Pictured here in their Congress booth are Trista Mallow and Keri Collins of Closet Space.

Trista Mallow & Keri Collins of Closet Space: Insider’s Scoop on Setting up a Congress Trade Show Booth

Editor’s Note: Trista Mallow and Keri Collins of Closet Space, who are longtime friends and business partners, discuss the process of setting up a vendor booth at the Congress.

Thousands of people attend the All American Quarter Horse Congress each year to shop the 250 plus commercial vendors that span over seven acres. For most, it is a highly anticipated annual shopping event with friends and family that compares to none other. What many of these shoppers don’t know is how much time and thought it takes to set up each and every one of the stores that make up the illustrious Congress shopping experience.

A number of the larger space vendors, along with the truck and trailer vendors, have been working away in Columbus for a few weeks already. Some of these spaces consist of over 10,000 square feet and take a considerable amount of time to set up and stage with merchandise. Set up typically begins the second to last weekend in September and continues until the opening day which is this Friday, October 6th. During this two week time period, Congress Hall and the Annex Building get an intense makeover.

Closet Space Consignment booth being built at the Annex Hall at Congress.

Vendors come from all over the country to set up their stores for the Congress. Some of these vendors plan all year long for the Congress and others do this almost every weekend. Many keep their setups stored in Ohio, and some even have people set them up before arrival. Others, like ourselves, keep our setup in storage at home. Each store is unique in their set up; you see a variety of materials used including gridwall, slatwall, framed walls, pipe and drape and even drywall. You can order any materials or services from the official show decorator, Expo Services. Electric, televisions, internet, forklift services, cleaning services, storage…you name it, they have it or they can do it.

The first step when building a store is to know the dimensions of your space and your location. Being on an end or a corner versus in the middle can vary your setup. We are required to follow set guidelines per contract, for example, how high the walls can go. For our 562 square foot set up, we use just under 100 panels of gridwall and around 1,500 zip ties. Never underestimate the power of a zip tie. It takes three of us to set everything up, from laying the floor, building the walls, adding the lighting, filling in the merchandise and, of course, adding a little bit of decorative flair. You can imagine how much manpower and labor it takes to construct the larger spaces.

An essential factor that vendors have to consider when building their store is security. Some hire security guards for the month or have security surveillance systems installed. Many have doors or gates that they can lock up at night to deter any theft.

Exterior of the Closet Space booth after it was finished

As a vendor, you always try to plan as to what is going to sell and how much inventory you need, but sometimes you just never know. FedEx and United Postal Service will deliver orders and packages directly to the stores throughout the month making it easy to keep up with customer’s needs and wants. Numerous suppliers and manufacturers will have stock on hand, stored here at the Congress, to replenish any of their vendor’s orders. The Congress runs like a well-oiled machine, a self-sufficient city within a city.

There is something about the Congress that is unlike any other trade show or expo and as we are about to start our seventh year here as a vendor, we can honestly say all of the hard work, endless hours of planning, blood, sweat and yes sometimes even tears…it is all worth it. The people we are fortunate to meet and the relationships we form with our customers are truly extraordinary. The camaraderie and friendships we have made with our neighboring vendors is unique and something we look forward to every year. We all look out for each other and enjoy working together to make the All American Quarter Horse Congress that highly anticipated shopping event for our customers that they look forward to year after year.

Thanks to Keri and Trista of Closet Space for sharing their experiences setting up at Congress. View the slideshow below of the process. Be sure to stop by and visit them in the Annex Building (Booth#1001).