ELYRIA, Ohio — If there’s a secret to keeping a business open for more than a century, Ohio Displays Incorporated has it figured out. The Northeast Ohio company first opened its doors for business during the first pandemic - the Spanish Flu of 1918.
“My great grandfather started the company in the middle of the first pandemic," said Bob Miller, the senior vice president of Ohio Displays Inc.
Miller said originally ODI started as a signage company. They constructed outdoor signs, hand-painted billboards and more. But as the years passed, their business model morphed into something new. Now, they serve clients who attend trade shows. They work hand-in-hand with companies to build, design and manage their trade show displays.
"For instance, the show service forms, logistics, freight to and from the show. Really we can make it so all they got to worry about is getting to the show, working the show and then coming out at the close of the show," Miller said.
But, trade shows have, of course, been put on hold. So once again, their role has changed.
"We went to our clients and said, 'How can we help you in the interim? In the meantime, what are you doing instead of going to trade shows?'" Miller said.
Their clients gave them a whole new "sign." Clients are now using ODI's warehouse space to set up staging displays for promotional shoots and point of purchase displays. Miller said the service is wasn't out of the realm of what they're capable of - it's just not what they’re used to. But it’s keeping their doors open.
"I think it's a service a lot of people aren't or can't offer," he said. "Anything and everything we could do to help our clients in the interim until we get back to shows."
Miller said he believes their willingness to change is part of the reason their company has held strong for so many years.
"We're still here. We're learning and adjusting as needed, and we're going to be around when this is over and looking forward to getting back trade shows again."
News 5 also asked Miller what he believes the future holds in terms of trade shows. He said he predicts shows to return to normalcy soon. But when they return, he thinks more companies will utilize video and social media - bringing customers to the show who can't be there in person.