An article about our beginning.
Display maker puts together a solo effort
THE FAMILY BUSINESS CAN BE a frustrating place for a budding entrepreneur. Eager to make his own way, Greg Rathe abdicated his position as third-generation heir apparent at Rathe Productions, a big designer of trade shows and museum exhibits. Instead, four years ago he founded his own outfit, The Displayers.
“Growing your own company is something you don’t get a chance to do in a 55-year old family business,” says Mr. Rathe. Naming his company after his grandfather’s biggest competitor in the 1950s.
Mr. Rathe targeted an eclectic array of businesses, designing and installing trade show booths, exhibitions and showrooms. Mr. Rathe says he made a specialty of fast turnarounds, calling on relationships he’d built up with suppliers during his years at the family business and assembling a melting pot of specializations on his staff.
The company balances display design with corporate identity work. Projects include in-store marketing materials for Apple Computer stores and acrylic logos for DKNY stores in Europe. Museums may offer the most fertile ground for growth, as the size of The Displayers’ projects for that segment is increasing. The Displayers served as construction manager for the renovation of the Jewish Museum’s permanent exhibition and recently won a commission to create a 3,000-square foot exhibit at the New York City Police Museum.
The Displayers has grown to 1.4 million in revenues and eight employees. That’s a far cry from Rathe Productions’ army of almost 100 architects, graphic designers, carpenters, metalworkers, engineers, computer specialists and artists, but Mr. Rathe says he has no regrets. “It’s like a fishing village – the sons go off and get their own boats,” he says. “There’s plenty of fish for everybody.”