Last year, Drillbrush was included in the ACE Hardware warehouse first for the first time. As a New Arrival, we were invited to attend the ACE Hardware Fall Show in Chicago, Illinois. It was an amazing experience and many retailers were interested in carrying our products.
However, that wouldn’t be our only convention appearance, as we were invited to attend the Spring ACE show in San Antonio, Texas! Much like last time, we sent a small crew out to San Antonio to man the booth and make connections.
Today, we’ll chronicle the entire San Antonio trip, including scenes from the convention floor, reactions from retailers, photos from our travels in Texas, and descriptions of the many eateries we visited during the adventure! Trust us, it’s far more riveting than sitting through your aunt’s vacation slides! Honest!
Day 1 - San Antonio Bound
The Drillbrush Team on the Plane!
In the early hours on Sunday morning, the Drillbrush team was shuttled out to Syracuse by our trusted warehouse overseer Anthony Aldi. Our intrepid crew of Drillbrush representatives was composed of CAO Armin Pekmez, CDO Amar Pekmez, and your’s truly; Media Department Head, graphic designer, and demonstrator John Cittadino. We bid Aldi farewell and began our journey to San Antonio.
Unlike our Chicago trip the year prior, we were not on a road trip to San Antonio. We instead were flying out to Texas and sending our booth supplies over to the show via a pallet. While we didn’t get to embark on an epic trek across the highways of America, this trip was the first time I had flown on an airplane, which was an exciting experience to say the least!
We left at the crack of dawn on a chilly winter morning and flew to Chicago. Though we weren’t there for long, just a quick transfer at O’Hare Airport on our flight into Austin, Texas. Soon after takeoff, gone was the frigid cold. Instead, the soothing mid-day warmth of the heart of Texas. We picked up our rental car, a swanky Ford Expedition Max, as well as the fourth member of our team; Minnesota-based professional cleaner and convention sales rep extraordinaire Collin Howard.
From Austin, we drove down to San Antonio. We New Yorkers have no shortage of great food places, but Texas has a vast, colorful, culinary landscape that our northern palettes were chomping at the bit to try. So we started by getting lunch at an American fast food staple; In-and-Out. We do not have one in our neck of the woods, and after a few Double-Doubles and an Animal Style serving, we wish we did! Excellent service, great burgers, and a retro fast food aesthetic got our trip off on the right foot!
The Grand Hyatt!
We then checked into the hotel; The Grand Hyatt River Walk. Located next to the convention hall, as well as the famous Tower of the Americas, this massive hotel provides a picturesque view of all of San Antonio.
However, we couldn’t take in the sights for long. We made our way to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center to begin assembling our booth. Most of our booth mainstays returned, but we added more brushes, a branded Drillbrush display, and a whole bunch of Drillbrush stickers for convention-goers to take! The booth came together nicely, and we were all set for the show on Tuesday.
With our work complete, it was dinner time. And what better place to go than Taco Cabana! We had a healthy sampling of the menu, getting shredded chicken enchiladas, beef quesadillas, tacos, refried beans, rice, nachos, and guac! We also helped ourselves to some of their margarita slushes. Don’t worry, we only had one each. We’re here on business after all!
After a brief stop at HEB to pick up some supplies, the excitement of the day had tuckered out our group, and we turned in for the night, ready for some more pre-show fun!
Day 2 - Seeing the Sights
With the booth assembled and the convention starting Tuesday, Monday was our day to rest and check out the sights. After taking it easy in the morning, Amar, Armin, and I skipped over to another classic Texas food chain; Whataburger. There I grazed on their burger melt with onion rings and a thick-as-quicksand Dr. Pepper shake. Meanwhile the other two partook in Whataburger’s classic double cheeseburgers and, naturally, we all had some spicy ketchup for dippage.
Collin “Sleeping Beauty” Howard finally awoke from his slumber and we were off to see The Alamo. Fortunately for us, it was within walking distance of the hotel, so we passed by the bars, skyscrapers, and churches on our way to the historic structure.
