Home > Products > Back to the Future at Optima and the Randy Smith

Back to the Future at Optima and the Randy Smith


Blogger PhotoWhen Gary Camarato asked me to write an Optima Graphics “celebrity” blog, I snickered pretty loud. Two reasons:

  1. I am as far from a celebrity as I am a supermodel
  2. I had just been in St. Louis for a wedding of a former Optima employee (Kelly Barton), which allowed me to spend a day with my old friends and co-workers at Optima.
If you are scoring this at home, a bit of history may be in order since you may not know that I once worked for Optima. After 13 years at Armstrong Displays in the thriving metropolis of Newaygo, MI, I went to work for Jim Hoffmann and Optima in 2000. I didn’t actually leave my Michigan hometown, but I started traveling for Optima as an outside sales person. I had a great time there and learned so much from the Hoffmanns. After almost eight years, I went to work for Classic Exhibits but have remained close to the fine folks at Optima. Jim Hoffmann is still like a second father to me. Dave Brown is as close as a brother.
On with the story . . . During my trip to St. Louis, I knew that Optima had stayed true to the things that made them successful over the years so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at their facility.
When I left in December 2007, fabric printing was in full swing. Re-skinning overhead structures from various manufacturers was becoming an important part of Optima’s business. But honestly, I HAD NO IDEA!!
Aviator Overhead Structures have taken over Optima Graphics like crab grass did my yard. The amount, the size, and the complexity is simply amazing. When I was at Optima, a back area of the upstairs was empty shy of a few file cabinets along the back wall. It is now occupied with circles, squares, triangles, and other geometric shapes that I should have learned 34 years ago in geometry class.
Every week I hear stories about successful Classic and Optima projects (as an outsider rep. I’m unaware of every single job), and it continues to amaze me at the compliments.

For example:

“Our customer couldn’t decide on the overhead structure till 5 days before the show opened. Classic bent the metal and Optima got the graphics done in time to make it happen.”

Or “We ran out of time and the exhibit had to ship from Portland to the show and the graphic shipped from St. Louis and it all came off perfectly.”

It makes me proud to be involved with both organizations. It is amazing how easy it is to grow a business when you think of the customer first. It is not a difficult concept, but it sure gets overlooked quite often.

Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic

The Randy
On another note, let’s remember the good folks at the Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic in Atlanta on Oct. 10. This is an annual event to raise money for industry folks who suffered severe tragedies or face insurmountable medical expenses. It is without a doubt the single best event in the industry each year. Last year, Optima had a recipient and this year Classic Exhibits has one. Twelve total this year (the largest ever). All the golf spots are full, but sponsorship dollars and donations are always appreciated especially as the needs of the industry increase. You can find information at www.rsmgc.com and read about previous recipients as well as sponsorships and donations.

I will be playing in an 8-some this year with my good friends Kevin Carty, Cindi Cody, Billy (Chips) Glasser, Optima’s own Dave Brown, Jim Shelman, Bruce Willett, and the proverbial “Player to be Named Later.” In lieu of all the laughter during the day, as the evening concludes, there will be very few dry eyes in the place at the recipient presentation. It’s not very often a grizzled old man like me be brought to tears, but I go into this knowing I will never make it through it.

Well, that is all for now. Happy Exhibiting!

Reid Sherwood
Eastern Regional Manager
Classic Exhibits Inc.

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. 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.

Categories: Products
  1. October 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Thanks for a great post Reid!

  2. Troy
    October 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I’m thrilled to see that Reid submitted his high school yearbook picture for use with this delightful article!

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