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Gateway/CDI's Conrad Franey Retires; Industry Luminaries Converge for St. Louis Soiree

After 25 years in the promo industry, Conrad Franey, one of the original partners of top distributor Gateway/CDI and now a vice president at Brand Addition, was feted with a surprise retirement party under the guise of his birthday, planned by Susie and Chuck Fandos. Fandos, the CEO of Brand Addition US and this year’s Counselor Person of the Year, has been friends with Franey for more than three decades.

“I met Conrad Franey on a boat on an Orlando Lake in 1984,” says Chuck Fandos, CEO of Brand Addition US. “We both like having lots of fun and became fast friends and worked together at Maritz. We have been amazing friends for 32 years and business partners for 25. Our friendship and fun has only grown over that time. I feel blessed to have such a great friend. We have had a ball working together and sharing our unique philosophies on life and business with so many. Good luck my friend!”

Kellie Claudio, vice president of sales & marketing for Top 40 supplier Sweda, flew into the weekend-long party in St. Louis – which culminated with a bowling alley bash at Saratoga Lanes, complete with a rollicking band, an open bar and White Castle burgers and pizza. “I told you,” said Fandos, laughing, “We’re not a fussy group – we’re loud, back-of-the-bus people who love a good time.”

In addition to industry celebs like BIC’s Dave Saracino, Hit Promo’s C.J. Schmidt, Logomark’s Scott Pearson & Scott Edidin, PCNA’s Scott Anderson, PPAI’s Paul Bellantone, McCabe Promotions’ Jamie McCabe, CSE’s Tom Savio and Mark Ziskind, InkCups’ Michael Bistocchi, Vernon’s Dave Regan, Beacon Promotions’ Gary Haley, Sportsman Caps’ Dan Saferstein and Chris Lee, the UK-based CEO of Brand Addition and the 2013 Counselor International Person of the Year, the entire US-based Brand Addition team showed up for Franey’s farewell.

“I looked around the room to find friendly competitors, suppliers, current team members and former employees,” Franey said. “People traveled from both coasts, Canada and the UK. I felt totally overwhelmed and about as lucky as a person can be ... and yet, I knew these people were all my family and that I would never truly retire from this crazy industry. It's just too darn much fun!"

Send in the Clowns

Having known him for almost 10 years now, here are some thoughts on what makes Conrad Franey one of my industry favorites:

  • His laugh, a from-the-gut genuine article, could shake the shingles off a house. When he cackles at something you’ve said, it’s an accomplishment and you know he’s not just being polite – it’s the real deal.
  • His bon mots are so legendary, Fandos had them compiled and printed on commemorative T-shirts. Witness these gems: “It’s a beautiful, sunny day… Let’s go find a dark, smoky bar” and “Last night I played a blank tape at full volume… The mime next door went nuts.”
  • For some inexplicable reason, Franey may be one of five people in the world who actually love clowns, and has been known in the past to don the attire – including a rainbow-colored bubble wig – and plant himself in a bar. Hilarious as he is kooky, Franey sums up this Hunter S. Thompson missive: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
  • He may be chronically eccentric, but he’s also one of the most deeply decent people most of us will ever meet. And while his years of partying with Fandos and the rest of the Legacy Boys (looking at you Mr. Kahan and Mr. Robinson) have racked up a lot of rough mileage in the rear view mirror, when it comes to the depth of his caring for his friends and family, he empties the tank.
  • So cheers to someone who’s always supported the industry generously, creatively and loudly – and let his freak flag fly with abandon. To you, Mr. Franey, we pledge allegiance.