By Ann Luongo

Anyone who’s from New England knows that sports are huge in these parts. Every sport, from basketball to soccer and everything in between, is taught, practiced and played on a daily basis. On the South Shore, youth, town, and school sports dominate, and all those teams need to be clothed, equipped and geared up for every game. That’s where Rockland Athletic Supplies comes in.

A family-owned and operated business that started in 1984, Rockland Athletic Supplies has become synonymous with sports gear and supplies. And, in addition to sports supplies, RAS also offers screen printing, embroidery, heat press, tackle twill and other promotional products – everything your team or business, large or small, needs.

“My father, John Medlin Jr., opened Rockland Athletic Supplies on Union Street in Rockland,” said John Medlin III, who owns RAS along with his father. “We started printing for youth sports, high school sports and even some colleges. Since then, we have grown tremendously.”

According to Medlin, RAS stands apart from its competitors because they can do everything in-house. They can accommodate rush orders and offer great pricing at the same time. “We haven’t had to do much advertising, with word of mouth being the best way to gain new business,” he said. “We treat every customer the same and walk them through the process from start to finish, ending with a great product and a happy customer.”

While the company still has many sports and school clients RAS has already began to expand its reach in efforts to grow. Some of their biggest clients, Medlin said, currently include Boston Harbor Cruises, National Lumber, Brewster Ambulance, South Shore Hospital and many other organizations. And while the company name alludes to sports, he wants people to know they do so much more.

In its 1984 infancy, Medlin’s father first employed his grandfather, John Medlin Sr., to help operate the fledgling business. “I remember coming in and spending the day working with my grandfather in the engraving department when I was little,” said Medlin. “He would let me sit on his lap and engrave trophies. Now, we still have the engraving machine that he used, but in an engraving department with much more up-to-date equipment.”

RAS currently employs over 30 people, he said, and moved in 1994 to a larger location, still on Union Street. “People are always shocked when we take them on a tour of the building as it is much larger than the front of the building gives away,” said Medlin. “We have our display room when you first walk in. We have an engraving department, embroidery department, heat-press department, graphic design department, and our offices. The whole second floor is dedicated to screen printing. We have eight presses going at all times up there. I started to get involved part-time in high school and then part-time when I was in college. After college, I started full-time and have since become an owner along with my father.”

As a thriving small business, RAS is constantly giving back to the community that helped get it to where it is today. Medlin serves as the co-chair of the Rockland Chamber of Commerce, and his company is always sponsoring different events around town and the South Shore.

“One big thing that we are really proud of is being a member of the Presidents’ Circle at South Shore Hospital,” he said. “This is something to which we donate monthly, and the money is used for equipment, or towards projects to make the hospital even stronger than it already is. A recent example is the recently-built new ICU. Because of the businesses that are members of the Presidents’ Circle, this project was possible. It is a pretty special thing to be a part of and we are very proud to support the hospital and its patients and the amazing nurses and doctors that take care of us all.

Medlin is fortunate to have a close, supportive family around him. “I could go on for 50 pages about my family. We are very, very close,” he said. “We recently lost my grandfather and the days prior and following really showed what a strong, close, and loving family we have. Family is everything and we are lucky because we are able to get together often throughout the year. My parents, John Jr. and Linda, had my sister, Jamie Lynn and me. Jamie Lynn just recently got engaged to a great man, Brandon, and I couldn’t be happier,” he said.

“I am very happily married to my amazing wife, Courtney, and have three children – Gracie, John IV, and Jackson. We are an outdoors family and love going up north for family trips. My wife and I went out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming (and were inspired to name our son after this special place), for our honeymoon and we have been wanting to go back ever since. We love hiking, camping, and traveling in general. Anything outdoors makes us happy.”

RAS is currently located on Union Street and could be expanding in the near future, Medlin said. “We are looking to open up an additional production site. My goal for RAS is to grow the business. I look at the employees here as part of my family. I want the best for RAS and I want the best for them. The more we grow, the more they can grow, and the more we can do for the community.”