December 21, 2014
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Keeping Creative

A look back at Keller-Crescent's rich tradition and storied success
Read the full feature in the December/January 2015 issue of Evansville Living

The name of the company recently sold, Clondalkin Group, doesn’t readily reveal the vibrant history of the printing plant begun by a steamboat captain that evolved into a legendary “Mad Men”-era advertising agency, Keller-Crescent Co.

On the occasion of the sale of Clondalkin announced in mid-November for $455 million to Essentra, a British company that makes specialty plastic, fiber, foam, and packing products for customers around the world, we visited with officials at the Dutch company that acquired Keller-Crescent in May 2007 at their offices and manufacturing plant at 1100 E. Louisiana St. We learned the narrative of this influential company in Evansville’s history is revealed in the stories of current and former employees and also stored in a room — the former multimedia sound booth of Keller-Crescent Co. where dozens of storage boxes reprise the company’s history.

The Evansville facility is one of 24 properties employing a combined 2,400 people that Essentra will acquire. This reputation and tradition, which has long been attractive to buyers, can be traced back to 1885 when Captain William H. Keller settled in Evansville and opened a small letterpress printing shop. He advertised himself as a steam book and job printer, bookbinder, and blank book manufacturer. The Keller Printing Company was founded at 24 Sycamore St.

Briefly in that decade, Keller was associated with William C. Paine, and the press became Keller & Paine. Between 1895 and 1896, the Keller Printing Company moved to 216-220 Locust St. According to the Indiana Historical Society, the company employed about 40 people and printed chiefly one-color catalogs but also foreign-language newspapers and product labels, such as the wrappers for Pretty Soap, the brand of a local soap company.

A Merged Force

In 1906, after a labor strike and a fire that damaged the company’s plant, Keller accepted an invitation to continue his business at the facilities of the Crescent Engraving & Printing Company, founded in 1899 by F.W. Cook Jr., a major Evansville businessman and owner of F.W. Cook Brewing Company. Over the summer of 1906, the owners of the two companies agreed to merge their operations.

The force behind the merger could be attributed to Emil Weil, a German Jewish immigrant, who began working for Keller Printing Company as a shipping apprentice and rose to become a traveling salesman. By 1899, he was manager of the Crescent Engraving & Printing Company. By the time of the merger, he owned interest in both companies and later became president of the Keller-Crescent Printing & Engraving Company. He died in 1917 from a heart attack.

The new company moved into the rebuilt facilities of the Keller-Crescent Printing Company at 220 Locust St. In 1920, the company reorganized. August A. Brentano, an Evansville native who had previously been an advertising business manager for the Evansville Courier, joined the company as vice president and general manager.

Ervin Weil, son of Emil, became secretary. Sam, another son of Emil, also joined the company and later helped establish production techniques and schedules still in use in the 1980s, according to the Indiana Historical Society. In 1931, the company outgrew its previous location and moved into the four-story 50,000-square-foot Bement & Seitz Building at 24-28 S.E. Riverside Drive. Alan Brentano, nephew of A.A. Brentano, later became president and CEO. He was with the company from 1932 until he retired in 1973.

The Keller Printing Company would grow and eventually merge to become Keller-Crescent Printing & Engraving Co. and moved into the four-story 50,000-square-foot Bement & Seitz Building at 24-28 S.E. Riverside Drive in 1931. The building is seen here in an October 1957 photograph by Ben Lewis.

Weathering the War

Under this new leadership, the Keller-Crescent Printing & Engraving Company applied mass production techniques to the printing business, a move that enabled it to weather the Great Depression, per the Indiana Historical Society. The company instituted shorter workweeks and staggered vacations, avoiding layoffs. It also developed a loan program for its employees and managed to make only one wage cut during the Depression, which was restored after only six months. All employees were encouraged to inspect the product at all points in the production process. The financial health of its primary customers also was crucial to the stability.

In 1941, the U.S. entered WWII, and Keller-Crescent, like so many companies, changed to government work producing rifle targets and manuals on how to shoot rifles, among other printed materials. With its men at war, KC was left with a sales staff of two.

In 1948, KC formally established an advertising agency. The plant kept two large presses running to produce labels for Igleheart flour barrels, and work for Mead Johnson and Servel, a manufacturer of gas refrigerators, increased during this time period. The creative advertising department and a small art studio were formed at this point to help its customers more fully promote their products. The company added a small advertising department in the 1930s, but in the 1950s, Keller-Crescent Company dropped the printing and engraving title and moved more fully into advertising, according to the Indiana Historical Society.

Gofer to Go-Getter

In 1957, a “part-time gofer” named Thomas K. Smythe started working at Keller Crescent for a couple hours each day after school at North High School and while attending Evansville College (now the University of Evansville).

“My first job at Keller-Crescent Company was in the sales department doing odd jobs while working after school and during summers,” says Smythe. “Little did I know that this was the start of a 50-year relationship that let me see the organization from the very bottom and from the very top. What a ride!”

At this time, Keller-Crescent was located on the corner of Riverside Drive and Locust Street. The company was the largest printing company in the region, and provided complete graphic arts services. The advertising agency was in its infancy — small in size with about 10 staffers. Alan Brentano had recruited and trained a very talented young sales team that would help lead the future marketing and advertising growth. Among that group was young Alan Graf, future Keller-Crescent president from 1972 to 1980. In the late 1950s, the company was growing and running out of space at its Riverside Drive location. A new building was constructed at its current site at 1100 E. Louisiana St. and in 1961, the company moved to the new location.

