Drillbrush at the 2023 Fall ACE Hardware Convention

Posted by John Cittadino on

Drillbrush at the 2023 Fall ACE Hardware Convention
Scrubbing in the Sunshine State

In 2022, Drillbrush Power Scrubber was officially added to the ACE Hardware warehouse, with our Medium Yellow 4-2-O brush kit and our Soft White 4-2-O 2WRB pad and brush kit being added to their planogram. This means any ACE Hardware owner can order our products right from the ACE warehouse without having to independently contact us unless they need something specific.

Being in ACE Hardware, we’ve been invited to their Fall and Spring conventions, which we attended last year in Chicago and earlier this year in San Antonio, respectfully.

This year, the ACE Hardware Fall Show was in sunny Orlando, Florida. Drillbrush, naturally, was there! Not only were we there, we were promoting our newest product to get added to the ACE warehouse; our Ultra Stiff Black 4-2-O Grill Brush Kit.

The week wasn’t just chatting up retailers and making business-to-business connections, however. It was a wide and fun-filled week, featuring great food, great fun, great sun, and some unexpected twists and turns along the way!

Today, we’ll go over everything that happened on our trip to Orlando, from the show floor to sea floor and much, much more!

Day 1: Flying in to O-Town

Day 1: Flying in to O-Town

The Drillbrush Team! Left to Right; Anthony Aldi, Armin Pekmez, Amar Pekmez, and John Cittadino.

On Saturday morning, the team consisting of CAO Armin Pekmez, CDO Amar Pekmez, and Art & Media Department Head John Cittadino was picked up by warehouse overseer Anthony Aldi and dropped off at the airport for our flight to Orlando.

While the show was Tuesday through Thursday and the set-up days were Sunday and Monday, we opted for a Saturday flight. This had the upside of giving us a few days before the show to experience Florida, and we had some ideas!

The flight was smooth and as we arrived in Orlando, our New York adjusted bodies struggled to cope with the humidity and 95 degree temperatures. However, rain and wind throughout the week would help mitigate the oppressive heat.

The attendants of the OTHER convention on site.

We arrived at the Hyatt Regency to find a curious sight; furries. Hundreds of them patrolling the halls and howling in the swimming pool. As it turns out, the Megaplex convention was being held at the hotel’s own convention center. This made for an interesting mash-up of Hardware store owners and colorful anthropomorphic foxes in the hotel lobby.

After check-in, we decided to grab the first of many meals at local restaurants and chains. On a friend’s recommendation, we went to O-Town Burgers, Wings, and Kabob, a small halal restaurant located in a shopping plaza. We picked up a jalapeno burger and boneless wings in four different sauces. With great food and friendly service, it’s definitely a place we’d stop by again next time we’re in town.

We returned to the hotel to watch the NASCAR race that night and wait for Collin, our convention ringer and walkaround man, to fly in. He arrived at night and due to us purposefully not telling him about the furry convention, spent a few minutes thinking he was at the wrong hotel. With everything all cleared up, we went to our rooms for a night’s rest, knowing the full week ahead of us.

Day 2: Daytona Beach

Day 2: Daytona Beach

Drillbrush written into the sand of Daytona Beach!

For Day 2 of our trip, the group decided we wanted to drive out to Daytona Beach and see the ocean! This author has not actually swam in the ocean before, so I was excited! We were able to park right on the beach and hop right in. The water was perfectly clear and the sand was smooth and packed to perfection! We battled the surf, which was actually fairly aggressive, but it resulted in some fun (as well as a few red marks and missing sunglasses.) It also hailed briefly, but it was fortunately light enough to not ruin the beach day.

While in Daytona Beach, we did try a few fast food places we don’t get in Upstate New York. We hit up a Checkers for some burgers and sandwiches and as a treat, we each got a glazed donut from Krispy Kreme. We also got to pass by the famed NASCAR circuit, Daytona International Speedway. Maybe someday our Drillbrush Racing program will head there sometime!

Upon returning to Orlando, we rested a bit and continued our culinary journey. A friend of mine recommended we visit Tijuana Flats, a Tex-Mex chain native to Florida. You can tell it’s a good Tex-Mex chain because they have a woman posted near the hot sauce bar as a harbinger, warning us not to try their hottest sauce because it’s too hot. Naturally, we ended up getting a cup of it to use in our burritos. It was very good and very spicy. We handled it fine, but that Carolina Reaper does sting when you get it on the corner of your mouth!

The beautiful mural inside Tijuana Flats!

To end out the day, we decided to see what the hub-bub was about regarding the furry convention happening in our hotel, as it was the final day for them. There were plenty of well-made, elaborate costumes and few… interesting ones that might not be appropriate to mention here.

