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  Richmond Company is Top Events Planner
May 31, 2005

Not far from Atchison Village at the western end of the Iron Triangle, employing 150 people, is the largest event production company in California outside Los Angeles, Hartmann Studios, Inc. For a quick orientation into what they do, click on http://www.hartmannstudios.com/?op=studio. Maybe they could help us with our Centennial celebration. See the following story from the East Bay Business Times:

East Bay Business Times

From the May 20, 2005 print edition

Hartmann Studios has a ball with events

David Goll

A dramatic transformation of one of the Bay Area's most glamorous events - the San Francisco Symphony's Black & White Ball - is taking shape inside Richmond warehouses.

Mark Guelfi, president of Hartmann Studios Inc., and his employees are finalizing plans to turn the June 11 fund-raising gala in and around San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza into a multimedia extravaganza.

New whiz-bang special effects to be introduced by the Richmond company, the largest event production company in California outside Los Angeles, include shooting beams of light skyward at several street corners. Hartmann will use ARC lights so powerful that they could be seen from a passing spacecraft and had to be cleared for use by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ball-goers will also be treated to an elaborate light show that will paint San Francisco City Hall and neighboring buildings buildings with enormous, complex and colorful images generated by large-format projectors outfitted with thick lenses culled from old U-2 spy planes.

An enthusiastic attendee of past balls, Guelfi believes Hartmann's expertise in staging all manner of business and social events - attracting such corporate giants and paying customers as Oracle Corp., Yahoo Inc., Electronic Arts Inc., The Home Depot Inc. and Banc of America Securities LLC for parties, meetings, conferences and exhibitions - could take the Black & White Ball to a new level. After all, his company has been hired by movie celebrity-turned-politician, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to produce all of his appearances.

Many of the Hartmann's 150 employees at its sprawling facilities on West Ohio Avenue are working on the high-profile Black & White Ball. The privately owned company has annual revenue of about $40 million, but it will be donating more than $500,000 worth of services for the event, said Guelfi, who considers the event a feather in the company's cap. Overall, Hartmann will donate $750,000 to charitable causes this year.

This year, the number and variety of local and nationally known entertainment acts is being expanded to encompass every musical genre from classical to jazz, rock, funk, salsa, bluegrass, country and rhythm and blues.

Karaoke singers may think they've died and gone to ham heaven, as this year's ball will give them the opportunity to be accompanied by a live orchestra.

"Having attended the event in the past, I've seen a lot of potential" for improvements," said Guelfi, adding his fondness for the $200-a-head charity bash, which this year will benefit the symphony's after-school music education program, made him even more interested in bidding for the production job last year.

The work includes remedying some of the ball's past problems. Long lines and a lack of adequate amounts of food and drink have ranked as some of ball-goers' biggest gripes, Guelfi said. This is the 19th edition of the ball, which has been an on-again, off-again event since it debuted in 1956. Revived by famed San Francisco socialite Charlotte Maillard Schultz, who also serves as the city's chief of protocol, the ball has been staged every two years since 1985.

Guelfi said he plans to shrink the interminable lines by enlisting an army of volunteer ticket-takers. The addition of caterer McCall Associates is expected to end the culinary drought for attendees. The city's restaurants, which provided all the food during past Black & White Balls, are being called upon to bring only dessert this year.

Paulette Goodrich, a Pleasanton resident who serves as the symphony's director of special events and volunteer services, said her organization was ready for a new era when it solicited bids to produce this year's event. Hartmann Studios was a known quantity because it had staged the symphony's opening night gala.

"We had single companies produce the ball before, but they used a large number of part-time workers," Goodrich said. "The difference with Hartmann is it's using full-time employees and has a huge inventory of plants, furniture and decorative items.

"We're happy with what we've done in the past, but we wanted to see what else could be done with the ball. We're so excited by all the new elements. Hartmann is a company that thinks big and I think they're really outdoing themselves with this event."

Guelfi's company retains the name of its founder, Bob Hartmann, a former creative director at Macy's Union Square flagship store who opened the event planning business in 1982. With his younger brothers, Matt and Mike, Mark Guelfi bought the business from Hartmann, who died in 1996.

Today, Hartmann Studios has a five-acre site in Richmond, including 140,000 square feet of office and warehouse space, as well as an expansive greenhouse and plant storage area. As its business has expanded to include all of the United States, as well as parts of Europe and Asia, the company has opened a second office in Atlanta, where it has 25 employees.

dgoll@bizjournals.com | 925-598-1436