“The single story state of the art facility permitted the initial integration of the ad agency and graphics departments, and provided much-improved workflow for the printing operation,” says Smythe, who soon became a schedule expediter with his first desk in the new facility. He met the KC receptionist Greta who he later married.

In 1962, he asked to be promoted to the recently-vacated position of scheduling supervisor. He was not granted the position yet, but continued working for it. In 1964, he was promoted to scheduling supervisor.

In the face of a dying traditional letterpress business in the early 1960s, KC instituted a massive retraining program to enter the board specialty business, packaging, and point of purchase, so as to preserve old letterpress jobs and utilize skills.

“From its earliest business model, KC’s leaders always structured the company to satisfy what clients needed and wanted,” says Smythe, who resides in Newburgh, Indiana. “This very basic business philosophy helped the company prosper for over 122 years and along the way provide a broad and fulfilling range of careers for many, many KCers. The company started as an engraving and printing company but always strived to provide clients the other related services — design, graphics, copywriting, photography, etc.”

In the mid-1960s, Alan Brentano led a pioneering change to brand Keller-Crescent as a Total Marketing Communications organization with a broad range of communications services under one roof.

“It was a one-stop shopping communication center for many clients. Business was booming and the revolutionary TMC marketing concept was a huge success,” says Smythe. 

The Sale and Growth

In 1968, Alan Brentano orchestrated the sale of the company to American Standard, Inc. Keller-Crescent became a part of the Graphic Arts Group, which consisted of five other major printing companies located across the country from San Diego to Philadelphia. The group also had other printing based operations. During this period American Standard, known for its domestic and international plumbing business, become a large corporate conglomerate with holdings in real estate development, bank vaults, railway braking systems, mining equipment, office design equipment, and graphic arts and printing services.

American Standard provided much needed capital to fuel the company’s continued rapid growth, says Smythe. Keller-Crescent employees enjoyed improved employee benefits and advancement opportunities within the corporation. However, the most significant KC benefit was the new business opportunities within the American Standard Corp., says Smythe.

“We captured sizable advertising accounts including the American Standard Plumbing business, WABCO, Mosler Safe, Majestic Fireplaces to name a few,” says Smythe. “Becoming a member of a major corporation honed our ability to prepare carefully conceived long-range business plans, and practice sound financial management to help create shareholder value. It’s noteworthy to recall that American Standard fully embraced our business vision and strategy.”

Smythe was responsible for landing Keller-Crescent’s first major packaging account, Champion Laboratories in Albion, Illinois. Eventually Champion Laboratories became the company’s largest account and the first national broadcast account with television spots featuring spokesman and racecar driver Jackie Stewart.

Current Clondalkin and former Keller-Crescent employee Brad Platts recalls his car being used to help shoot the commercial with Stewart and one day looking up from his desk and seeing actor/comedian Danny Thomas standing in his doorway.

“We would just bring in these people and no one would know they would be here because it was so common,” says Platts, who is a controller and has worked at the company since October of 1971. “It was so exciting. They were always cooking up stuff because they were shooting ads for Whirlpool or Magic Chef. It was an exciting time. There was always something exciting going on whether they were going to the Kentucky Derby with clients or the Indy 500.”

In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Keller-Crescent expanded and built a three-story office building to house the advertising, marketing, and public relations staffs. It also built a state of the art sound stage and recording studio to round out its in house services. The company was creating and producing radio and TV commercials for local, regional, and network broadcasts. Evansville resident and former Vice President of Market Research and Planning Jim Weitzel worked for Keller-Crescent’s advertising agency during the peak of the company’s growth.

“We brought in a lot of creative talent to handle all of that growth,” says Weitzel, who worked at the company for 30 years. “The agency is only as good as the creative talent you’ve got — the copywriters, artists — and without them you don’t have an agency. It was an exciting time. If you’ve ever watched ‘Mad Men,’ it was exactly like that. I don’t watch it, because I lived it.”

Weitzel recalls traveling to half a dozen states, arguing with the creative minds of the company over the market research numbers, and Keller-Crescent working with golf legend Jack Nicklaus and his wife Barbara at their Florida home shooting commercials for the Magic Chef microwave oven.
“It was just go, go, go, and there was never a dull moment,” says Weitzel. “It was a lot of fun.”

In an interview for his 50th anniversary at the company, Smythe said that during this time, “we could have sold sand in the desert.” The major strides of the sales force put Smythe on the move upward as he was promoted to vice president, account supervisor in 1974. He was recognized as the first account executive to book $1 million in sales in a six-month period. His upward movement wouldn’t stop there as he quickly rose from group vice president in 1977 to executive vice president of client services in 1979.

That same year, KC was awarded its first CLIO, known as the OSCAR of advertising, for excellence in packaging design. Keller-Crescent also operated an agency office in New York City and in 1980 a full service agency shop opened in Dallas. Keller-Crescent landed national advertising accounts such as Chuckie Cheese, Tony Roma’s, and Rent-A-Center. As the growth of the company continued to climb so did Smythe’s position. By 1980, he was president of Keller-Crescent.

By the early 1980s, the company was the 38th largest advertising company in the nation with annual billings of approximately $85 million and 500 employees. It offered complete marketing and advertising services and produced more than 1 billion printed ads, mailers, and folding cartons per year, says the Indiana Historical Society.

Joan Jackson Shappard, of Newburgh, Indiana, joined Keller-Crescent Advertising as a public relations assistant in 1982 as her second job out of college. She spent 10 years with the company and left in 1992 as the senior public relations manager.