The furries partied into the night, having raves and doing karaoke. They even did an impromptu car show in the parking garage the next day, where they had kei trucks, Volkswagen beetles, and a plethora of anime bumper stickers.

However, as mere spectators, we decided not to bother them too much and turn in for the night.

Day 3 - Set-up and a Trip to Universal Studios

Day 3 - Set-up and a Trip to Universal Studios

Loading... Drillbrush booth!

It was Monday morning and it was time to get to work. We made the long walk through the Hyatt Regency, past their convention center, across the raised walkways to the Orange County Convention Center, down the long main hall to the floor entrance, and then walked most of the length of the entire expo floor to reach our booth.

After catching our breaths, we unloaded the pallet and started setting up. Our warehouse guy Aldi, who packed the pallet, left us a little note amongst the supplies wishing us luck at the show. What a pal!

Along with our new Grill Cleaning kit being, some new additions to our booth this year were a larger Drillbrush-branded backdrop, new Drillbrush Racing stickers, Drillbrush lanyards, a Drillbrush end cap sign that retailers could request for their stores, and an expanded video loop containing some promotional slides of our newest products and partnerships.

We tried to work as quickly as we could, as the AC was not on yet and it was practically an oven in there. However, around midday, the job was complete and our booth was fully furnished.

It was not without difficulty, though, as four of our five retractable banners used to represent the kits in the ACE Warehouse broke. The adhesive that keeps the roll onto the top bar had melted slightly in the heat of the convention center, breaking the seal and causing the roll to stay inside the shell. Armin had to use a boxcutter to unscrew all four damaged banners while I re-tensioned the roll and reapplied the adhesive. All and all, we were able to reassemble them and get them back in working order.

With the tough work done, we decided to cool off at a nearby Miller’s Ale House. The pub food was divine and a few of us partook in The People’s Margarita, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s signature margarita.

The Pekmez brothers decided to check out the hotel pool, but Collin and I decided to head to Universal Studios!

The obligatory Universal globe picture!

We were unprepared for how big the place truly was. There’s a massive promenade of storefronts that took forever to cross before we even GOT to the parks. But once inside, we got to see the whole gamut!

Some of the highlights included visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, the Men in Black dark ride, some insanely intense roller coasters, and the bafflingly odd Jimmy Fallon motion simulator ride.

For this author, as a diehard Simpsons fan, the top priority was for me to visit Springfield. I spent the most time here, visiting the buildings, seeing the sites, and riding The Simpsons Ride, which I first saw advertised as a special feature on The Simpsons Movie DVD when I was a kid.

However, after a long day of fun and Collin getting severely dizzy and having to nap in a chair for a bit, we turned in for the night, ready to begin the ACE show tomorrow morning.

Day 4 - Showtime

Day 4 - Showtime

The Drillbrush booth on the first day of the show!

We woke up early and made the long walk to our booth. There, we greeted our neighbors for the event, all of whom we chatted with and looked out for throughout the three days.

Next to us was the W.J. Hagerty & Sons booth, consisting of their jewelry cleaning products. On the other side was West Drive, which had a variety of cleaning products, including their flagship Formula 1 car cleaner. Across the aisle was Lemi Shine, a garbage disposal cleaning product who’s attendants gave out Lemondheads stress balls at their booth. Nearby was also the Tub O’ Towels booth, who’s operator offered us a wealth of advice and stories from his years at trade shows. We also chatted with the Dude Wipes booth, which was several stalls down from us.

The Orange County Convention Center was massive. So massive that even though the doors opened at 9:30am, it wouldn’t be until around 11am when a steady amount of ACE vendors were able to traverse far enough in to reach our section.

Just one of the many stalls at the ACE Hardware Fall Show!

The show floor was bustling, and vendors were pulling out all of the stops. Costumed mascots were the name of the game, as the Energizer Bunny, the Jack Links Sasquatch, and a dancing Chili Pepper Man of unknown origins patrolled the floor. A new feature this year was the Sample Street, where the many food and snack vendors would have free samples all weekend long for retailers to try, and they came prepared with more goodies than they knew what to do with!

An impressive model Ferris wheel!

Speaking of food, the food court for the event was larger than ever before! Over 20 food stalls lined the outer edge of the floor, serving everything from gyros, to BBQ, to crepes! Recognizable chains such as Papa John’s, Chick fil-A, and Boar’s Head even set up shop. Needless to say, the showgoers were well fed!

The toy vendors also saw a balloon in size, as while previous years saw only LEGO wholesalers attend the show, companies like Mattel and a plethora of others were there too, with Mattel even setting up a large Barbie box that show-goers could take a picture standing in! Needless to say, retailers who brought their kids to the event had their progress slowed down significantly once they entered the toy section.

