A state of emergency had been declared. No flights in or out. Highways clogged with abandoned vehicles. Sounds like an episode of The Walking Dead, right? But it was the stark reality leading up to last week’s Atlanta Shoe Market, the semi-annual show which was celebrating its 70th anniversary. But as paralyzed as Atlanta was by the forbidding ice storm, the turnout was testimony to the grit of the people scheduled to attend.
In the end, only a handful of vendors were unable to make the show, most from such hard hit areas as New York, where conditions made it impossible to leave town, and by the final day of the show, the floor was abuzz with activity. “Exhibitors and retailers alike did whatever it took to get here because it was important to them and the business they represent,” says Laura Conwell-O’Brien, executive director of the Southeastern Shoe Travelers Association, who has overseen the show for 30 years.
The Cobb Galleria Centre remained open around the clock, welcoming exhibitors at all hours of the day and night, and show management was onsite responding to attendee and exhibitor calls on everything from weather conditions to transportation issues to rescheduled show events. Conwell-O’Brien notes, “This wasn’t the way we expected to mark out 70th anniversary, but perhaps it was testimony to why the show has been around all these years.”