“I worked on automotive accounts primarily and it led to a lot of travel opportunities, traveling to trade shows in California and New York and all over,” says Shappard. “And one year, I practically travelled every week across the U.S. setting up dinner symposiums for Mead Johnson Laboratories. It was really fun because you never knew what you were going to deal with on a daily basis.”

Shappard recalls memories of walking into the agency’s office and seeing a real full grown tiger laying on the floor, which was there for a photo shoot, and one day when she served as a hand model in an ice cream advertisement they were shooting. Because one of the senior employees left during her time there, Shappard was awarded an opportunity and advanced her career in public relations.

“It was a time when women weren’t as advanced at companies, but Keller-Crescent was a company that allowed you those opportunities,” she says. “The head of our media department was female and many of our account executives were female. I made friendships there I still have today. It was one of those places where I really took pride in what I did. It was this huge company that didn’t feel huge. It really felt like a family. The top officers were hands on and working with us on a daily basis.”

In the fall of 1986 American Standard made the decision to divest the Graphic Arts holdings. At the time, Smythe was the vice president of Graphic Arts Group, and Keller-Crescent CEO. The president of American Standard approached him and asked him to buy Keller-Crescent, and in turn Smythe asked fellow top managers to participate in the transaction to take the company private again. The individuals included were Bob Hampel, CFO, Del Graham, executive vice president of production operations, Al Samuelson, executive vice president and creative director, Fred Kitch and Jack Cohen, both executive vice presidents of client services. A merger and acquisition expert Mark Gustafson was included in the ownership group.

“Over the next 20 plus years we were extremely successful in growing the business due in large part to the dedication and support of our talented Keller-Crescent staffers and the confidence and trust placed in us by our clients,” says Smythe. “It was an exciting and fun time for all concerned as we continued to successfully change our business model to promote continued growth and expansion.”

Decade of Change

The 1990s were what Smythe calls “the decade of change.” Computers and the introduction to digital technology changed the landscape of the industry.

“For decades we knew that commercial printing was and would continue to be a price sensitive commodity business,” says Smythe. “We made a decision to exit the commercial printing business except for literature requirements for our agency clients. Our relatively new folded carton business, including graphic and structural design, had grown at a rapid rate. Our unique marketing approach for packaging was twofold — quality and service first and foremost, and second that a carton was not a commodity but rather a form of communications — a client’s sales tool on the retail shelf. This unique positioning was a major point of difference for KC’s packaging services as compared to the huge volume driven packaging firms. The challenge was to build longterm relationships with clients who shared our vision — we did, and this niche business really took off.”

Keller-Crescent moved operations completely into producing pharmaceutical packing and labels from 1989 to 1994. In the mid-90s, Smythe says the company determined that its future rested with its ability to focus on two core businesses — pharmaceutical/healthcare packaging and creative advertising services.

“This decision proved to be highly successful and in less than a decade we became the largest independent pharma/healthcare packaging company in the country,” says Smythe. “We had the good fortune of building strategic alliances with many of the world’s largest pharma/healthcare companies. With Evansville as headquarters as well as a major packaging production facility we expanded our capabilities and capacity by opening facilities in St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Charlotte, North Carolina. We added printed labels and inserts/outserts to the pharma product mix and once again provided many clients with the ‘one-stop shopping’ concept for printed packaging components.”

Smythe had his opportunities to sell, but didn’t. He was waiting for the right one, says Platts.

“Tom Smythe is an extreme visionary,” says Platts. “He would never be looking at next month, he would be looking at where things would be in five to 10 years. He was the most senior employee when he left. He put the company up for sale and pulled it off. Prior to that, he had opportunities to sell it, but he got concerned about the employees and what may happen to them. He wasn’t just out to grease his pocket. I remember when things were really slow and him saying, ‘I can’t cut people.’ They were his family and that’s how he looked at everything.”

Keller-Crescent determined in order to serve its global pharmaceutical packaging clients in Puerto Rico and Europe, a strong business partner was needed. Keller-Crescent selected the Clondalkin Group because of its focus on the pharma/healthcare industry and its existing facilities in North America, Puerto Rico, and in Europe, says Smythe.

“Clondalkin was impressed with KC’s business model and our ability to attract quality driven pharma clients,” says Smythe.

The sale of Keller-Crescent was completed in May 2007. In the following months Clondalkin acquired additional packaging companies and consolidated the various companies under the Clondalkin banner, such as those of Pharmagraphics. Keller-Crescent transitioned from having three locations to having six with the headquarters moving to the Greensboro, North Carolina, facility.

Jim Hummer, director of operations at Clondalkin, says the acquisition then made Clondalkin more attractive for purchase as a whole.

“Overall, it was part of a larger invest in healthcare packaging,” says Hummer. “Clondalkin bought not only Keller-Crescent, but also bought three other companies and molded it into a group. We as the company had the largest U.S. presence in healthcare packaging, which in turn, is why people are interested in buying us now.”

The year 2007 also meant a milestone for Smythe, who celebrated 50 years with Keller-Crescent and retired that year. Bill Mitchell, who previously served as president of Cardinal Health Packaging Services, replaced him. Changes also would come to Keller-Crescent Advertising. Peter Weber, the advertising agency’s president, purchased the ad agency from Clondalkin. The deal closed Nov. 10, 2010. He said the agency did not fit in with the Clondalkin Group’s core business of packaging. The company took on a new name of 10 Over 12 Creative, which is a typesetting and design term that refers to the type of printed words (10-point type) and the spacing in between lines (12 points’ worth of space.) While 10 Over 12 Creative still has a presence in Evansville, its headquarters and operations have moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Looking Back

Seven years after retiring from Keller-Crescent, Smythe still recalls the spirit of the company and how it can’t be found elsewhere.

