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20 Short and Impactful Years: Word on the Street — July 21st thru July 25th

July 25th, 2014 5 COMMENTS


Back in 1994, specifically in July 1994, I was working the 11 p.m. – 7 a.m. shift throwing overnight freight at a grocery store in Lake Oswego, Oregon. A co-worker/friend of mine had been telling me about this other job working for his dad’s business. One day, seeing that I was growing weary of the job, he asked if I was interested in coming to talk to his father about an opening. I jumped at the opportunity, if for no other reason than I wanted to see the light of day rather than sleep through it.

After a quick meeting with Lowell Nickens, the founder of Classic Exhibits, I accepted his job offer. July 8, 1994 was my start date at Classic Exhibits.

So this month is my 20th anniversary with Classic. 20 years still seems to boggle my mind, so I had to go back and think about what was going on in 1994.

Classic Exhibits_1In 1994, the Sony Playstation (first edition) was released. Netscape released the first real consumer web browser, the Mosiac 0.9., which allowed us to begin surfing the web at turtle-like speeds. The TV show Friends first aired in 1994. The long awaited Chunnel in Europe was opened, and Pearl Jam released their much acclaimed 3rd studio release album Vitalogy (one of their finest).

Thinking about that really makes me feel old. And I suppose I have aged a bit. But more than anything, it has given me the opportunity to reflect on my professional experience at Classic Exhibits. One that I am very grateful for and one that could not have happened if my now brother-in-law hadn’t introduced me to my now father in-law (Lowell Nickens), and he in turn gave me an opportunity to see the light of day.

Life is Truly an Interesting Thing

And I am a person who believes that our lives, in large part, follow a pre-written script. One that is filled with choices, but choices that ultimately lead us down a given path. And this “opportunity” that I was given some 20 years ago is directly responsible for darn near every GREAT thing that has happened to me since.

You see, my friend Eric led me to this job. In doing so, he and I became closer friends. Which led to me meeting his sister. Who is now my beautiful wife. And she in turn gave me two amazing children. Which makes me go back and think . . . Had I not listened to his offer to meet his father in the first place, I likely would not have ever been blessed with my wife and my children.

And this job has afforded me the opportunity to meet some of my best friends and mentors. Ironically, just this morning I was speaking to Rob Cohen from Display Supply and Lighting, someone I consider a great friend in life and business. In that conversation, I happened to share with him the names of some people that I consider to be more than work friends in our industry. And it made me think once again that without this job, I would never have had the opportunity to benefit from their guidance and friendship.

SKU1In the many congratulations I’ve received, people have made comments about how Classic Exhibits has really grown and flourish in part to my contributions. And while I appreciate that, my response has been simple. A good friend once said to me, “The key to building a successful business is to work with as many friends as you can.” And he was/is right. I look around each day at the shop or at any of our other offices and I see people who I genuinely enjoy working side-by-side with each day. People who I appreciate knowing and knowing their families and their life stories.

I Can’t Imagine Anything Else

The idea of coming to a place every day where I just punch a time clock and work beside people who I have no interest in knowing or who have no interest in knowing me seems like Hell on Earth.

So, to our family here at Classic Exhibits, Exhibits Northwest, Classic Rental Solutions, ClassicMODUL, Eco-Systems Sustainable and to all our vendor partners, I want to thank you for giving me a place, filled with great people, to come to each and every day. One that feels like family and allows me to work with people who I am proud to call friends.

Specifically, I want to thank Lowell Nickens (my father-in-law) for giving me an opportunity 20 years ago. And for showing/teaching me so many of the foundational “ism’s” that I have been able to apply in my work and personal life over the past 20 years.

And lastly to Mel White. Thanks for embracing the “Odd-Couple” nature of our partnership. I am pretty sure we have Oscar and Felix beat in many ways my friend. And I appreciate them all as well as your friendship and partnership.

Well, how is that for a sappy Word on the Street?  🙂

Off to vacation I go. I hope you all have a great finish to your July. And I look forward to working with you the remainder of 2014.



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5 Responses to “20 Short and Impactful Years: Word on the Street — July 21st thru July 25th”

  1. Tony Ricci says:

    So true Kevin! Work can be rewarding!

  2. Mel says:

    Kevin —

    20 years? Now I understand why you seem so much older than me.

    Thanks for making the past nine years working together a joy and an adventure. We’ve accomplished a lot, with the blessing and talent of a terrific team who make us look like stars.

    There’s much more ahead. In the words of Timbuk3, “The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades.”


  3. Jim says:

    Congratulations Kevin! And well said.

    I too want to thank Lowell for starting this business, and for giving us all the opportunity to work together, and to do what we love to do. And you’re right, it’s all about the people we work with that makes it a true pleasure to go to work each day.

    No doubt, you and Mel are a true “odd couple”, but the people that know the two of you understand why it works so well. You recognize the unique skill set that you each offer, and let each other excel at what you do best. And most importantly, you share the same vision for the company. (And might I say, balance each other out a bit.)

    I’ve worked with you over your full twenty years (indirectly for your first 10 and a half, and directly the past 9 and a half), and I’ve sincerely enjoyed every minute of it. And it’s amazing to look back and see Classic’s development and growth over those two decades. Well done.

    Here’s to twenty more great years!


  4. Susan C says:

    Well said and well done Kevin.

  5. Congrats, Kevin – Twenty years of doing anything these days is a major milestone! But you’re right … it’s all about the people, and that’s also what I love about working with Classic. You guys are obviously a family and you treat your clients and partners as such too. Thanks for all you do, and I look forward to seeing you at SKU next month!

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