50 YEARS OF SHOWS DEALER MARKET • APRIL 11-13, 2017
The trail of 50 years of shows actually begins with the story of vans. In the early 1960s, Wallace’s primary lawn mower provider was Excello Mowers and Mr. John D. Wallace was so proud of the new offering that he said we were taking it on the road. He met Richard Snowden in the old Taylor building warehouse and gave him a condensed sales pitch. They put them in a Wallace Ford Econoline pick-up and were on the road, taking it to the dealers. It was an incredible success and he decided to continue the process. The “van” success continued to build and a decision was made to order a stripped-down Condor camper in which we would install pegboard and start a seasonal rotation of taking vans to dealers.
When asked why Wallace didn’t do dealer shows like other regional and national distributors, our answer was that Wallace brings a show to you about four times a year using our van. Eventually, Mr. Wallace asked, “Why can’t we do both?” So we planned the first show. The three-day event started with an Open House of the new facility on July 3rd. The trade show resumed on July 5-6. Two bays of the warehouse were partitioned off using plastic sheathing. As the show time neared, the order processing had to be re-organized when the track was shut down. The shows were usually held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. but never on Sunday. For the first show, the Eveready Battery representative suggested a car be given away. Dealers would receive a ticket on each $100 purchased in a booth. The grand prize was a green Volkswagen Beetle or “Bug.” At that time, Wallace Hardware sold to local builders and the winning ticket was won on the purchase of three Nutone slide-in ranges that were bought a few hours before the show ended. Johnny McCrary was the winner and the car has remained in Morristown all these years. It was a pleasure to display it at the 50th anniversary show along with a new Volkswagen Beetle, which was one of the “Big 5” giveaways. The Beetle truly has risen again!
While the shows remained in the Wallace warehouse, the menu was essentially unchanged, consisting of Kentucky Fried Chicken, hot dogs with chili, pimento cheese sandwiches, cole slaw and chips. Mrs. Wallace and the office staff prepared and served the food. Tables were set up in the canteen and conference room. Overflow sat at office desks or in the warehouse.
Ensuing shows would continue each July in the warehouse and eventually, twice a year, every January and July. The company continued to give away cars and pick-up trucks for farm dealers. In 1968, Macon County Supply won two cars, the grand prize and a car given away in the Eveready booth. At one show, three Ford Pintos were given based on dollars purchased. At our 1972 50th Year in Business Celebration, a gold Cadillac was the grand prize, won by an industrial account, Ball Metal & Chemical in Greeneville, TN.
In the early 1980s, the show moved offsite to Walters State Community College for two events. At the first one, a wood artist used a Remington Chain Saw and carved a six-foot Indian from a pine log. It was put on display at the then Ramada Inn and remained in their lobby until the property was sold in 2015. It was then moved to the Wallace canteen. In 1983, the market was moved to the Mills Auditorium in Gatlinburg. Mr. Wallace said we were country people so we needed to be a “Contry Show.” Show dates were changed to March and September. Many sales people encouraged Mr. Wallace to change from giving away cars to developing a “contry store” on the show site with an assortment of gifts that dealers could choose from. Dealers received Wallace “funny money” based on show purchases and used them to buy items from the store. Every attending dealer would be a winner.
In the mid `80s, the dealer markets were moved to the Grand Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Forge. It had more display space and easier accessibility for set-up and tear down. The markets were also accompanied by a PRO Dealer Banquet with featured speakers. Guest speakers were always a huge draw.
In 1995, the dealer markets were moved to the new Gatlinburg Convention Center where they remained until 2014. Each time a market location was changed, it was to provide more space for the vendors. During these years, the dealer banquets and training events were held at the Park Vista Hotel. Breakfast Buys were added and continue to be an important part of our show offering.
In 2014, the LeConte Center opened in Pigeon Forge and provided an additional 40,000 sq. ft. of display area. This also marked a new era of show giveaways and activities during the market time. The “Big 5” grand prizes and hourly Spin-to-Wins made it possible for more people to be winners at the market.
While locations have changed, the personal touch and friendliness of our dealer markets remain the same. Food and refreshments are still proudly served free of charge to both customers and vendors. Match this with great buys from vendors of brand names your customers trust and you have the ingredients for another 50 years of fantastic markets!