Alongside last night’s honors at the Chairman’s Leadership Dinner, PPAI celebrated distinguished industry legends through the Promotional Products Pioneers recognition program. The 2017 Promotional Products Pioneers recipients were the late A.C. Stewart, founder of Souvenir, Inc., and Stan Breckenridge, MAS, past chair of the PPAI Board of Directors and former senior vice president of sales for supplier Mastercraft Decorators/The Guildlines; and in a collective recognition, the road warriors of the multi-line rep community. The recipients were chosen for their unique contributions to the industry.

Introduced in 2016, the program honors individuals whose business acumen or technological skills have played a key role in the advancement of the industry. Promotional Products Pioneers are professionals who have distinguished themselves in the industry through their vision, drive, innovation, character and leadership, or contributed to the development of technologies that stand out in industry advancement.

These honorees were selected by the Hall of Fame advisory group which reviewed proposed individuals to gauge the true importance of each person’s historic role in the industry, and considered the candidates’ long-term, significant contributions to their industry trade associations and/or the history of the promotional products industry.

A.C. Stewart

Once described as a handsome, lighthearted bon vivant, A.C. Stewart, founder of Souvenir Inc. (1908), was a man on a mission. Determined to find a solution to a problem, Stewart researched, tested and introduced round pencil imprinting to the industry.

Prior to Stewart’s invention, only hexagonal pencils could be imprinted by the hot-stamping method. Not content with just hot-stamping methods, Stewart also invented a machine that would print, rather than just hot stamp, each side of a hexagonal pencil precisely and quickly.

This colorful character in industry history was known for his love of sports cars. Once, when asked how he could afford his new Stutz-Bearcat, he quickly responded, “I sell pencils!”

Stan Breckenridge, MAS

Stan Breckenridge was an unassuming man who did the right things for the right reasons. His life, personally and professionally, demonstrated a combination of determination, caring and tenacity. Whether stymied by a speech/hearing impairment or a California law, he moved forward in the right direction for the right reason.

Throughout his career in the glass and ceramic sector of the promotional products industry, Breckenridge always strived toward the betterment of the overall industry. His foresight made him the man who “sounded the alarm when Prop 65 was just words.” Breckenridge’s determination to raise awareness of Prop 65 and the potential impact to drinkware and other product categories was a key element that set the stage for PPAI’s current product responsibility, social compliance and environmental responsibility initiatives.

The Emerging Road Warriors

While there is no one person who can absolutely be attributed with the multi-line rep business, it’s clear looking back that the factory and multi-line reps have been instrumental in carrying the industry suppliers’ message to the distributor sales channel. Representing six, seven, eight lines and more, people like Alex Krever, Tom Jones, Paul Rizzo, Sr., Sandy Stone, Gene Ehrenfeldt, Cal Rogers and so many more made it possible for new and sometimes small suppliers to have a face in the marketplace.

This independent workforce has met the challenge of answering to many different constituents. While driving the roads of their territories for weeks on end to provide the visibility for suppliers not able to employ their own salesforce, they have been an invaluable resource to the distributor in product knowledge, ideation and order resolution. The challenges today have not changed all that much with these independent reps still hitting the road week after week, conducting their own tabletop shows and supporting an ever-evolving distributor and supplier relationship.

The inaugural recipients of the Promotional Products Pioneers recognition program, recognized at last year’s Expo, are ASI Chairman Norman Cohn; Norwood Promotional Products Founder Frank Krasovec; Norscot Group Founder Norm Stern; the late Forest Gill, founder of Gill Studios, Inc.; and the late Ralph Thomas, executive director of Advertising Specialty National Association (ASNA).