“There was a spirit about Keller-Crescent that you didn’t find anywhere else. Everyone was energized, passionate, and excited about doing one thing — helping our clients grow,” says Smythe. “A key element in our success was our extraordinary sales and marketing talent. Our account managers built strong business relationships with key clients and served as consultants in helping clients scope out business problems and opportunities so that the advertising was targeted and successful. We established sound business relationships, made lifelong friends, and loved every minute of it.”

Through our research on Keller-Crescent Co., we discovered one of the most influential companies in Evansville’s history is stored in a single room (above) — the former multimedia sound booth of Keller-Crescent, which is shut off in the building occupied by Clondalkin. The room stores old computer equipment, photographs, newspaper clippings, advertisements, and artifacts of a brilliant time in the company’s history. We would like to thank Clondalkin for allowing us to dig through these archives and use these pieces for this story. We also would like to thank all those at Keller-Crescent Co. for sharing memories and guidance. 

Comment

Perspective

I don’t believe in a couple of things and never have. The first one is “luck.” Quite simply, you make your own and the clichéd phrase, “The harder you work the luckier you get,” is nearly 100 percent spot on.

The other is “having a bad day.” Now everyone has days that don’t necessarily go their way, but that generally is a combination of attitude and perspective.

But I am certain about one thing: no one reads this column to learn “Life Lessons by Tucker.” I have yet to get a “Dear Todd … What should I do about my co-worker who is an avid Kentucky basketball fan?” But a healthy dose of perspective seems to never fail me when properly administered. Deadline stress, busy family schedules, holiday planning chaos, or almost anything can be cured with a healthy dose. I thought I might share with you how perspective can set things straight in my life, and maybe yours, as well.

As I write this letter in the office at the end of deadline, it is well into the evening and I know I will not be leaving for quite a while. I am tired. It would be easy to think that I should be home and relaxed right now. Instead, I am stuck at the office. My perspective — I just finished a Peephole cheeseburger with crinkle French fries, the Curtis Mayfield channel is playing on the Sonos stereo, and a news station is playing silently in the background. I could be working outside in the cold miserable weather that has arrived early.

Earlier this morning, I had the misfortune of walking into my 16- and 13-year-old sons’ rooms. Every two weeks, a client of ours in the house cleaning business comes into my home in full riot regalia to do battle. It will take “plenty” of tag team preparation with each of my boys just so their rooms can be cleaned. And, “My gosh … I didn’t know we had hardwood under there.” I have been known by my boys to politely point out this is not acceptable.

Perhaps the proper perspective should be that I know families whose children are hospitalized — those parents would be thrilled to see stinky basketball shoes and wet swim team gear everywhere in a messy room.

Do you have relatives who drive you insane during the holidays? Weary from the 24/7 pace of the Christmas season and all that it brings? My perspective — be thankful for all the many blessings that we have, and be appreciative as we go through life.

Anyways, that’s my perspective.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Holidays,

Todd A. Tucker
Publisher

Comment

A Piece of the Puzzle

UE vice president fundraises for university in former president’s home
Jack Barner is the vice president for development and alumni relations at the University of Evansville.

When Jack Barner crosses the University of Evansville campus, it’s the updates and renovations that stand out to him.

As the vice president for development and alumni relations, Barner’s primary responsibility is fundraising for the university — connecting with alumni and addressing the needs of the university.

“I can walk around the campus and see the impact of this office,” says Barner. “The buildings that are there, we didn’t build those, we didn’t design those, but we kind of helped make them happen. As I walk around campus I can see the scholarship money, the endowment money. It is humbling what people do.”

Barner’s office is located in the John L. and Belle Igleheart Building at UE, which was formerly the president’s home. Built in 1928, the Iglehearts donated the funds for it to be built and his office was once used as the dining room. Wallace Graves was the last president to occupy the home before a new residence was donated in 1982 by longtime Evansville developer Guthrie May and his wife Alice, both alumni of Evansville College (now UE). (Read more about the president’s home in “Among Friends” in the April/May 2012 issue of Evansville Living.)

In his nearly 13 years at UE, Barner’s office has become an extension of his home. Decorating the walls are photographs from the previous universities he has worked, moments most memorable in his career, and of his wife Pat and their blended family.

Barner earned his bachelor’s degree at Siena College in Albany, New York, and his master’s at Saint Rose, also in Albany. He worked as a high school teacher for 19 years before being hired at Saint Rose, Colgate in Hamilton, New York, Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Elon University in Elon, North Carolina, and finally being hired by former UE president Steve Jennings at Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma — who he later followed to Evansville. He has served as a vice president for three universities.

Barner’s desk was a part of a donation from OFS Brands president and CEO Hank Menke who at one time donated several desks to UE. Two silver medals and a purple heart of his late father John Barner, a World War II veteran, grace the walls. Books primarily on history, wars, and leadership are seen throughout his office. Thumb-tacked behind his desk is a white piece of paper with practices of effective executives from “The Daily Drucker,” written by Peter F. Drucker. There are 15 employees that work in the Igleheart Building.

For more information about the John L. and Belle Igleheart Building and the University of Evansville, call 812-488-2361 or visit evansville.edu.

