How the passion for performance became three decades of “Wow.”
We live for that magical moment.
The gasps. The stares. That heart-thumping excitement as the line between real and surreal disappears.
At Group Delphi, we believe in the power of story and stage; they’re the tools we use to create moments of wonder, awe, and connection with your customers. In fact, we’ve been using them to put the show in trade show for nearly 30 years — although our roots in the theater began long before that.
For Group Delphi founder and CEO Justin Hersh, “the beginning” was helping his father, a composer, produce his original musical compositions. After studying theater design at UC Santa Cruz, Justin cut his teeth on an array of lighting, staging, and technical gigs at Bay-area theater, dance, and event companies. And when he founded his own scenic production company, Delphi Productions, in 1989, he sought to build event and tradeshow environments as immersive and captivating as a Broadway performance.
Lightning in a Bottle
In 1990, a freak storm provided the spark that turned Delphi’s scenery into showmanship.
Hired to handle scenic production for AID & Comfort, an AIDS benefit dinner and concert at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theatre, Delphi worked closely with Tony Erpelding. The design director of the benefit and founder of Erpelding Design, Tony had an array of eclectic work under his belt — from interior design and product branding to costuming for Grateful Dead concerts. But nothing had prepared him for the deluge.
“The great drought ended the night of our event — a sit-down dinner for 500 people,” Justin recalls. “Dinner went off without a hitch, but just as the concert began, it started to rain. We had Philip Glass and the Berkeley Symphony scheduled to perform, but given that the Greek is an open theater, all that quickly went out the window.”
“It was a serious bonding experience,” Tony recalls. “Here we were, soaking wet, equipment blowing up onstage, changing the running order on the fly — and yet we were both very calm. We had a shared respect for the way the other worked and agreed that no matter the obstacle, the show must go on.”
The duo expanded their collaboration in the following years, pitching clients together and building unforgettable projects for world-renowned brands. And in the late 90’s, Tony officially joined Delphi, bringing inimitable design and world-class production together under one roof: a massive WWII airplane hangar on the San Francisco Bay.
Expanding the Cast
In 2009, our cast and capabilities grew when Delphi Productions merged with Icon Exhibits of Fort Wayne, Indiana, creating Group Delphi. And in 2011 we welcomed General Graphic Exhibits (GGE) — the go-to fine arts partner for Bay Area artists and legendary photographers like Ansel Adams and Jim Marshall since 1961 — to the Group Delphi family.
Today, Group Delphi is the global experience creation shop with a diverse team of carpenters, metalworkers, scenic artists, digital technologists, animators, and countless other specialists. With two massive facilities across the country, Group Delphi can now offer one-day shipping to any major city in the U.S. And that comes in handy, given our roster of clients; we create mesmerizing moments for the world’s best brands, including Medtronic, SAP SuccessFactors, Pixar, Apple, VMware, and many more.
Wonder, Awe, and Connection
Though our team, facilities, capabilities, and portfolio have grown, we still live for the same magic that got us started. We believe face-to-face experiences are the most significant way to connect with customers. We also believe every brand has a unique story, and the best way to tell those stories is through unforgettable moments of wonder, awe, and connection.
What kind of moments are we talking about? Circus acrobats traversing a 40-foot wall. Elaborate dioramas featuring startlingly realistic human figures. Custom, interactive video games. A 60-foot slide — inside a Coke bottle the size of a semi trailer — atop a major league ballpark. A CGI university campus brought to life. A fully functioning bistro on a trade show floor. And let’s not forget your typical star-studded spaceship-unveiling party in the Mojave desert. Heck, our work with Apple is so wild that we’re contractually prohibited from telling you about it.
After nearly 30 years of pushing the envelope, we’re just getting started. After all … the show must go on.