As we begin our 25th year publishing Special Events Magazine, each month we salute event professionals who have reached career milestones.
MITCHELL Smith, owner of Clifton, N.J.-based Something Different Linen, knows tables. Thirty years ago, at age 16, he waited tables at the Concord Hotel at New York's Lake Kiamesha. He saw a trend emerging: themed parties were breaking onto the scene. Upstate New York hotels were using parties with themes such as Mexican and Italian to draw in the chic Manhattan crowd. And the motifs extended beyond food; decor played a part in transforming the events into something special, he says.
After college, Smith decided to continue in the booming party business. He drove trucks for Paterson, N.J.-based Something Different Party Rental, and while the job “was not exactly my parents' idea of ‘their son the lawyer,’” Smith says wryly, “the party business was in my blood.”
In 1985, Smith led the formation of Something Different Linen, originally to service the needs of Something Different Party Rental. However, it soon became clear that the tablecloth business was in a class of its own. “People needed to be able to make fashion and decor statements that are not easily communicated with flowers,” Smith says. Twenty-two years later, a thriving Something Different Linen continues to make parties pop with mood-making linen.
From waiting tables to deciding the decor for them, special event industry veteran Smith has seen the business step up the pace. “The desire to be new, fresh and first is what keeps the business both fun and terrifying,” he explains. Although product lines varied little in the past, Smith says, these days he has to follow the trends from “blue is the new black” back to “black is the new black,” he says. To keep up with the frenetic industry, Smith takes an all-inclusive, ready-for-anything approach. “I have a warehouse full of the old black, the new black and hopefully the black of tomorrow,” he says.
Something Different Linen is evolving as event professionals push for new levels of service. “The event professional is making demands on us that are just crazy,” Smith says. “These specialists have grown our business by insisting that table linen be created for all looks and all budgets.” Smith explains he's stepped up to the challenge by investing in equipment and increasing efficiency. A frantic schedule of printing, cutting, sewing and shipping a tablecloth on the same day is necessary to keep up with the short lead times of events today.
Despite the punishing pace, Smith looks up to the event professionals he supplies. “I am constantly in awe of the fact that we are providing just the table linen and soft signage,” he says. “These event professionals are providing absolutely everything imaginable.”
Something Different Linen owner Mitchell Smith can be reached at 800/422-2180, or visit somethingdifferentlinen.com.