Comment

A Century of Cooperation

Local REALTORS® know how to work together
Geri Terry and other members of the Southwest Indiana Association of REALTORS® collected hundreds of old photographs.

In 1914, a group of Evansville real estate brokers began meeting each Friday at noon to discuss their concerns. The all-male meetings centered mostly on concerns about selling residential property in Vanderburgh County.

A century later, the Southwest Indiana Association of REALTORS® (SIAR) has grown to include more than 800 REALTORS® — men and women — in 10 counties. But it still dates back to those original meetings.

“I like to think of it as the first multiple listing service,” says 2014 SIAR President Geri Terry. “Our MLS software does that today. But this was a way for them to get started.”

Terry’s role as SIAR president involves setting meeting times and agendas, as well as working to get the latest real estate tools for the association’s members. Monthly meetings are held, with a guest speaker invited to each.

All SIAR members also are members of the National Association of REALTORS® and the Indiana Association of REALTORS®. Some, like Terry — a broker for F.C. Tucker Emge — work for larger companies, while others are independent agents. All must obey a code of ethics and a standard of practice to retain their status as REALTORS®. They also must take continuing education classes each year.

“We’re all professionals, and we all behave in a professional manner,” says Terry. “It makes transactions smoother when you know the people you are dealing with. And if a buyer or seller has a question, the agent is going to know where to get that information.”

Every REALTOR® depends on having a solid reputation. The SIAR makes sure any disagreement is resolved quickly for the benefit of both parties.

“Ours is a unique business because we are competitors, but it is beneficial to us and to the customers that we represent for us to cooperate,” says Terry. “The purpose of the association is to provide cooperation and compensation agreements among members.”

SIAR is involved with local nonprofits like Toys for Tots, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden, Habitat for Humanity, and others. SIAR serves Daviess, Dubois, Gibson, Knox, Martin, Perry, Pike, Posey, Vanderburgh, and Warrick counties.

For more information about the Southwest Indiana Association of REALTORS®, visit siar-2014.blogspot.com.

Comment

Hail to the Chief

President visits Gibson County steel plant
President Barack Obama greets supporters on the tarmac at Evansville Regional Airport during a brief visit to the Tri-State.

In a deeply divided country, just days away from a mid-term election, President Barack Obama waved from the top of the stairs of Air Force One — a highly-customized Boeing 747-200B aircraft— ready to descend to the tarmac.

It was Obama’s first visit to Evansville since 2008, when he still was fighting for the Democratic Presidential nomination. But this time, on Oct. 3, 2014, he was in town as a second-term president, eager to tout U.S. economic progress during National Manufacturing Day. The President visited Millennium Steel, a minority-owned steel manufacturer.

At the bottom of the long staircase, Obama was immediately stopped by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who had asked for a brief meeting to discuss the President’s plans to extend health care coverage to more low-income Indiana residents.

Once finished, Obama appeared to surprise the group of supporters in a pen across the runway by walking toward them and shaking hands with many. Even as he did so, a heavy contingent of armed guards stood around him. And a wall of trailers lined up against the fence kept the president out of view of those in the parking lot.

Those members of the public who did view the arrival of the President managed to stop near the old Whirlpool facility to the south. While those people could not get so much as a glimpse of the President, they were able to watch Air Force One as it landed.

It was later determined that the Secret Service had investigated at least one threat against the President’s life from a Southern Indiana resident. However, Secret Service agents and Indiana State Police officers quickly downplayed the threat, calling it unremarkable and stating that the President was never in danger.

After shaking hands, Obama slipped into the Presidential limo, known as “The Beast.” Perhaps the best-armored and best-equipped car on the planet, The Beast was followed by a string of white Sport Utility Vehicles, each carrying three or four people holding automatic weapons. The motorcade sped up U.S. Highway 41, which was closed to traffic.

Manufacturing Day isn’t exactly the best-known holiday. In fact, it dates back just a couple of years, to 2012. Obama’s visit came on the heels of the announcement that the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 6.1 percent in August to 5.9 percent in September — the lowest level in six years.

In Princeton, the President was pressed on his policy on coal, since Gibson County is the largest coal-producing county in Southwestern Indiana, at 9.5 million tons in 2013. Obama praised Millennium Steel, which supplies steel to Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Indiana, located south of Princeton.

In all, the President’s visit lasted a little more than three hours. Air Force One landed slightly after its 1 p.m. planned arrival, and was in the air again with the President at 4:30 p.m. Some local TV stations covered the event for the entire visit.

Comment

On Target

Escalade Sports redesigns its Bear Archery website

Whose Site Is It?
Archery’s popularity continues to rise with increased exposure in the entertainment industry. Films like “The Hunger Games,” “Brave,” and television series “The Walking Dead” have contributed to a heightened interest in the sport.

Bear Archery, a branch of Escalade Sports Inc., is benefitting from the added cinema sensation. Escalade Sports Inc. has sold quality sporting goods for more than 80 years, with products ranging from table tennis and outdoor basketball goals to hunting and fishing gear. Escalade Sports recently transformed the Bear Archery website, introducing a mobile-friendly design.

Kennedy Rose, Web developer for Escalade Sports, says 50 percent of Internet searches originate on mobile devices. “When redeveloping the Bear Archery site, we designed with a mobile-first approach in mind,” he says.

Escalade Sports also purchased the domain beararchery.com, previously beararcheryproducts.com.