Our Drillbrush Ultra Stiff Black 4-2-O Grill Kit in the New Arrivals section.

Things were great for us at Drillbrush. Retailers from the previous shows updated us on how well our products were doing in their stores. One said they could barely keep them on the shelves! Another said a cashier’s tactic of placing our kits near the checkout counter with a sign on them that said “Ask me about it” helped move even more product and earned her employee of the quarter.

Happy retailers re-upped their orders and also added our new Ultra Stiff Black Kit to their stores, as they were clamoring for it in San Antonio and was now available in the warehouse.

After the show, we rounded out the day by visiting another Southern fast food chain that we don’t have at home; Zaxby’s. We got their Chicken Philly sandwiches and fries! Meanwhile, Collin hit up a crawfish restaurant instead, making sure our car and the Pekmez brothers’ hotel room smelled of crawfish for days to come!

Day 5 - The Long Day

Day 5 - The Long Day

Big signage for a big show!

As we’ve echoed in previous blogs, the second day of the ACE show is an endurance day. The show is open from 8am to 6pm, after which, attendees could go to the after party, being held after-hours at Universal Studios.

While the morning went by fast, the afternoon is where things started to lag as visits to the booth became sparse. However, we did make some sales later on, including multiple scans and deals from a few international ACE Hardware stores!

Collin worked his magic today. He grabbed his signature glass of lemonade and started making his rounds. He chatted with retailers inspecting our Ultra Stiff Black 4-2-O Kit at the New Arrivals section, hit up practically every booth he could, and collected enough business cards to fill up a few rolodexes. Throughout the day, we saw many retailers and vendors come to our booth because Collin spoke with them earlier.

Collin chats up retailers at the New Arrivals showcase.

Somewhat late and wanting to revisit one of our favorite places during the week, we went back to Tijuana Flats so we could try more menu items and consume more of their hottest sauce. It was pouring out, which unfortunately put a damper on the ACE Hardware after party at Universal Studios. Luckily, we got to experience it a few days prior!

We turned in for the night, ready for the final day. Collin’s flight left Thursday morning, so he would not be present for the final show day. We once again thank Collin for his hard work during the show and hope to bring him along for Dallas in 2024!

Day 6 - Wrapping Up the Show (and the Pallet)

Day 6 - Wrapping Up the Show (and the Pallet)

The Drillbrush booth on the final day!

On Thursday, we had the final day of the show, which concluded at noon rather than 2pm unlike previous years. The final day is usually light on retailers, which was true again. However, we did see some retail activity as store owners tried to hit up the remaining booths on their lists. We chatted with several retailers and followed up on leads from the previous days.

Prior to the day’s activities, the fifth retractable banner; aka the one that didn’t break on set-up day, ended up breaking with the adhesive finally giving way. Lacking the tools to open it up and reset things, we just attached the scannable code to one of the boxes instead.

Our final whiteboard drawing depicted a tired ACE retailer with Mickey Mouse ears and Crocs picking up one of our free Drillbrush samples, which we had been handing out all week. In fact, the final day is great for acquiring free samples as vendors will start giving samples to literally anyone. And considering the food court was not active for the final day, the Snack section became an even more popular aisle!

There, we sampled a plethora of products, from Carolina nuts, to new Sour Patch Kids flavors, to Moonpies and several types of jerky!

The show swiftly came to a close and we bid farewell to our neighboring vendors, swapping samples all the while. We would have to wait a few hours for our pallet to show up, but we decided to take that time to grab lunch. Our tradition is to close out our trips with a visit to Waffle House, which we did again, getting our standard meals and peanut butter chip waffles.

Home sweet home!

Now full, we returned to the show floor and awaited our pallet, which came fairly quickly. Having torn down as much as we could prior to lunch, we had a speedy wrap up and made our way back to the hotel.

We decided to hit up the hotel pool again, but the tail end of a thunderstorm shut down the pool for a while. However, after some chairs were fished out of the pool, it eventually reopened and we got to relax a bit before our flight!

Early Friday morning, we checked out of our hotel, boarded a non-stop flight to Syracuse, and returned home!

See You in Dallas!

See You in Dallas!

Texas-bound in 2024!

Our third ACE Hardware show was once again a huge success for the Drillbrush team! We want to thank the ACE staff for running this great event, all of the retailers who stopped by, and the fellow vendors we got to meet and exchange with!

The next show is in March 2024 in Dallas, and as a fixture on the ACE Hardware planogram, we’ll be there!

If you want to read about our past shows, you can find them here.

Photo of Author John Cittadino

John Cittadino | John is the lead graphic designer, script writer, and video editor for Drillbrush. John is a die-hard motorsports fan and loves storytelling and illustrating.


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