By Sue Hamby
Special to the Journal
One of the favorite activities of many Central Texans on weekends is to go to a Sami Show at the Bell County Expo Center. If you haven’t gone to one, you are missing out on a fun and interesting activity here in our local community. I have attended “Sami Shows” for years and have often wondered “what the word Sami stood for” so last year as I was leaving the show, I decided to ask the lovely older woman who always sits by the door. Little did I know that she was “Sami”. She smiled and said in a very soft voice “I am Sami”. Of course, it intrigued me and I wanted to know the history of the shows.
I was truly surprised when she told me the Sami Shows started in 1975. Can you imagine, they have been going on for 41 years? When Sammie Dwyer’s husband retired from the military, they decided to retire in Austin. Sammie had a degree in accounting but since she had 5 children, she wanted a business that she could combine being a mom and being a business woman. She had been to other craft shows and felt that the promoters weren’t very nice to the vendors and decided that she would like to become a promoter. Her first few shows primarily had plants and has grown so much that vendors now come from all over the state and sometimes even out of state. At that time, Texas had “Blue Laws” in effect so most businesses were closed on Sundays. When asked why the shows were named “Sami” instead of “Sammie”, Sammie stated that she didn’t want the shows named after her but a friend designed their logo and felt that Sami would be the best name as she had started out with a very long business name. She laughed and jokingly said it could stand for “Spend All My Income (SAMI)”.
When the Bell County Expo Center opened in 1988, Sami Shows were one of the first to schedule events at the Center. They now have Sami shows in Belton 7 times a year and the next one in Belton will be November 12-12 with another show November 25-27 and December 10-11. 20, 2016. The schedule for the shows is available on their website, www.samishow.com. The Facebook page is: Sami show Marketplace. Sami shows were held in Austin for 27 years but now are only held in Belton, Round Rock, and Bastrop. In talking with her daughter, Jennifer Dwyer, who now works with her mom in the family business, she stated she started working in the business when she was two years old so has literally grown up in the business. Jennifer was the youngest of five and is sometimes referred to as the “caboose.” Sammie now has 6 grandchildren.
When asked what she liked about her business, Sammie stated “I love the people and their creativity. Small business owners like the vendors, are the heart and soul of our nation. In my 41years in the business, no two show have ever been the same. I love Belton and the people here. They are so friendly.” In talking with some of the vendors, most have regular jobs and leasing a booth to display their crafts or products, was a great way for them to make extra money. All were very complimentary about Sammie and seemed to appreciate the opportunity to make extra money. They usually average 60-65 vendors at the shows but at certain times such as Christmas, the numbers can rise to 100-150 vendors.
One of the things that impressed me about Sammie is her relationship with others, whether it be vendors or customers. She sits by the door and thanks people for coming which is amazing. Seldom are we thanked for patronizing a business. In talking with one vendor, Anasa Foster Brooks, she stated that she has worked with Sammie for 27 years and absolutely adores her. Anasa had a storefront business “Anasa By Design” in Austin for 7 years. She decided to close the store and only do Sami Shows as she also works for the Internal Revenue Service and her husband is a professor at University of Texas at Austin. Anasa stated her work with the government is a job but her business is her passion and you can certainly tell that by the lovely hats she designs and the beautiful clothes and accessories that she sells. You can see some of her accessories on www.accessoriesbyAnasa@etsy.com and AnasaByDesign@Facebook.
Another interesting thing which I learned was Sammie was the founder and is still the promoter for “City Wide Garage Sale” which she started in 1977 in Austin. . At that time, gas was very expensive so Sammie thought it would be helpful to bring the community together so that they could sell their items in one place. . Since it first started, it has become a vintage antique market and has products from $1 to thousands. Jennifer stated that at one City Wide Garage Sale in Austin, one vendor sold a $8,000 ring to a newly engaged couple. Sami Shows are becoming nationally known as they receive inquiries from all over. A few months ago, a vendor from South America contacted Jennifer and expressed interest in being a vendor. Jennifer also stated that some people even schedule their vacations around the City Wide Garage Sale. Website is www.cwgs.com to find the schedule of events.
One vendor at the City Wide Garage Sale, has been leasing a booth since 1980. She now has her own Interior Design company and is currently doing the interior design on a 12 million dollar home in Austin but still loves to participate in the shows. Jennifer stated that she felt the reason people are attracted to the City Wide Garage Sale is because it is a reminder of the past and is very nostalgic. She also stated that people love the thrill of the hunt. Although a lot of people buy on Ebay, local shows are fun, challenging and bring people together while the computer tends to isolate people and when you shop locally, you keep the money in our community. Also, the Sami Shows bring a lot of money into Bell County, not only in sales tax but also through motels, restaurants, gas stations, etc. So the next time you are at a Sami Show, stop by and say hello to Sammie so she will know that Belton and Temple love her too. For more information on the Sami Shows or the City Wide Garage Sale, you can call 512-441-7133 or 512-441-2828 or check out their website at www.samishow.com. See you at the next Sami Show.