Home > 6 Questions > The 6 Questions with Kevin Carty

The 6 Questions with Kevin Carty


AuthorA clever friend of mine, we’ll call him Harold Mintz, just to use a name, once hipped me to a trick. Harold explained that whenever he is at a party and the conversation is slow he loosens things up with a question. “What did you go to school for and what are you doing now.” Everybody has a story – Brilliant!

Piggybacking on big H’s idea, I’m running a new blog series titled The 6 Questions. I have some of the icons of our industry, folks you all know, lined up and ready to reveal the how, why and whatever. Our tradeshow industry is packed full of some of the most interesting people. They each have a unique story to share.

I first asked Kevin Carty of Classic Exhibits The 6 Questions 

1. Tradeshow industry lore is that we all just fell into tradeshow and once you’re in you never leave. For many people that is certainly true. For others, they leave but a part of them remains.  How did you get into the business?

KC – I took the age old “break from college” back east to come home for a term. While at home, I took a job working overnight freight for a local grocer in Portland. Working 11pm to 7am every day…and then day shifts on the weekend. One of the guys I met during my weekend day shifts told me about this company his father had…and that they were hiring. Well, immediately I like the prospects of only working Monday-Friday. DURING THE DAY 🙂 So I went and interview with Lowell Nickens, The founder of Classic Exhibits.

That day I interviewed; Lowell graciously offered me a job in the shop building folding fabric panel systems. I thankfully took it!

And who inspired you to grow into your Tradeshow career?

KC – Two people really. Lowell Nickens first and foremost. Early on in my time at Classic, Lowell offered to have me start working in Customer Service. I am not sure if it was due to my poor panel building prowess…or that I just had a knack for Customer Service. But I jumped at the opportunity. From there, Lowell always encouraged me to build relationships with people over the phone…which soon led to me going out face to face and meeting with our Distributors. All along the way, Lowell opened new doors for me within the business and encouraged/welcomed me into becoming more of a face for the company.

The other was Jim Hoffmann. Jim taught me from the first time we met to make friends and build relationships. Stressing all along the way that working with friends was infinitely better than the alternative. Which is very very true.
Later as I grew into my current role at Classic and even now when I do see him once or twice a year, I can always count on Jim for a word of what I call “obvious” business advice.

2. What would you be if you were not in Tradeshow?
KC – Well, my passion…and schooling was always geared towards the Film Industry. On the production side, I loved being a part of creating a PSA, documentary or commercial video. During my school time I was able to work with and on projects with some great people…had I opted to go back to NY and not stay at Classic. I am pretty sure I would have continued in that pursuit.

3. Without considering the customers you visit, focusing only on the location, what is your favorite city to hang out in for business travel and why?

KC – Easy. New York City. I love the city. I lived there for a short while during College. There just is nothing better to me than such a small ALIVE space that has everything right at your finger tips…yet has one of the most peaceful, serene places like Central Park smack dab in the middle of all the chaos.

4. What experience do you recall as a nightmare when it happened but can sit back and laugh about it now?

KC – So, I was in Philly about 10 years ago. And I was taking clients out for a traditional Italian Dinner. So I asked around and a local told me there was no greater…more authentic place in all of Philly for Italian than Ralph’s.

So we hopped in a couple cabs and away we went. True to form, we arrive and walk in to be greeted by an Old Italian lady, whom I think was The Mom. She sat us at our table and we went on to enjoy one of the best meals I have ever had…accompanied by several bottles of Chianti. When the bill came – on a hand written piece of paper – I handed her my Credit Card. She replied “Honey, this a Cash Only establishment”
I replied “Oh, OK no problem ma’am – point me in the right direction to the closest ATM and I will go down the street and get some cash”.  She looked me up and down, chuckled a little and said “Honey, you would not make a block in the neighborhood alive”…. GULP!

So she takes me by the hand and walks me thru the kitchen, down a dark hallway to a dark stairway headed up. We walked up the stairway, which had a black velvet curtain at the top, which she opened into a rather dark smoky room. Immediately in front of me was a small Bar with a bartender. As I looked left, wanting to know why I was hearing the subtle sound of Poker Chips, I saw two tables of Men, all with cigars in mouth and all none to happy to see me by the expressions on their faces. Then “Mom” grabbed me by the cheeks and pulled me close to say “there is nothing for you to see in there Honey!” She forcibly turned me to the right of the bar where there was a private cash machine of all things. So I took out my cash and she escorted me back down to pay the bill.

5. Do you have any hobbies? How does your hobby influence your industry work and vice versa?

KC – My greatest hobbies now really revolve solely around my kids and my family life with my wife. We do everything together. Coach their sports, hang on the weekends etc. etc.…so we more less have family hobbies.
My hope is that the family here at Classic helps to influence that. We are a tight knit group that enjoys working together and being together during the workweek. We try to put a big emphasis on Happiness Call it corny but I think “Happiness is important at Home AND Work” and that is only possible with proper balance.

6. If you could send a message to yourself day one of your tradeshow career what advice would you give yourself?

KC – Simplicity in life is key. If you allow anything to get too complicated in any aspect of life…. your whole life gets complicated. Keep it Simple.

About the Guest
Kevin Carty is the Vice President at Classic Exhibits and has spent his entire career in the Trade Show Industry.

About our Author
Gary Camarato is the Vice President of Marketing & Creative Development at Optima™ and has been in the Trade Show industry since 1992.

  1. melmwhite
    July 24, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Well, thanks to this interview we now have a new nickname for Kevin at Classic Exhibits — “Simple Kevin.”

    Great interview Gary and Kevin.

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