Working at a company with many facets and moving parts requires all of us here at Condit to wear multiple hats. Keita Usuda, 3D exhibition designer, father of two, expert cook and diner, and now 20-year Condit veteran, not only wears many hats but also many shoes. Like his noticeably unique yet tasteful and always perfectly executed fashion sense (and yes, he has a particular passion for shoes), Keita exudes professionalism with the right mix of quirkiness. For these attributes, Keita embodies so much of what Condit is about, and Condit couldn’t be that without Keita. As such an integral piece in our company’s patchwork, we take time this year to reflect on the past 20 shining Keita-at-Condit years.
Two decades can contain an immeasurable amount of stories, but Keita’s most lasting memory of his first week at Condit entails a nasty run-in with a sliding glass door. Late for his very first company meeting, Keita rushed from his second-story office to the main floor conference room in a full speed walk. The doors to the room were already shut as the meeting had commenced; and in his rushed state and lack of familiarity with the transparent dividers, Keita bonked the doors at full speed like a bird to a window. Thankfully his accident was met with tearful laughter, but the scaring embarrassment has stuck with Keita for all these years, he recalls amidst his own laughs.
If the 20 years since that incident have taught him anything, Keita has come to hold his own in company and client meetings. Richard Raedeke, our VP of Operations recounts some such times: “I can’t tell you how many client meetings I have been in over the years when his Japanese appearance and “non-American” name wreaked havoc with our guest’s brains and he became known as KATO. It seems they all had seen the original Pink Panther movies as kids and their brains just made the association. Once in a while he would correct the client, but for the most part ol’ Kato just sat there and smiled.”
As a Japanese American, Keita takes the Japanese part very seriously. Many of us most fondly recall the food-related memories with Keita. Account Executive, Jenny Koehn agrees, “Keita is an excellent food ‘orderer’! One of the tastiest lunches that I’ve ever eaten with him was dim sum. Keita worked his magic and we ended up with a feast, including shrimp balls, scallop dumplings and braised bok choy.”
Similarly, Account Executive, Randy Condit recalls a sushi meal where “Keita ordered things that the cooks had never heard of – then taught us all how to eat the certain dishes.”
Richard goes as far as to state that he’s “never met anyone with better ‘restaurant karma’.” He says, “when going out to eat with Keita I’ve learned to always let him order first and then order the exact same thing. Without fail, every time I’ve eaten with him, we always look over at his meal with envy. I don’t know how he does it, I just know you don’t mess with the master.” His food karma may only shield him at restaurants though since Keita, on his wedding night of all nights, got food poisoning. Richard recalls, “As it turns out, they narrowed the cause down to a single casserole tray of food. Tradition holds that the wedding party is served first… and for those of us seated at the back of the room, we are ever so grateful.”
If there’s anything we can all agree to be grateful for, it’s Keita. “A master at Sushi eateries as well as on the design board”, says Randy. And Account Executive, Kari Grestini, mentions, “Not only is Keita a great designer, who is smart, methodical and creative, he is also a wonderful person. He’s a great confidant and support here at Condit.”
Keita’s creativity and personality resound through the walls at Condit and his decisions and designs are highly respected. Keita was responsible for hiring our now design director, Kevin Trainor, in 1997. Looking back on that time, Kevin says, “I actually can’t believe I got the job. I knew nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, about the trade show world, but that didn’t seem to matter to Keita. He saw that I could draw, and I guess he figured he could teach me the rest. And over the years, he has literally taught me everything I know about exhibit design.”
A stable piece in the core of Condit since his beginning, Kevin further reminisces, “Keita was exactly the same then as he is now: funny, smart, good natured, a great designer, and of course a sharp dresser. But over the years, I have realized that’s just the scratching the surface. The fact is, no matter where you go, Keita is always the coolest guy in the room. He knows music, he knows design, art, sports, movies, pop culture, food, you name it…the man has his finger on the pulse. Did you know he can sing? Dance? Cook up a storm? I’ll tell you, if you want to get to know Kieta, you better get started…the man is DEEP!”
With Thanksgiving just around the corner it only seems appropriate to give a hearty thank-you to our beloved designer, Keita. Thank you for your tremendous work ethic and fervor for the company, but also for your friendship, wisdom, humor, and of course for tantalizing us with all your cool, fresh kicks!