Written by Melissa Ellison, Office Manager
This week, I’m thrilled to celebrate my 21st anniversary at Lasting Impressions.
In the spring of 1999, at what now seems the shockingly young age of 23, I made the decision to move away from my small-town home and start my life anew in the “big city”. Reinventing yourself in your early twenties seems laughable in your forties, but man, I thought I was embarking on the greatest adventure of my lifetime! Oh, to be young again…
It has actually been quite a lovely journey. I got a little job while I was finishing college, working in the office of my cousin’s party rental business. I started mid-June on a Monday and within the first week, I had more than my feet wet. As those of us in the industry know, June is a crazy, hectic, stressful time of year when a pandemic isn’t happening, and my new coworker, Jody, was up to her ears in orders. So, I decided just to jump right in. I am not generally one to sit and wait for anything, so on my first day, I answered about two dozen phone calls. I was asked about things that I had zero exposure to in rural Ohio. “What the heck is a chafing dish?”
Jody taught me so much in those first few weeks, all in between frantic phone calls and running paperwork to the crew in the back. JP had plenty of tasks for me as well, and I loved to work. I found myself enamored of Lasting Impressions very quickly. I still can’t believe it’s been 21 years!
In the beginning, LI was small. We had a tiny warehouse on the corner of 4th & Spring downtown, only a couple of trucks, and less than 15 employees. We spent summer mornings repainting white wood folding chairs and Jody would close the office for lunch when the AC was broken so that we could eat and chat at the FlatIron Grill. After hours, the two of us would sit with a stack of paperwork, chain-smoking and listening to Liz Phair, and as I look back on it today, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come, how much I’ve learned from her, and that we ever smoked like that. (Cigarettes kill, don’t smoke!)
In two decades, I’ve had plenty of personal achievements as well. But as I sat this spring, watching the fire of our “biggest year ever” get smothered under the wet blanket of the Covid-19 pandemic, I got to reflect a lot on my career at Lasting Impressions. I’ve watched unfathomable growth in sales, staff, and product over the years. But over the last few months, Jody and I were back to our humble beginnings, taking the simplest of orders in tandem, but in a completely different environment than that dim, old office on 4th street. Oddly, I was reminded of how we used to be able to rattle off phone numbers of our regular customers and how I could offer up the SKU numbers and prices for hundreds of products. It’s funny what comes back to you, just like riding a bike.
Back then, we were just starting to rent frame tents. Lasting Impressions now offers the widest variety of tents, in so many shapes and sizes, I think we could cover the streets of downtown Columbus if we were asked to! My knowledge of tenting exploded during the shutdown as it was one of the only rental items still in need. I remember my first tent sale in May of 2000, it was a 20×20 and I actually helped to install it because it was a last-minute order on a Saturday. This year, I have completed more tent sales than I have any year before and it amazes me that I am still learning about products and their requirements 20 years later. This is what keeps a person invested in their job. Having to learn something new is scary, but also exciting.
This is one reason I’m not frightened about the devastation to the event industry this pandemic has caused. My role has changed several times through the years. I am hungry for knowledge and the prospect of helping to adapt the business to the needs of 2020 just means we have research and planning to tackle; two things that I love. And having a boss that is a fantastic businessman also keeps. Having watched JP raise a fledgling preschooler of a business into stable, responsible adulthood, I am confident that “The Biggest Year Ever” is just yet to come.
And I plan to be here for several of them over the next decade!