Toiling behind the scenes, preparing "mini" testimonials in recognition of outstanding efforts, local trophy companies go unnoticed by most as their work is cherished by many.
"It is a very gratifying business," said Wayne Hart, owner of Gailey Trophy on Northside Drive West in Statesboro. "We make trophies to honor among other things, accomplishments in business, sports, and at churches. To see the look on the customer's faces when they pick up an order is just wonderful."
Hart bought Gailey Trophy from Pegi Boatwright in 2004. Prior to that, he had been an advertising sales executive with Northland Cable.
"I knew that I wanted to own my business, specifically one that had a lot of interaction with the public," he said. "This business allowed me to do that, and to be creative as well. It has been a great fit."
Hart said each trophy has to be assembled according to customer specifications.
"We don't have any trophies that arrive 'ready-to-go'," he said. "Generally, there are six to eight parts with each trophy. Assembly can be very time consuming."
Hart's competition in Statesboro is Awards South which was opened by Pegi Boatwright this past April. Boatwright's father, William F. Gailey, Sr., opened Gailey Trophy in the late 1960's in Claxton.
"The trophy business is something that I grew up doing," Boatwright said. "I began helping my dad at the age of 11."
Boatwright moved Gaily Trophy to Statesboro in 2000.
"We opened a satellite office in the Rose's shopping center in Statesboro in 1987," she said. "It was there for about three years, before we closed it. A decade later, the business was moved to Statesboro outright."
Boatwright said she had intended to leave the trophy business three years ago when she sold Gailey Trophy, but later had a change of heart.
"When I sold to the Harts, I had plans to marry and open a bed and breakfast," she said. "My fiancé died suddenly and unexpectedly, and I didn't end up doing that. The trophy business is what I know, so I honored the three-year noncompete that I signed with them, and when that expired, I opened Awards South on Northside Drive."
Boatwright said she has seen a number of strange things turned into trophies over the years.
"We had one customer that had her dad's pacemakers put on plaques and the dates they were implanted," she said. "We have made trophies from beer cans, coke cans, and bottles. We have attached surgical instruments, hammers, wrenches, model cars, deer horns, toilet paper rolls, coins, football shoes, violins, military and police patches."
Hart said his business is just as seasonal as others requiring additional staff to meet demand.
"Our busy times are when school is in," he said. "Summertime is dead and December isn't very busy, but spring is unbelievable. In May, I work 20 hour days seven days a week to meet demand. And, we hire in additional staff to help."
Hart said it is the combination of spring sports and educational awards occurring at the same time that creates the tremendous demand.
"I think most people think the trophy business is mainly sports related, and that just isn't the case," he said. "Probably 40 percent of our business is sports driven, the rest is educational and church based."
Boatwright said that is one of the big changes she has seen in the business.
"When my father started Gailey Trophy, sports trophies were between sixty and seventy percent of the business, that is no longer the case," she said. "In addition, we do a tremendous amount of engraving."
Hart said the slowdown in December is offset with the gift and engraving side of his company.
"We sell a tremendous number of gifts and do a tremendous amount of engraving in December," he said. "I also have a sign company that is very busy in the summer. I have learned how to offset the natural downturns in our industry."
Boatwright, who also owns the Curli Willow in downtown Statesboro, said you never know what someone may bring in to be turned into a trophy."Like I said, we have put a number of strange things on plaques over the years, but the toilet seat, well that was something else," she said. "If I recall correctly, it was presented as an award for last place in sales."