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Remember the Time

It’s Access’ 20th anniversary. We hope you’re enjoying the 20 for 20 video series we did on some of our favorite projects, but many of my recollections over the past 20 years have little to do with advertising.

I am proud that almost from the very start we have been a part of many of the big things that are happening in the area. We played a part in the funding for Shaftman Hall, the Taubman Museum of Art, the Campaign for Virginia Tech, Center in the Square, the National D-Day Memorial and Alexander Black House and Cultural Center. These are just a few of the projects I remember fondly every time I pass one of the icons of our region. I also look with pride at the new community art space that my partner Tony Pearman is spearheading right across from our building on Patterson Ave.

While Access is judged by our work, it’s an organization that is comprised of people. As a company, we have a lot less turnover than most, but here are some fun facts: Our first full-time employee was Kris Bailey, now an associate at Access and for my money, one of the most articulate craftspeople of advertising ever to work in our community. I have enjoyed working with lots of folks over the years. Some went on to other things, many others have stayed a part of my work family.

Our internship program has been an amazing success. Some of them have gone off to work in big-time advertising, making their mark with companies such as Facebook, Wieden+Kennedy and Arnold. I am looking forward to seeing what will happen with some of the remarkable young people who have recently interned at Access.

The first baby born at Access was the fruit of the loins of then part-time bookkeeper (and now associate and longtime friend) Laura Robinson when Adam entered the world. My daughter Amanda made her first appearance shortly after. Now both of them have entered college. Our most recent Access babies are Porter (son of Rachel), Ruby (daughter of Jeremy) and Eulaela (Michael’s little girl). Part-time Access researcher Brittany Frantz’s baby Harper is a contemporary, though she was born before Brit returned to Access.

Adam Wood, who was the first child born at Access, was featured in one of my favorite commercials for Access PR.

I taught two of our current employees (Michael and Brittany) in children’s church when they were just wee lads and lasses. You might think that would make me feel old, but actually, they make me feel young.

We have had about a half a dozen weddings of Access folks through the years, with Dawn and EJ’s being unquestionably the most outrageous. I have enjoyed being a part of every one of them.

I think it’s kind of cool that Access had a website before Twitter, Paypal, or Facebook. I couldn’t find any early screen grabs. It’s probably just as well – back in those days they told you not to use color because it made the site load too slowly.

I think local businesses are often underrated in the importance of what they contribute outside of the jobs and services they provide. At Access, we have rehabbed two buildings that have helped spawn two neighborhood revitalizations. About two years after starting in a business incubator, we purchased a building at the corner of Dennison and Memorial. It was a threadbare building without a lot of character or evident potential, but we bought it, renovated it and enjoyed several good years in business there. Things started happening around it. Ed Walker bought the building across from us and renovated it. It’s now the Village Grill. A community park was founded next door. Pops came along…in short it helped create a momentum that would bring Grandin Road around the corner. That place will always be special to me.


Access before renovationaccess-3


Our office on Patterson Ave was even more of a sea change for the neighborhood. Because of our friendship with Ed Walker we knew he was going to renovate the Cotton Mill, but there had been a snag. He recommended that we look at the 701 Patterson property. In no small part due to the herculean effort of Tony Pearman with administrative support from Melissa Gibson, our building took shape. Then the Cotton Mill opened. Then Interactive Achievement renovated a building down the street from us. Then several neighbors fixed up houses in the area. Today, downtown’s West End is a fairly hopping place with two new urban apartment buildings taking shape. I don’t know if this was just something that was coming or whether we helped enable it, but I am sure it’s a pretty amazing thing of which to be a part.

I am exceeding proud of Tony Pearman and Terri Jones who were awarded the AAF Silver Medal for lifetime achievement in advertising. I am also exceedingly humbled to have been bestowed the same honor last year.


Silver Medal Todd Tony Terri

Silver Medal Tony Chris Todd


What has changed the most at Access over they years? There’s plenty. A young and cocky Tony Pearman and Todd Marcum proclaimed we would never have account executives and we would just work with our clients directly. The darn reality that there is just 24 hours in a day changed that view. In many ways, we are four practices under one umbrella now, offering creative, digital, public relations and business intelligence services. Of course, this is integrated…they all work together…but we have far more capacity than young Mister Pearman and Marcum would have foreseen. And yes, we have account executives and they make a profound contribution to both our capacity and creativity. Creativity has always and will always guide the boat at Access.

Sara Bemiller was the first Access employee to retire. Terri Jones was the most recent one after I talked her out of it on three previous occasions. If chronology is any indicator, I suppose I will be the next one, but that’s not happening anytime soon. There’s too much excitement happening at Access.

I have lots of other stories and observations, as anyone who knows me will tell you. Many of them are best told without a digital trail and I have many paragraphs ago exceeded the ideal length of a blog. But thanks for hanging in there and letting me share a few of my reminiscences. There are more stories to come.



Author and co-founder Todd Marcum contributes concepts and strategies to Access clients. Working with the creative team, he has been recognized through hundreds of local, regional, and national awards. Click here to read more about Todd and the rest of the Access team.

Topics: Agency Life