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Posts Tagged ‘ClassicMODUL’

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.



Retail Displays Gallery: Word on the Street — May 19th thru May 23rd

May 23rd, 2014 COMMENTS
SuperNova LED Lightbox

SuperNova LED Lightbox

Say What?

Let me guess . . . you don’t view Classic Exhibits or ClassicMODUL as retail display builders? Quite honestly, I don’t blame you. We don’t design and build cardboard product displays. We never get orders for 1000 merchandising racks. No one comes to us for rounders or rolling clothing racks or 500 pieces of slatwall hardware.

And yet, every week we’re designing, building, or fulfilling a traditional retail order. Much of it is custom, which shouldn’t surprise you. We are an ideal source for custom retail fixtures since we excel in engineered aluminum extrusion and wood fabrication. We love these jobs because they fall into two camps:  1. Pure custom, which is both challenging and rewarding, and 2. Lots and lots of straight or curved extrusion cut to specific lengths.

Lately, there’s been an addition to the mix as retailers have “discovered” backlit fabric graphics. Silicone Edge Graphics with SuperNova LED lights are all the rage, which makes sense. Shipping large print graphics is expensive. Too often, they arrive damaged or the hardware is cumbersome to assemble and then gets tossed after one season. Aluminum SEG frames, fabric graphics, and LED lighting solves most of those challenges, if installed correctly the first time.

Did I mention tablet stands for iPads and Surface 2? No surprise. Those are very popular as well.

Show Me

Now that’s the attitude we’ve come to expect from our distributors. There’s now a Retail Display Gallery on the Classic Exhibits website that shows samples of retail projects. Sadly, we don’t get to see everything, especially if the job calls for cut extrusion. And, frankly, some clients are reluctant to share images for competitive reasons. We assume the final product is stunning since we don’t always see it unless the distributor sends us photos.

Click here for the Retail Displays Gallery. Or you can find the links in the Exhibits or Resources menu. Or in the footer on the Classic Exhibits website.

Have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend!



Happy Holidays from Your Classic Exhibits Family: Word on the Street — December 16th thru December 20th

December 21st, 2013 3 COMMENTS

A Classic Holiday Season

Is the tree up? Are the packages wrapped? Are you ready for the mayhem?

It’s the best time of the year in my humble opinion. Christmas and New Years are just around the corner. Literally! And just when you think you’re done with all your holiday shopping and you have everything prepared for the big day, you always find that you have one more thing to do or get.

Well, this year, for the first time I can remember, I am actually all done with all my holiday shopping. And it’s a great feeling . . . and this year it’s a good thing too. Because at work we are busy, busy, busy. So there is little free time.

Work-wise we always await this time of year to see what’s in store for us. It’s always feast or famine during the final two weeks. Companies either spend their remaining budgets or go quiet for a couple weeks. This year, people are spending their end-of-year budgets. So while we are hectic, we appreciate all your orders. Thanks Santa!

I hope you have lots of amazing plans in the coming days with your families and friends. I know we do. Time with family and friends, church, and functions at the twins school. Great, great fun.

From all of us at Classic Exhibits, Exhibits NW, Classic Rentals, and ClassicMODUL, we wish you a fantastic upcoming week with your families. One that is safe and filled with joy and merriment.

And as far as the business stuff goes — keep it coming. No one wants a lump of coal to ruin the Holiday Cheer.

Be well and Merry Christmas.


p.s. I am currently working on my Annual State of the Company Letter. Hope to have it completed in the next couple of weeks.


Thanks and Hang on Tight: Word on the Street — August 12th thru August 16th

August 17th, 2013 1 COMMENT
Thanks and Hang on Tight: Word on the Street -- August 12th thru August 16th

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

As write this, it’s the halfway point of August. It’s 81 degrees, partly cloudy and a tad humid. Good day all in all. Not great. But good. Sort of like the exhibit industry in mid-August.

Your Growing Trust in Classic

The first two weeks of August are always the “ramp up” for the nutty late summer and fall show season. And this year is following the same trend. But with one twist, a twist that we’ve seen growing over the past 12 months: island exhibits continue to expand as a percentage of our business. As does our appreciation of your growing trust in Classic to help you on these island projects.

That trust is something we have long worked towards with our distributors, many of whom are traditional custom builders. And for a while there (2-5 years ago), there were times when we heard questions like, “Well, what happens when Classic decides to go full blown custom and just sell direct?”

