Get the Show on the Road
Industry veterans will probably remember the names Paul Mendelson, Horace Klafter and Art Shapiro, and those of their respective companies: American Loose Leaf Binder Company, Normandy Label and OCR Tax Systems. What they may not know, is these men were the creative geniuses and logistical wizards responsible for
establishing and running the forms distributor’s road shows more than 30 years ago.
The idea was hatched in a St. Louis airport restaurant when Mendelson discussed with Klafter a more effective way of reaching out to distributors and educating them about various product lines. Six months later, fliers were printed, mailings were sent to distributors and sixteen manufacturers were packing their trunks and preparing to hit the road.
Klafter and Shapiro have since passed away. Mendelson sold his company approximately eight years ago and still resides in the St. Louis area. He, his wife Betty (who also played a major role) and Oxnard, California-based TFP Data Systems’ national accounts manager, Jim Foster—an exhibitor at the original road shows when employed by OCR Tax Systems—shared with BFL&S how it all started, and what it was like when forms were king and the shows were the hottest tickets in town.
Meet and Greet
“Back in those days, the only way a manufacturer could contact dealers was by personally calling on them. It was costly traveling around the country meeting with only a few distributors at a time. With the road shows, a manufacturer could see a lot of distributors in a city at once,” recalled Mendelson. “The National Business Forms Association (NBFA) did host an annual show during this time, but it was a mammoth thing. You couldn’t get much done since there were so many attendees. The road show was a different scenario.”
Through industry connections and personal referrals, a group of between 16 and 22 manufacturers, representing every major product group, including suppliers of forms, labels, envelopes, pegboard systems, binders, carbon and ribbons, was assembled.