How It Works:
The website’s responsive layout allows for a convenient experience when navigating on various devices. The simple side-scrolling interface creates easy-to-read details when shopping for compound and traditional bows. Averting the common click-through option, a simple shift of the mouse left or right will cycle crisp clear images of the bows across the screen.

Don’t Miss:
Visit the “Hunter Photos” tab to submit your own hunting stories paired with a photo and details on the hunting gear used. Wild boar, elk, lynx, and bear are just a few of the various game displayed.

Site Designed and Maintained By:
Escalade Sports Web Developers, Kennedy Rose and Jason Gray.

Comment

Rolling Right Along

New interchange should speed up expressway traffic

When the new cloverleaf interchange at the Lloyd Expressway and U.S. Highway 41 is complete late next year, it will not only speed up traffic through Evansville’s most congested area, but also make it safer.

According to Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield, about 122,000 vehicle trips are made each day through the interchange.

This $19.1 million project will eliminate two stoplights from the Lloyd Expressway, increasing traffic capacity. The construction contract was awarded to Ragle, Inc. of Newburgh, Indiana.

“All of the ramps will be free-flow, without any traffic signals,” says Wingfield. “In addition, the project will have a pedestrian bridge (just to the east of an old pedestrian bridge that has been removed since the start of construction) with a multi-use trail connecting with it.”

Crews plan to build new configurations for U.S. Highway 41 and the Lloyd Expressway, working in phases. The project also will include lowering the pavement on the Lloyd to increase clearance for the bridges on U.S. Highway 41. The $19.1 million project will eliminate two at-grade stoplights from the Lloyd Expressway, enhance traffic capacity, improve mobility, and increase safety.

“When we plan a work zone such as this, we are balancing the speed of traffic with the speed with which the contractors get the work done,” says Wingfield.

“We are trying to balance that effectively. But the early onset of winter has posed some challenges for us.”

New entrance-exit ramps and connector and loop ramps will be added in each corner of the interchange. On U.S. Highway 41, the project will include pavement and bridge rehabilitation.

Evansville leaders, including Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, pushed for the full cloverleaf design. Doing so required INDOT to purchase about 30 parcels in the area. 

“It creates much better traffic flow through the heart of the city,” says Winnecke. “INDOT’s plan before they agreed to build the cloverleaf was to build a partial cloverleaf and move those traffic lights to U.S. 41. The last thing we wanted was more traffic lights on 41. So that’s why we fought diligently to remove the lights all together.”

Traffic will be maintained during the project by phasing construction on both U.S. Highway 41 and the Lloyd Expressway. Businesses in the area also will remain open. The project broke ground Oct. 1 and is expected to take about a year to complete. INDOT is encouraging drivers to avoid the area during construction, or to allow additional time to travel through the work zone.

For more information about current and future INDOT projects, visit in.gov/indot.

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Perfect Complement

The Bitterman Mini Shoppes looks to aid Downtown activity
The Bitterman Mini Shoppes & Farmers Market is located at 204 Main St.

Mike Miller had a dream for the historic Bitterman building located on Downtown Evansville’s Main Street. He just needed someone to help realize the dream with him.

Three years ago, Miller purchased the former Bitterman Brothers Jewelry Store building at 204 Main Street, which remained in business until the late 1960s and was replaced by Rowe Imports. Miller owns the space next door that Salad World occupies and looked to expand into the attached upstairs space and into the parking lot behind the building.

In late July, Evansville resident Chandra Maxheimer reached out to Miller after her mother met him through a Pop Up Main Street event in March, an effort by the Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville. Maxheimer contacted him to inquire about future opportunities running her store, Be15, out of The Bitterman.

To Miller, it was a blessing. The pair partnered with Maxheimer taking over the role of manager of The Bitterman Mini Shoppes & Farmers Market and Miller serving as the proprietor. Maxheimer previously was a stay-at-home mom for her three children and operates Be15, which sells handcrafted clothes and accessories while giving back 15 percent of every purchase to Project Restore, Uncharted International’s effort to end human trafficking.

“I knew Chandra was a friend of my daughter Meagan’s and was a craftsperson looking for a job,” says Miller, who made and sold leather craft items in Newburgh, Indiana, as a teenager. “I had been trying to do something with the space for two to three years. I finally decided that I had to do something or I had to do something else with it. I have no shortage of ideas or vision, but I needed someone to manage it daily.”

The pair joined together and began approaching vendors at various events gauging interest. After a strong response, The Bitterman Mini Shoppes & Farmers Market opened on the weekend of Oct. 3-4 and saw around 300 customers each day at the Main Street location with its signature stone lion in front of the store.

Today, the store has more than 30 vendors and features a variety of products from locally grown produce, meats, condiments, and treats to all natural soaps from Soap Solutions, women’s boutique items and home accessories from Roffe’ Boutique, fabrics and materials from Olive Manna and Ginger Cat Knits, fresh-pressed juices from Sunshine Juice Company, and more.

The farmers market features vendors such as Steckler Grassfed, Stonewall Farm, Engelbrecht’s, Reimann’s Farms, greenhouse produce throughout the cold season from Bud’s, locally-roasted coffee from Dandy’s Slow Coffee, fresh baked items from Artisan Bread, and more. The indoor farmers market runs October through May and open Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The indoor stores are open year-round Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“There are people who are still unsure if we’re open on the weekdays, but every person who comes in here absolutely loves it and keeps coming back,” says Maxheimer.

