After the purchase, he changed the company's focus -- from a flower shop that happened to sell and rent video equipment -- to a major national player on the technology scene, specializing in audio, visual, computer animation, lighting and event production.
Wheeler landed an eight-year contract staging magician David Copperfield's arena productions nationwide, and Hughie's moved from a 900-square-foot facility to a 15,000-square-foot warehouse to a 90,000-square-foot office and warehouse. Other high-visibility contracts included programs at the Nautica Stage, Johnson & Johnson trade shows and the acquisition of a Columbus audio-visual company, which took Hughie's into new markets.
As the company grew, Wheeler became more involved in nonprofit organizations that needed his expertise. In addition to monetary donations, Hughie's often performs pro-bono work in staging and managing events. Among the company's favored agencies are the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society (GCPOMS), the Cornerstone of Hope and the Cleveland Advertising Association (CAA).
* GCPOMS was formed in 1985 to honor peace officers who give their lives in the performance of service. Hughie's provides sound systems, a camera crew and an outdoor video screen for its annual May parade and memorial service. The society hosted a service in May 2002 to honor officers killed on 9/11, and Hughie's donated more than $30,000 in equipment and services for the ceremony and concert the following day.
* The Cornerstone of Hope, which hopes to build a center in Cuyahoga County, helps children, teens, adults, spouses and families grieving the loss of a loved one. When Cornerstone was planning its first gala fund-raiser earlier this year, Hughie's donated more than $20,000 worth of equipment and service for a live performance by recording artist Lou Christie. Hughie's has also sponsored Cornerstone's annual charity golf outing and donated more than $10,000 worth of staging, lighting and sound for a summer fund-raiser.
* Hughie's provides office and warehouse space for the CAA's annual judging weekend to nominate the best in Cleveland advertising and donates more than $20,000 worth of goods and services to the Addy Awards ceremony. Hughie's also sponsors CAA's outing, donates equipment for CAA's monthly luncheon meetings and donates items to CAA's annual auction, which raises scholarship money. HOW TO REACH: Hughie's Audio-Visual and Computer, (800) 449-4115 or www.hughies.com