It was surreal to see it in person. This small block of history nestled amongst the urban sprawl was packed with tourists and families! While it was unfortunately too packed for us to make it inside with our tight itinerary, we got to see The Alamo Cenotaph and the courtyard. However, our Alamo journey was not over yet.
The stagecoach centerpiece of the Briscoe Western Art Museum
After The Alamo, we made our way over to the Briscoe Western Art Museum, taking in the sights of the River Walk along the way. This museum features paintings and sculptures, both old and contemporary, relating to the American West, as well as artifacts and pieces from historical events. Among the exhibits on display were full sized chuck wagons and stagecoaches, gorgeous bronze statues of famous Indian chiefs, a collection of spurs, weapons, saddles, and clothing from the Old West, oil paintings depicting the picturesque beauty of the land, and a massive diorama of The Alamo, with key figures highlighted through interactive buttons surrounding it. The Briscoe museum was amazing top to bottom and definitely worth a walkthrough if you’re in town!
After our museum outing, we picked up some Chick-fil-A for Colin and took a drive around the suburbs of San Antonio to view the eclectic houses that its people call home. We saw homes in vibrant yellows, pinks, and blues, front lawns with museums worth of sculptures and decorations, smokers in every yard, and plenty of puppies lounging in the midday sun.
The San Antonio River Walk
A stop at Walmart for some more supplies concluded our drive, but we had one final bit of business to attend to before dinner. We moseyed our way back to the convention hall to check on our booth and add the finishing touches. With the booth looking picture-perfect, we got dinner at another regional chain; Raising Cane’s. We each got their Caniac 6-piece chicken finger plate with Texas Toast, crinkle-cut fries, and that oh-so-good special sauce. We also had a sip of their Leprechaun Lemonade, as St. Patrick’s Day was just around the corner.
After a quick stop at the hotel bar, we packed it in for the night, ready to get rested for the busy day tomorrow. It’s showtime!
Day 3 - The Show Begins
Day One at the Drillbrush Booth!
We awoke on Tuesday morning ready to perform our duties at the booth. I donned my Drillbrush polo, draped my credentials around my neck, and made my way to the bustling convention center. Vendors and ACE retailers filed in as others were wrapping up a conference that was filled so far to capacity, they aired the event in the main hall so everyone had a chance to see it.
Among the booths surrounding us were Kenney curtain rods, Nehemiah Manufacturing and their Tide products, and Corner Roller with their paint roller. Our neighboring presenters were very nice and one of the paint roller presenters even showed us pictures on his phone of a dirt bike motor he used a Drillbrush to scrub clean. He was a big fan of the product and we were grateful for the kind words.
That was a running theme throughout the day. Many retailers who approached us had already re-upped their orders and just wanted to let us know how well they moved in their stores. One outlined his plans to expand his order for the next quarter and another retailer told her husband that “this was the greatest thing you’ll ever see.” My drawing of the Tower of the Americas on our whiteboard also received a few thumbs up from passersby!
Another new addition to our booth was the presence of official Drillbrush stickers, which we gave out throughout the week. Everyone enjoyed them, especially the kids!
With such kind words, Armin and Amar had little issue pitching the product. Among our four in-warehouse kits featured on the table, we also included a smattering of other brushes and pads we hoped to eventually get into ACE. Retailers in-particular enjoyed our Ultra Stiff Black Grill and Industrial brushes, our Scrubbing Pad Refill Kit, our 5 inch and 7 inch Extensions, and our Cone-shaped Corner Brush.
While they ran the booth, Collin and I patrolled the floor. I checked on our products in the New Arrivals section and scouted the floor for neat things to get pictures of. The NASCAR fan in me was extremely happy to see the Craftsman booth park a full NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Toyota Tundra on the main drag. Procell also had the racing spirit, bringing their single-seater from the Chicago show back. A putt-putt golf course was set up across multiple booths on the home improvement side of the convention, and the pest control department had a bull-riding machine stylized as an angry mouse as the centerpiece to their pavilion. In the demo areas, people were gathered to see the latest in paint and cleaning, as well as the chainsaw demonstration with real lumber in the New Arrivals area. I certainly got my steps in that day and took a lot of stellar photos.