Both Miller and Maxheimer feel The Bitterman Mini Shoppes is an opportunity to bring more activity to Downtown Evansville. While people have suggested adding a full-time restaurant in The Bitterman, Miller stresses that’s not his purpose and points out the many options just on Main Street such as Salad World, Emge’s, Peephole, DiLegge’s, Milano Italian Cuisine, and more.

Miller also doesn’t want to take away the already prospering summer farmers market in Downtown Evansville, which is why the season will end in May at The Bitterman.

“I love the Downtown community and the more people I meet Downtown, the more it fueled my passion,” says Maxheimer. “We are the live, shop, and eat where you live kind of people. With The Bitterman shops, we want to complement the other Downtown stores, not compete. We want to support each other and help each other.”

Evansville resident Natalie Jost has taken advantage of The Bitterman Mini Shoppes with her textiles and paper goods business Olive Manna. She joined as a vendor at its opening after having an online store for about seven years.

“I was really excited about having a local presence,” says Jost. “I don’t have enough capital to open up an actual store of my own. I have a few local customers from online, but sometimes they are awkward about paying for shipping. This allows me to drop things off and meet the customers in person.”

Olive Manna sells home décor, knit and crochet items, handmade packaging, such as ribbons and twines for gift giving, as well as many other materials.

“I think Mike and Chandra have done fantastic,” says Jost. “The vibe is awesome, especially with the Sunshine Juice Co. girls upstairs with us and meeting the other vendors. The type of people coming in are so friendly. This would be a place I would want to hang out even if I didn’t have a store inside.”

For more information about The Bitterman Mini Shoppes & Farmers Market, call 812-205-1920 or visit thebittermanshoppes.com.

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Saving the City

Store salvages architectural materials to find new purpose
Longtime friends Kent Ahrenholtz and Neal Schroeder transformed their hobby of salvaging architectural materials into a business

On a late Friday afternoon in May 2013, after talking for a few months about starting an architectural salvage business, longtime friends Kent Ahrenholtz and Neal Schroeder received a phone call from a demolition contractor who told them about a two-story apartment building on Covert Avenue in Evansville. The building had recently burned, and Ahrenholtz and Schroeder were offered the chance to salvage whatever they found before it would be demolished the following week.

Although skeptical, the pair agreed and made the drive to see what they could dig up. From the outside, their cynicism was confirmed — the roof was caving in and it was pouring rain — but on the inside was a treasure trove.

“We probably got a full trailer and two full truck loads of doors, lights, tin ceiling panels, a clawfoot tub, ceramic sinks, and other pieces, and that told us that you can’t judge what you’re going to find by what it looks like on the outside,” says Ahrenholtz recalling the pair’s first salvage. “We got a lot of good stuff out of it. Most of the houses we go to salvage, you look at the outside and you think there’s nothing there. But there is.”

The dilapidated apartment was the first salvage dig the two had been on together and a sign of good things to come. Ahrenholtz, a civil engineer, and Schroeder, who works in contracting and construction, began investigating buildings that were on the verge of being torn down, visiting estate sales and auctions, and stocking what they found in their garages.

In August 2014, their consuming hobby, and three garages, transformed into a signed lease for a physical 4,000-square-foot location at 216 N.W. Eighth St. fHg Architectural Salvage, which means “for His glory,” opened to the public Sept. 20 and sees customers of all types from young to old, Pinterest addicts, homeowners, or home restorers.

“Some are restoring their homes and they are looking for pieces that are missing or they want to add in,” says Ahrenholtz, president and salvage gofer. “There are people with old houses and new. We’ve got people who are repurposing. A number of the interior doors we’ve sold, people have made them into headboards. We have everybody from young people to retirees who come in to go down memory lane.”

In the store, visitors find numerous vintage architectural elements from a variety of time periods, such as early 20th century Victorian, 19th century Italianate, and mid-20th century modern as well as many others. The inventory includes vintage lighting pieces, antique doors, windows and hardware, clawfoot tubs, ceramic and cast iron sinks, fireplace mantels, and much more.

Ahrenholtz and Schroeder do the picking themselves and transport the salvaged architecture back to the Eighth Street location using trucks and trailers. Ahrenholtz’s wife Teresa manages the store during its open hours 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Customers also can make an appointment on Monday through Wednesday. The store offers consignment as well.

“We love this type of stuff whether it is antiques or architecture,” says Ahrenholtz of Evansville. “I’m a civil engineer by trade, but I took architecture classes in college. I grew up with a dad who’s a contractor. (Schroeder) grew up with a dad who’s a contractor. We hate to see a house get torn down or a building does and all of this ends up in the trash.”

“You just can’t replace this history. It can be replicated, but it’s not the same,” says Schroeder of Mount Vernon, Indiana, who is fHg’s salvage and deconstruction manager. “That type of craftsmanship you don’t see anymore.”

Since opening their physical location in August, fHg is still working on getting its name out in the community. On Oct. 9, Schroeder and Ahrenholtz received some news to help make this happen. The Evansville Vanderburgh County Building Commission selected fHg Architectural Salvage to conduct pre-demolition removal of architectural salvage from the homes within the city’s Blight Elimination Program (BEP). This program is a direct result of a grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s statewide Blight Elimination Program. Earlier this year, the City of Evansville received more than $1.5 million in this grant in order to tear down and demolish blighted properties throughout the city. There are more than 80 houses that have been approved to be demolished thus far, according to the EVBC.

Under the agreement with the city, fHg will be given the first opportunity to enter the BEP properties in order to remove architectural features and building elements in advance of the properties being demolished.

