Brede Exposition Services: Over a century of service to the tradeshow industry.
Though he surely had big dreams when he founded his rubber stamp company in Minneapolis in 1898, Martin Brede could hardly have imagined the future that would unfold—or the role his company would play in creating an industry.
For 110 years—through World Wars, the Great Depression and seismic cultural shifts—Brede has thrived through innovation, inspiration and a willingness to step outside its boundaries to help a customer in need.
It was just such a step that found Brede expanding his stamp business to include sign-making when a customer needed signs for a show at the local armory. "Tradeshows at that time were simple events, showcasing basic wares from pots and pans to coffee grinders, allowing local merchants to stock up on the latest products," says Bill Casey III, President of Brede.
By the 1920s, the armory shows were growing in sophistication. Exhibitors at the 1921 Radio Show requested tables and chairs to make their exhibits more inviting. Bill Brede, Martin's son, who had joined the company in 1916 and was now its general manager, rented furniture from his home—wicker chairs, Persian rugs, even his dining room table—to these exhibitors. As the idea caught on, Brede began building a stock of such items to rent at other events.
By 1925, convention contracting services as we know them had become a central part of the Brede business. That year, the company took on its first national account—the Interstate Post Graduate Medical Association—and became one of the first companies to specialize in decorating events from coast to coast. The company's services expanded to include booths, signage, furniture and carpentry.
In the 1930s, Bill Brede began to question whether hardwall booths were really the most economical way to build a show. Always the innovator, he soon created the system of "pipe and drape," an innovation that earned him a posthumous Convention Leadership Council "Hall of Leaders" award.
By the 1940s, World War II had drastically changed the business landscape of America. Gas was rationed. Many manufacturers converted their operations to produce war-related goods. Conventions and tradeshows became few and far between. The Brede business survived by once again displaying its willingness to embrace innovation and opportunity. The company began producing tents for the Army and refurbishing cars. "Consumers weren't able to buy new cars during the war," explains Casey. "But refinishing older cars gave them a new look and feel."
Through the '50s and '60s, Brede's event business continued to grow and a separate registration division was added in the early '60s. In 1969 Bill Brede made yet another industry innovation still in use today; he introduced the first clear plastic registration badge holder at the 1969 National Spa and Pool Institute Show.
Also in the '60s, Brede began to subcontract some of its work in New England to Casey & Hayes Inc., a well-established trucking company in Boston that also produced tradeshows. This began a 30-year working relationship between the Brede and Casey families.
Casey & Hayes Inc., which had been founded in 1925, was growing as well. In 1976 Casey & Hayes Inc. purchased Exhibit Aids Inc., a well-known exposition contractor in Washington, DC. In 1988 the Casey family became partners in Allied Convention Services Inc. in Orlando, FL.
In 1990, as the Casey family was looking to expand farther West, the Brede family made the decision to sell its business. "It was logical to sell to another family with a similar philosophy that also believed in long-term customer and employee relationships," says Casey. "Since that time, the Caseys have never seriously considered selling, and are dedicated to continuing to grow Brede in the future."
The companies were then united under the well-respected Brede name. The Caseys continued their expansion West with the opening of a full-service facility in Denver in 1992 and another in Phoenix in 1998.
Brede Exposition Services has maintained its family-oriented atmosphere with many second- and third-generation employees, which contributes to the sense of pride that shows in all Brede events.
Today, Brede has six full-service operations with 400 full-time and over 4,000 part-time employees. With its century-old commitment to excellent customer service, show organizers and exhibitors alike enjoy the Brede Total Support System, an integrated approach that can assist with planning any tradeshow or corporate event. "Unlike other major competitors who send only a sales executive and sometimes an account executive on most national traveling shows, Brede continues to send a complete team of people, including lead operations professionals and customer service representatives," says Casey. "It's part of Brede's commitment to excellence."
As for the next century? "Our future vision is to continue to grow the company in a sustained, steady manner," says Casey. "Our emphasis is where it's always been—on sustaining long-term relationships with our clients and our employees."
Brede history as seen in the 2008 June/July issue of Expo Magazine.
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