After scouting out options for lunch, I settled on a pepperoni pizza from Broken Crust at the center terrace. We also pursued a few of the food-based vendors, getting samples of Absopure Purified Water, Krackcorn caramel popcorn, and some Red Bulls, including their newer Amber flavor.
The floor quieted down in the waning hours of the first day and after some final wrap up, the call came over the intercom that Day 1 had ended. We worked our way back to the hotel and made our plans for dinner.
Look at those beans!
We went to Thai Bistro and Sushi, which had an assortment of noodles, curries, and of course sushi. I had the drunken noodles (with the maximum spice level,) Collin had the curry, and the Pekmez brothers chowed down on the Sweet and Sour Chicken. It was all extremely delicious and the service was very friendly!
While we handled our food without issue, we decided to cool off with a little gelato at Brindles Awesome Ice Creams. The name did not lie, as my stracciatella was divine!
Day 2 is the longest day of the show, so we headed back to our rooms and got some much needed shut-eye.
Day 4 - Demo Day
Day Two at the Drillbrush Booth!
The second day stretched from 8am to 6pm and would be our endurance run. We got there early, setting up the booth and crafting a new whiteboard message for the day. On it, a Marty Robbins-esque figure is wielding a Drillbrush-like pistol. Text above states “Be the cleaner with the Drillbrush on their hip. The fastest scrubber in the West!” Below was an advertisement for our demo at the Paint and Cleaning Booth scheduled for 10:20am.
The morning was slow, as many convention-goers had decided to sleep in. Gradually, as mid-day approached, we saw an uptick in visitors, with a bevy of retailers stopping to talk to Armin around 11pm. Before that, however. I had a demo to run!
We carried over some brushes, kits, drills, and a San Antonio Spurs car mat we had purchased just for the event. With mic attached and our video loop playing on the screen, I went into a quick demo educating the crowd on the Drillbrush Power Scrubber, including its use cases, varying stiffnesses, and even a few tips and tricks. I also dropped a little hint that free samples would be available at our booth. The crowd, lured in by the allure of a free ACE t-shirt, enjoyed the fifteen minute presentation, with many stopping by the booth later in the day. The ACE staff present were also excited by the product, even offering their own Drillbrush ideas.
John with a Spurs mat by the ACE sign!
Around mid-day, we took lunch at a nearby Whataburger once again, as Collin had not been able to join us the first time. We returned to the convention center and continued our work.
Collin performed his main mission of the day; patrolling the other vendors booths and seeking out potential clients, especially in the cleaning sector. He scrupulously hopped from vendor to vendor, making connections and speaking with his cool Minnesotan charm. Collin managed to secure over 25 leads and several vendors came to our booth to sing his praises.
Amar and I also pursued several booths, making connections, getting free samples, and taking selfies along the way.
At our booth, the number of retailers slowed as the day progressed, so instead, we saw an influx of fellow vendors who wanted to check out the product. We made a few trades, including a swap with flashlight manufacturer Pro-4 Tactical who hooked us up with some sweet rechargeable flashlight beanies. As a beanie connoisseur and someone who likes incredibly loud, bright headwear, this was a match made in heaven for me!
The show floor closed down at 6 and we all filed out. ACE had arranged a concert by swing revival band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at 8:30pm in the theater with included drinks. This caused some buzz amongst the attendees, but as much as I enjoyed their 1999 classic “I’m Not Sleepin,” a busy evening and an early rise tomorrow meant we had limited time to achieve one of our biggest checklist items; get authentic Texas BBQ.
Impressive company at Augie's
After much scouring on Google Maps, we found a spot that looked like the real deal; Augie’s Alamo City BBQ Steakhouse. The quaint, unassuming exterior was merely a vessel for the bounty inside. Within the walls, a plethora of artifacts were affixed to the walls like a scene out of American Pickers. License plates, spurs, NASCAR hoods, beer signage, deer heads, and much much more! Dining with the patrons were statues of Captain Morgan, a Cazadores skeleton woman, and Elvis Presley.