Your orders and design requests over the past year, and the design and build work slotted for this fall, have in large part stamped out those concerns. We are your builder not your competitor. It just so happens that we can build your table tops, your inlines, and your double deck islands. As our skills have evolved, in exhibits, retail, and environments, so do your choices. It’s as simple as that.

The idea behind this blog was to thank you for your continued trust and support in Classic Exhibits, Classic Rentals, and ClassicMODUL Aluminum Extrusions. We appreciate it and probably don’t say it enough!

But Thank You! Sincerely . . .  Thank You!

Now, like every year, strap on your helmets because it’s the time of year when things get crazy!

Be well and have a wonderful weekend.



A Groovy First Year Retrospective

July 9th, 2013 COMMENTS
First Year Retrospective

Lessons Learned by Jen LaBruzza

Lesson #56 – Problems Can be Opportunities in (a really bad) Disguise

Some might say “astounding.” Others may choose “astonishing.” I choose “G-R-O-O-V-Y”!

The past year has been, well, groovy. I’m imagining a few LOL moments from those who have spent time with me. This month marks my one-year anniversary with Classic Exhibits as the Western Regional Manager.

As a former teacher, I would be remiss if I didn’t pause for a little self-reflection on my first year. To those who have allowed me into your businesses and into your lives — “Thank You!” I am grateful for every conversation and every meeting. I realize that it’s not always easy meeting with a newbie.

Which brings me to the sometimes challenging part of my job:  problem solving and wheel greasing. You may recall Reid Sherwood’s timely blog post last year, What You Should Expect From a Manufacturer’s Rep. It was published just as I was heading out on my first trip and hearing a lot of, “Now what is your role with Classic Exhibits?” It was a great insight into the expectations for Regional Managers at Classic Exhibits and ClassicMODUL.

Did you lose my manuscripts?

It also brought to light a part of our job that we sometimes dread — Problem Solver. Having worn many hats over the years in this industry, this is still the one hat that drives me the most crazy. It eats up everyone’s margin on that “oh so easy” job. But without something breaking, without trouble that shakes up the normal course of things, there is no opportunity to introduce new and better solutions.

Ernest and Ezra

In the 1920’s, when Ernest Hemingway was working hard to perfect his craft, he lost a suitcase containing all his manuscripts. The devastated Hemingway couldn’t conceive of redoing his work. He could only think of the months he’d devoted to his arduous writing . . . all for nothing, he was now convinced.  But when he lamented his loss to his friend and poet, Ezra Pound, Pound called it a stroke of luck. Pound assured Hemingway that when he rewrote the stories, he would forget the weak parts and only the best material would reappear. Instead of framing the event in disappointment, Pound cast it in the light of opportunity. Hemingway did rewrite those stories, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Last year, there have been problems, ranging from “I need an extra length of cord cover for our customer’s extrusion” to the generic “This job has problems and I need you to fix them.” Recently, one of the latter took me to the show site.

The “opportunity” involved Classic stepping up to the plate and correcting some mistakes. They weren’t huge, but measuring mistakes depends on who has the ruler. The distributor requested that we send someone to the show site to assist their client. All was well until the final phase, when things were being plugged in and tested. The last SEG graphic was not going to work, not because of size but because the client was unhappy with the standard rear projection fabric. Did I mention this was on a Sunday?

I was able to call in the cavalry, a.k.a. Dave Brown from Optima Graphics who suggested an alternative fabric. He rallied his troops and got the new graphic printed and on a flight. Did I mention that the show opened on Monday at 9:30 am? For me, it meant waking up at 4:15 am to arrive at the airport at 4:30 to ensure that the graphic was installed by 7:30. This was clearly an opportunity waiting to happen and thanks to Optima, the new rear projection fabric worked perfectly.

A sure sign of a successful person or a company is how they tackle problems. Are they creative and innovative? Do they turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones. It’s often those hidden opportunities that can cement your relationship with your client and serve to make it stronger because you have weathered it together. As the saying goes, “Problems happen. It’s how you handle them that is important.”

Now go out there and focus on turning challenges into opportunities rather than into disappointments and problems. And most importantly, let me know how I can help.

Jen LaBruzza, Western Regional Manager
Classic Exhibits/ClassicMODUL


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions and engineered aluminum extrusions (ClassicMODUL). Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100.