With 32 years in the tradeshow industry, Jay Trepp, 74, claims he doesn’t work as hard as he once did.
“I take a lot of vacations,” he joked. “I don’t do as much as I used to. I kind of just oversee things and solve challenges. That’s a good task for an accountant.”
Trepp, senior vice president of Brede Exposition Services, understates his contributions. With the company’s Boston office serving as his base, Trepp spends about 50 percent of the year traveling to tradeshows around the country. And though he is a good 10 years past a traditional retirement age, he shows no signs of slowing down.
“I’ll work as long as they’ll let me work,” Trepp said during a break in his workday. He was in the middle of shredding old records, straightening out his files and handling some billing issues.
Trepp, born and raised in Glastonbury, Conn., went to work for Exhibit Aids Inc, an exposition contractor based in Washington, D.C., in 1977. He was a controller for a while and then assumed general manager duties when the position opened up. In 1990, Exhibit Aids merged with Brede and he rose through the ranks to his current position.
An accountant by training, Trepp received an master’s in business administration degree from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in 1958. It was a path he never envisioned traveling when he was growing up.
“In high school I wanted to grow up to be probably a truck driver,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t have anything in mind when I went to college.”
Trepp has seen the industry change from one that viewed exhibitors as part of a show to what they are now considered – customers.
“When I came into the business we didn’t always treat them like that,” he said. “I think that’s been a big change with all the contractors. Of course, the type of exhibits has changed, too. No one comes in with 50,000 pounds of wood anymore. Now it’s pre-fab. We still use the same tables and chairs, though.”
The recession is the biggest challenge the industry has faced in some time, Trepp said.
“I think it’s been slowing down, and I think it’s got another year or so to go before it starts coming back,” Trepp said. “Almost all of the jobs we do have been downsized over last year. I think this year the drop-off has been more significant. There’s a time lag because people buy their space a year ahead of time.”
Still, the recent shows he has attended have shown signs of increasing growth, with more attendees and exhibitors, Trepp added.
Traveling to shows might be a drain on anyone who has to do so much of it, but it remains one of the main things Trepp enjoys about his work. That could have something to do with his passion for food, too.
“At a show, I might go to a job and check on the freight. I do some of the negotiating of the labor contracts,” Trepp said. “But wherever I go, I find a good restaurant. In this job I travel to a lot of different cities and no matter where you go you make some friends and you can have a nice dinner.”
Trepp’s favorite? Steak or Italian.