W.Va. firm is a WEN-ner

November 03, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Whether it's wear, wares, wireless or winged, David Herson says WEN is ready to go across the country or around the world with trade show exhibits designed and made in Martinsburg.

Herson started the company in February at a facility near Dulles Airport in Virginia.

"We've grown 10 times larger since then," he said Wednesday, turning a five-figure investment into a seven-figure company.

That made it necessary for him to move the parent company, XCESS, to a larger building. In July, the company moved into the former Rockwell's Office Supply building at 1308 Ridge Ave.

XCESS's four subsidiaries operate under the same acronym: WEN. That stands for Wears, Wares, Wireless and Winged Exhibitors Networks.

Inside the warehouse, employees were constructing an exhibit for Descente North America, a high-end sportswear company.

"It's not the little trade show booths you think of. We do some of those, but its not our stock in trade," he said.


In fact, the exhibits the company puts together for apparel, housewares, aircraft and communications companies can measure thousands of square feet and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

"Como Sport, when we set it up, fills one side of this building and goes almost up to the ceiling," he said of the exhibit for one sportswear manufacturer.

One exhibit for Cobra Golf he noted has three floors.

When courting buyers at professional trade shows such as the Professional Golf Association in Orlando, Fla., Herson said manufacturers not only use the exhibits to showcase new products and lines, but to entertain.

With floor space at major trade shows going for $50 per square foot, the shows represent a major investment for his clients, Herson said.

In addition to four clerical, six production and six contract workers at the Martinsburg headquarters, Herson said the company employs about 10 more people at satellite facilities in Las Vegas, Orlando, Dallas, Atlanta, New Orleans and San Francisco.

He said he has committed to hiring four more people in this area and may have to expand further if business grows as anticipated.

Herson said the satellite facilities are for warehousing exhibits near the big trade show and convention centers. Before a show, the exhibits are uncrated, cleaned, updated and then crated again for shipment. Some exhibits can take two tractor-trailers to transport.

Along with shows around the United States, XCESS has committed to communications trade shows next year in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Moscow and Beijing. He credits the company's growth to maintaining a much lower profit margin than competitors and the talents and ideas of the employees.

According to Herson, he and his clients sit down and come up with a conceptual agreement, but "we choose to go a different route on design."

Instead of having in-house commercial designers, XCESS relies on college students.

"We get the fresh, young and innovative designs of the students at Shepherd College," said Herson, who now lives in Shepherdstown, W.Va., with his wife and son.

In exchange, he said he makes donations to the college's arts department.

Herson has a degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland, but started as a teamster with a trade show general contractor in Washington, D.C. He moved into low-level management before leaving the firm and managing a millwork company.

From there he started a company designing commercial interiors. He sold out a few years ago to spend more time with his family, but "got bored," which lead to his latest enterprise.

He said his company is "very family oriented" and he resents anything that takes him away from his family. He said he wants the same things for his employees, all of whom leave promptly at 5 p.m. daily.

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