We each placed our orders. I got brisket, jalapeno sausage, Augie’s mac-and-cheese, mexican rice, and Lone Star beer. Included with the meal were pickles, onions, two slices of white bread, and two containers of their barbeque sauce. My co-workers ordered similar items; beef briskets, BBQ chicken, and in Amar’s case; ribs.
The meal was divine! Some of the best BBQ we’ve ever had! It was a satisfying (and filling) way to cap off the day. Tomorrow was our last show day and the beginning of the end of our week in Texas!
Day 5 - Wrap Up
Day Three at the Drillbrush Booth!
The air was noticeably quieter on the final day. As was the case in Chicago, most retailers had finished up at the show, leaving the other vendors and retailers making their final rounds left to explore the convention. Despite the slower day, we did see some traffic at our booth and gave away nearly all of our stock, including some to booths we befriended throughout the show. We also received our fair share of swag from other vendors; including cleaners from Zep and Nehemiah, pet odor spray from Pooph, tape measures from Lotus and Windoware, a clover plant from Modern Sprout and another flashlight from Pro-4 Tactical.
Collin was not present, as his flight left Thursday. However, he did get to enjoy a nice breakfast of hasbrowns, eggs, and pancakes with his cousin and his cousin’s giggly two year old daughter at the Magnolia Pancake House.
For lunch we grabbed some Philly cheesesteaks from the food vendor just outside the show and wrapped up the day. We experienced a slight delay in our palet coming back to our booth, which lessened what we had time to do post-show, but we managed to pack everything up and move on to dinner!
Carne Asada Plate at Taqueria Rodeo Jaliscos
We had some authentic barbeque the day before, now it was time for some authentic Tex Mex. We went to Taqueria Rodeo Jaliscos in San Antonio and were treated to a plethora of options! I went with the carne asada served with mexican rice, guacamole, refried beans, flour tortillas, and wild cactus salad. Amar had the burritos while Armin worked his way through a gigantic, stuffed quesadilla. Oh, you better believe we had some Mexican Coca Colas!
Thoroughly satisfied with our meal, we made the drive back to Austin, where we stayed at the Hampton Inn by The Domain. After a night’s rest, we would wake up early and catch our flight home…
The Austin Skyline!
At least we thought we were going to catch our flight. Freak storms in Austin and Fort Worth put a halt on all travel out of the airport, so we had to stay an extra day.
It wasn’t a problem though, as it afforded us some time to explore Texas a bit more! We got breakfast at Waffle House, a tradition on our business trips, as we were once again delighted by the friendly staff, interesting clientele, and great food. The Pekmez brothers got chicken sandwiches and waffles while I got eggs, toast, hash browns, a waffle, and grits, which was my first time trying them. We stan Waffle House at this company, no cap.
Above the clouds!
Still a little tired, and knowing we’d have to go to sleep early to catch our 3am wake-up time, we decided to simply tour Austin and check out the architecture. We drove by the capitol building, the courthouse, several massive skyscrapers, and over the river. The city was bustling, as SXSW was still in full swing and St. Patrick Day festivities had just wrapped up.
As we began on our trip, we stopped by In-and-Out to get Animal-style everything one last time and turned in early to our rooms at the Marriott.
In the wee hours of the morning, we left our hotel, dropped off our car at the rental place, and waited for our flight. We were upgraded to first class due to our previous flight being canceled. The in-flight meal was nice to have, as it was too early to grab anything prior to the flight.
We did have a four-hour lay-over at O’Hare Airport, but we passed the time by watching qualifying for the Formula 1 race. Our trip finally concluded when we took the last flight home to Syracuse and were picked up by our good pal Aldi.
See You in Orlando?
ACE's Fall Show Teaser Graphic
Once again, the ACE Hardware Convention was a blast! We are happy to have been able to visit Texas, but are even happier that our products are performing well in ACE stores around the country.
The next ACE show will be in Orlando, Florida later this year. As of this writing, it is unknown if we will be attending, but we hope we will be able to head down!
If you want to read about our last convention experience, check out our blog on the Chicago Show.