxes going to work. Lawrence hasn’t lost its foundation. It’s still a great city. It’s kind of nice to see the commercial taking place in Lawrence.”
El Taller Cafe, which opened at 275 Essex St. last spring, also gets a cameo in the ad. The cafe and bookshop is owned by Mary and Antonio Guerrero and managed by their gangly 23-year-old son, Eric. The family also own Cafe Azteca a few blocks away on Common Street.
“It shows Lawrence is working hard,” Eric Guerrero said after the lunchtime rush yesterday, when he made sandwiches while presiding over a dozen or so teenagers and 20-somethings working on computers at the counter or socializing at tables. “It shows Lawrence in a positive light, rather than negative, which happens all the time.”
Rivers, the Eastern Bank president, said the bank opened a branch at 486 Essex St. and then decided to feature Lawrence in the ad campaign because the city “fits into our mission,” which he said is to serve under-served communities. He said the bank was the first to open in downtown Lawrence in 23 years.
“When we entered two years ago, a lot of people asked, ‘What’s the catch? Why not the western suburbs?’” Rivers said. “The reason is that those communities already had service. They have banks on every corner.”
Mayor William Lantigua and Patrick Blanchette, the city’s economic development director, did not return phone calls seeking comment on the Eastern Bank ad.