The year, 1975 brings to mind a number of cultural, social and political trends. It was the year that featured leisure suits, 8-track tapes, disco, the premiere of “Saturday Night Live” on NBC, the end of the Vietnam War, a World Series championship for the Cincinnati Reds, and it was the year when two Miami Beach electricians founded a tradeshow utility company.
Lenny Swimmer, the CEO and co-founder of Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services, and his good friend, Eddie Cimino, opened the company’s first office in Miami, Fla. after 20 years of tradeshow experience.
“When we founded Edlen, I didn’t give 35 years in business a thought,” said Swimmer. “I certainly didn’t think we would become the largest independent tradeshow contractor in the country.”
Swimmer was raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he dreamed of one day becoming an electrical engineer. He left Brooklyn when he was twelve to move to Miami with his family, but returned to live with his uncle while attending the engineering preparatory high school, Brooklyn Tech. Though Swimmer had hoped to attend city college after graduation, his father became ill and he returned to Miami to support his family.
A friend of his father’s from the Miami electrical union helped him enter the electrical apprenticeship program and five years later he joined Miami Beach Electrical, where he met Eddie Cimino.
Shortly afterwards the company was asked to provide power for tradeshows, and Swimmer and Cimino took charge of this exhibition component. Always eager to learn, Swimmer continued his training, receiving his journeyman’s license and continuing to master the tradeshow electrical craft.
Years after his start in the electrical industry, Swimmer and Cimino decided to create their own tradeshow utility company. Edlen was born out of hard work, determination, commitment to service, and the combination of their names, Eddie and Lenny.
Swimmer and Cimino designed and built their own electrical equipment suited for event and exhibition work, and made service and safety their priorities.
“When we first went in to business, we didn’t know if we would get the first piece of business,” Swimmer said with a smile. “If we wanted to stay in business, we knew we would have to do the best possible job and offer exceptional service. We wanted to make sure we stayed in business or we would have to go back to work for our competitor.”
Currently the nation’s largest independent temporary utility contractor, Edlen is celebrating 35 years in business.
“We have the best employees in the world,” said Cimino. “They are family.”
Though Cimino only planned to work for a few years before retiring, he and Swimmer built a solid reputation for their new company, and expanded to Orlando from their Miami base, servicing the entire state from their two offices. Cimino retired after four years; yet, he and Swimmer remained very close friends until the time he passed away.
Although Edlen’s start was in Florida, Swimmer’s hard work and the company’s solid reputation paid off when the company expanded to the West Coast with the opening of their Las Vegas office in 1994.
“We worked hard, working seven days a week and ten to twelve hours a day on average,” said Swimmer.
By early 1996, Edlen had opened offices in San Francisco, Anaheim and San Diego, Calif. Opportunities for expansion continued to come Edlen’s way with the opening of its offices in Boston, Mass. in 1998, Reno, Nev., San Antonio, Texas and Seattle, Wash. in 1999, St. Louis, Mo. in 2000 and Baltimore, Md. in 2010.
Throughout Edlen’s success, Swimmer has maintained a diligent work ethic, warm smile and even temperament.
“I would never ask my team to do anything I wouldn’t do myself,” said Swimmer.
When Swimmer planned to retire, he offered a partnership to his son-in-law, Jim Wetterling.
“Bringing Jim aboard at Edlen was one of the best things I’ve done in my life,” said Swimmer. “I love him like a son, not a son-in-law, but a son. He’s done an unbelievable job. I am so proud of him and he’s really brought Edlen in to the 21st century.”
Family is very important to Swimmer and 2010 marks not only Edlen’s 35th anniversary, but also his 50th anniversary to his wife Bobbi, the love of his life. He and Bobbi have two children, Dawn and Jeffrey, both living nearby their Las Vegas home.
Swimmer’s face lit up when speaking of his grandchildren, Zachary, Zasha and Zara. The pride in his voice was unmistakable when he listed their accomplishments in school and in sports.
“There’s no question how much you love your children, but with grandchildren there is so much more time to spend with them,” said Swimmer. “They are a pleasure. It warms Bobbi’s and my heart to see Jim and Dawn’s love for their children and for each other.”
Though Swimmer has retired, he serves as a constant resource for special projects and continues to pursue business ventures. When asked what advice he has for people just joining the industry, he expressed his love for the fast paced and challenging nature of the business.
“The tradeshow industry is a fascinating industry,” he said. “It is exciting and there are always new challenges. It is a demanding, but fun business.”
Swimmer’s hard work, electrical knowledge, hearty personality and innate kindness have made him a beloved figure in the halls of Edlen.
“Lenny poured his heart and soul in to Edlen,” said Wetterling. “He passed on to me this passion for Edlen and the convention and tradeshow industry. Most importantly, he established his business philosophy, which included providing exceptional service and safety, and it continues to be the bedrock of Edlen today.”
Julie Pazina is the national sales manager for Edlen Electrical Exhibition Services, an independent temporary utility contractor for the tradeshow, convention and special event industry.