• Lenise Willis

First-Ever REA Century Awards Touches Hearts and Celebrates the Industry

Russ Berrie and other industry leaders recognized at the REA Century Awards Sunday, Aug. 20, alongside NY NOW, for Gifts and Decorative Accessories’ centennial celebration.

Gifts and Decorative Accessories celebrated the past, present and future Sunday night with its REA Century Awards, which was held at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in conjunction with lead sponsor NY NOW. The cocktail party, strolling dinner and awards presentation was a bubbling, high-energy affair.

“With it being our 100th anniversary, we really wanted to make this year’s REA event special, so we turned it into the Century Awards and decided to honor the entire industry’s accomplishments over the last century,” said Lenise Willis, GDA editor in chief.

GDA honored 19 nominees and seven winners, as follows:

  • Retailer of the Century Award –The Norman Group
  • Supplier of the Century Award–Vera Bradley
  • Sales Rep/Agency of the Century Award—OneCoast
  • Industry Influencer of the Century Award—Russ Berrie
  • Market Center/Show Organizer of the Century Award Winner—a three-way tie between the Portman family of AmericasMart, the Crow family of Dallas Market Center and the Little Family of George Little Management, which laid the foundation for NY NOW, organized by Emerald Expositions.

Gift for Life also presented its Industry Achievement Award to The Beekman Boys aka Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge.

“Honestly, it was a little nerve-wracking planning such a prestigious event, and I felt like I had great-big shoes to fill, but it was also an honor. And I was thrilled with the results," Willis said. "We couldn’t have done it without our hard-working team. And I’m also thankful for how supportive and helpful everyone in this industry has been.”

After a buffet dinner and cocktails at the beautiful waterfront venue, the more than 250 industry professionals in attendance sat down for a selection of desserts, wine and coffee, and of course, GDA’s first-ever Century Awards.

Nancy Wolkow, publisher of GDA, kicked off the presentation and reminisced about the “good old days” with Willis.

“We enjoyed hearing all of your stories, as well as reading the old issues and hearing about times when the shows occurred in hotels on 6 x10 tables, when everyone was rushing to the post office to mail in their orders...and we heard a lot about those collectibles in the 1990s, too, especially those Ty beanie babies,” said Wolkow.

A special recap video was played, “a trip down Memory Lane,” on the last 100 years of the most popular items in the gift industry, and then awards were presented.

Other highlights of the night included a special surprise award to GDA Editorial Director Warren Shoulberg, who recently retired after more than 40 years covering the industry. Liane McAllister, a third-generation member of the McAllister family, which founded the magazine in 1917, as well as long-time former GDA editor in chief Caroline Kennedy were also in attendance. Visit our Facebook page for more photos. 

Editor's note: Gifts and Dec would like to apologize for two errors that occurred in the printed REA program and 100th Anniversary Issue. We misstated the amount of money Mud Pie donated to March of Dimes; the correct amount is more than $650,000. It was also stated that Eugene Freedman was given credit for much of the success of Department 56, however Enesco had not acquired the company until 2009.

Lenise WillisLenise Willis | Editor-in-Chief

Lenise Willis is a graduate of the Journalism School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has experience in education reporting, feature writing and content marketing. She enjoys painting, reviewing plays and creating videos and other multimedia. She brings both print and digital skillsets to GDA and is excited to be a part of the gift industry.

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