Ahrenholtz and Schroeder believe this project could drastically lessen the amount of building material going into the landfill and help save some unique and extraordinary architectural features of these old homes. The items will then be available for purchase at the store.

For more information about fHg Architectural Salvage, call Kent at 812-470-1681 or Neal at 812-459-8443, or visit fhgarchitecturalsalvage.com.

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Family First

Kevin Schwartz came home to help form Myriad CPA Group
Kevin Schwartz helped form the Myriad CPA Group in 2011.

Kevin Schwartz still has the first dollar he ever made.

Tucked in an old yet rather ornate gold frame against a simple piece of cardboard, it sits atop his desk to serve as a reminder that every task, no matter how big or small, is worth the effort.“I was probably 5 or 6 years old,” Schwartz recalls. “I went to play with a friend, and he and his dad were picking up twigs. I helped for about 30 minutes. He paid me a dollar, and I was so excited to take it home and show my dad.

“He put in that old frame, and I have kept it ever since,” he says. “He told me that if I saved it, I’d always have it to spend. At the time I didn’t realize he was talking about more than just that dollar.”

A love of family and a commitment to hard work has been a running theme throughout Schwartz’s life. Every decision has come back to staying true to those two values — values that led him down the path to being a successful CPA and, now, a partner with Myriad CPA Group, one of the Tri-State’s largest accounting firms.

“When I talk to people wanting to start their own business, I can draw from a lot of experience now,” says Schwartz. “I’ve been through that psychological, emotional process of making those tough decisions. And they are tough.

“When I first started my own firm, I started it from scratch, with experience and knowledge but limited resources. But it was all worth it.

Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Schwartz graduated from Apollo High School in 1992. A track and cross country stand out, his image now adorns its Athletic Hall of Fame.

He went on to the University of Kentucky in Lexington where graduated with a degree in finance in 1996, but it wasn’t until he attended his brother’s graduation from Parris Island, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in South Carolina, that he finally felt called to a specific purpose.

“I had no military interest at all,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t even come from a military family. But it was my senior year. I was 21 and going to be graduating in a few months. I was trying to figure out what kind of professional job I wanted to take. That’s when I watched my younger brother graduate from Parris Island (Marine Corps Recruit Depot). I decided, then and there, on the drive back, that I wanted to join the military and serve my country, too.”

He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, a small base whose overall purpose is to provide support to the B-2 Stealth Bomber. In civilian’s terms, he acted as a liaison between those who needed to spend money to support the B-2 Stealth Bomber and the lengthy federal guidelines to which they had to adhere.

He spent his nights working on a graduate degree from Central Missouri State University, now the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, says Schwartz, and volunteering to help troops with their tax returns.

But after four years in the military, opportunity came knocking, and Schwartz was offered a position with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the country’s Big Four accounting firms.

“It was my dream job,” he says matter-of-factly. “I mean, the training you receive at a Big Four accounting firm, the people you meet, the projects you get to work on, it was a really awesome experience. My goal was to stay there and try to make partner. I was in St. Louis. I was relatively close to home, but then everything changed.”

Schwartz’s grandfather died in 2002, and the then 28-year-old began questioning the goals he had set for himself. Family suddenly became more important, he said, than continuing to climb the Big Four corporate ladder.

“It was really the first time I’d thought about life and how important family is,” Schwartz said. “I just felt like I needed to be closer to home.”

So after a year of soul searching, Schwartz quit his Big Four job and moved home to Owensboro. He started his own accounting firm, Schwartz CPA Group, and a year later met his wife, Rebecca, also a CPA.

He focused his energies on growing his small business, picking up clients and even took on businesses from as far away as Northern Indiana. He was elected president of the Kentucky Society of CPAs and was named the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce’s director and entrepreneur of the year.

He also got involved in the Owensboro community, serving as a Chamber board member, on the board of trustees to Brescia University, treasurer to the Owensboro Rotary Club, and he sits on the executive board to Junior Achievement of West Kentucky. He was on the Downtown Development Committee and is treasurer to the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.

Then in 2011, Schwartz was at a training seminar when he met a group of four other like-minded CPAs from the Tri-State area, each with a love of community but each also with their own special brand of expertise in the field.

Their friendship grew and flourished, and later that year, the men joined to form Myriad CPA Group, a company with a broad tax and accounting-based service with offices in Owensboro, Evansville, and Henderson.

“Everything has gone so well,” Schwartz says of the partnership. “The accounting industry, public accounting, is very fast-paced, and there are lots and lots of challenges.”

But with his professional life finally coming together, Schwartz began losing control over aspects of his personal life. The one-time track star put on nearly 60 pounds. Then, in early 2012, he vowed to make a change and hired a personal trainer. He took up running once again, and he and his wife began eating clean, organic foods. In a year’s time, he dropped nearly 10 pant sizes and 60 pounds. Today, he logs 20-25 miles per week.

Schwartz turned 40 in April, and when he looks back on his journey he’s humbled by how far he has come. The decision to return home was a difficult one, but as it turns out, the path to success doesn’t always come by way of the Big Four.

“I can’t believe how fast time has gone by,” he said. “I spent all of my 30s growing the business, staying active, staying involved. And that makes you really appreciate time because it has absolutely flown by. But I guess that means I’m having fun and enjoying doing what I’m doing.

“What I find myself reflecting on more than anything,” he said, “is that the more you give, if you give with the right heart, the more that comes back to you.”

For more information about the Myriad CPA Group, visit myriadcpa.com.