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Family enterprise PREUSS MESSE celebrates its 175th anniversary


On 8 May 2021 this family enterprise, the oldest exhibition stand company in the world and steeped in tradition, will be celebrating its 175th birthday – an anniversary that’ll probably remain unparalleled for quite a while. Now in their sixth generation, the Preuss family has become a byword for the creation of real attention grabbers. Founded in 1846 by Carl Friedrich August Preuss as a construction company both for the theatre and festive decorations, PREUSS MESSE is now a global leader in designing exhibition stands, creating unique brand displays for the international trade fair scene.


The Hamburg-based family of entrepreneurs owes its 175 years of success to its courage, innovative strength, entrepreneurial spirit and a keen feel for the latest trends. These are also the foundation of the latest attention grabbers from the creative minds at PREUSS MESSE: designer house boats. The current crisis in the trade fair industry has prompted the two CEOs, Peter Preuss and Sabine Lewin, to add another string to their company’s bow. The prototype of the new houseboat, MyAnyPlace, was only recently launched in Travemünde.


Staging of events from the very beginning

Stage design and festive decorations

This traditional company has always had an affinity to water. When Carl Friedrich August Preuss founded C.F.A. Preuss & Sohn in the centre of Hamburg in 1846, one of his first jobs was the floating dance floors on Hamburg’s Inner Alster lake. Having trained as a painter and decorator, he soon made a name for himself as a supplier for events of every size, building scenery and props for Hamburg’s famous Ohnsorg Theater and having a major hand in large-scale events such as the General Horticultural Exhibition (1897) and the German Gymnastics Festival in Hamburg (1898). After the Second World War the company specialised in trade fair and exhibition design.


Exhibition stand designer from the very beginning

A passion for brand displays

The economic boom of the 1950s also generated growth in the trade fair industry – an opportunity which the company’s CEO Peter Preuss Sr. recognised, seizing it straightaway. “Every trade fair is an event, and our family business has always used such opportunities to skilfully showcase our customers’ exhibition stands. This has been a recipe for success from the very beginning,” says today’s CEO, Peter Preuss Jr., referring to his father’s business acumen. And so the name Preuss is now a byword for unique, attention-grabbing and highly appealing exhibition stands. Whether it’s women’s clothes, breweries or consumer electronics, and an exhibition in Hamburg, Dortmund or Munich, the professionals from PREUSS have always enjoyed moving along unconventional new paths and combining creativity and passion with masterful craftsmanship and years of experience.

In 1970 the company moved a little further west to Holm, just outside the city of Hamburg, where the creative company found plenty of space for its growing workforce and for even more innovative ideas. In 1978 Peter Preuss Jr. took over as CEO and was later succeeded by his daughter Sabine Lewin in 2003.

PREUSS MESSE creates attention grabbers – throughout the world


When the exhibition industry became increasingly international in the 1980s, PREUSS MESSE went with the times and began to develop a professional partnership network. This enabled the family enterprise to showcase its customers on the global trade fair stage PREUSS MESSE creates crowd pullers for international corporations just as much as for medium-sized companies who are keen to stand out among the masses of exhibitors. “We’ve set up exhibition stands everywhere in the world,” says CEO Sabine Lewin. To ensure that this also continues to be feasible in terms of sustainability, saving resources and of course costs, a powerful network is worth its weight in gold. But there’s more to it: “Our local partners contribute a lot of know-how. They are extremely familiar with both the infrastructure and the overall conditions in each place. Also, we’ve worked with them and had personal contact for so many years now that we can be sure of a the same high quality everywhere,” she explains.

By 2020, PREUSS MESSE and its 50 employees and 50 international partners were producing around 150 exhibition stands each year.


A keen sense for the signs of the times
Flexibility and innovative strength mean the company can weather the crisis

The family enterprise from Holm isn’t easily shaken – a quality that is particularly in evidence in the current challenging times. Covid-19 has plunged the trade fair industry into its greatest crisis, with no clear outcome in sight. Sabine Lewin is sure that “due to the pandemic, the world of trade fairs will have changed fundamentally.” For her, this makes it all the more important to take an active hand in shaping the current transformation and to show her customers ways to convey an experience of their products through hybrid and digital methods in the near future. So PREUSS also creates attention grabbers online – as digital exhibition stands and as hybrid showrooms for in-person and web-based product presentations.

But this is not the end of the story. “We felt it was out of the question just to send everyone home and then wait and see how things develop,” Peter Preuss explains. Instead, he and his team simply converted their workshops into a “shipyard”, setting up an additional department for their company to design and build sustainable designer houseboats. “After all, our history started with floating dance floors,” says Peter Preuss, who also loves sailing. And so it’s entirely appropriate that, just in time for the company’s 175th anniversary, the firm has launched the prototype of its 60-square-metre houseboat, MyAnyPlace, in Travemünde. In fact, there’s a considerable demand for houseboats at the moment. “Of course we’ll continue to be faithful to the trade fair industry,” says Sabine Lewin. “But until it picks up speed again, houseboats are an attractive alternative for us, especially at a time when there’s a boom in focusing on your own home and on holidays in your own country. Only time will tell whether houseboats will continue to be a second string to our bow. One thing is certain: We’ve mastered more than one difficult situation in our company’s history. And we’ll master this one, too.” With courage, innovative strength and flexibility – since 1846.