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IISF Trade Show Friday Highlights: Battech Enterprises, Specialty Insurance, and Blue Sky Amusements
Specialty Insurance grows relationships through focused customer service

Specialty Insurance

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As the winds kicked in on Day 2 of the show, exhibitors took down tents to not have issues overnight.  The Florida State Fair closed at 5pm on Thursday due to high winds so many attendees who traditionally go to the fair on opening night were unable to visit on Thursday. 

On Friday at the show, traffic started out slowly.  Temperatures had dropped about 20 degrees overnight, only reaching the low 60s. By mid-afternoon crowds increased somewhat as people shared their time between the trade shows, the fair and the various meetings and activities held around town.


Albert Frieden of Battech is one who has been happy with the show so far.  He reported that business has been good with lots of good conversations.  Frieden takes a long term look and says sales are won through relationships.  “You need long term relationships in this business” he said.  

Frieden relates that he is doing a lot of refurbishments lately, keeping the stream of work level and employees on the floor working all year around.  “It used to be we did about 20% rebuilds and 80% new sales but that rebuild number has risen to about 50%”, he said.  Frieden attributes the refurbishment business largely to the H-2B issue.  When companies don't have all the employees they need to set everything up, they send a ride to Battech for refurbishment so it can be ready for fair season.   “It used to be we would build new rides October through the beginning of year and refurbishments from January to July or so but now we have a mix all year”, he added. 

The new mix of builds helps Frieden keep 35 employees on the floor full time and enables him to meet revenue targets and sales goals.

Frieden is currently working on a Slide and Hurricane rebuild and he just finished a new Hog Rally for Robby Hauser.  A slide was also recently completed for the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.  

Other recent sales and refurbishments include a Downdraft for Pat Crabtree and the Zero Gravity on site, also for Crabtree, that will be delivered to him following the show in Austin Texas. 

Frieden also has a Cliffhanger scheduled for rebuild this summer.

Frieden is proud of his American built products and services and wants people to realize that buying from his company helps to support the economy and keeps people working. 


Specialty Insurance, owned by Tom Plouffe, is making its mark in the amusement insurance world.  The company was founded in 2004 and services carnivals, concessionaires, parks and circuses.

Plouffe started his career in the outdoor amusement business, running Lincoln Amusements of West Haven, Connecticut.  The show carried 16 rides and operated as a true 40-miler show, servicing festivals and celebrations in the area.  Plouffe ran the show from 1985 - 2000, but issues with help, regulations and expenses became too much and he decided to sell off the carnival piece by piece.

Plouffe decided he would put his knowledge of the industry to use by starting a small insurance company to help fill a need.  Starting as a one man operation in 2004, he added his father as comptroller in 2005.  Later, his brother became a broker and joined the company.  

Plouffe signed Zerbini Family Circus and Marenna Amusements and his company has seen slow, steady growth over the years.  Other carnivals on the roster include JCJ Amusements, Tolve Presentations, Playland Amusements, World of Wold and Carnival Midway Attractions.

The latter two are significant because they are western-based shows, a result of the opening of a small west coast office in Huntington, CA.  That office is staffed by Shawnee Merten, brother of Bob and “Buddy” Merten, who owned B&B Amusements on the west coast.  A veteran of both the carnival industry and the insurance industries,  Merten is hoping to grow the west coast business. 

With the western expansion, Specialty has grown to 2 brokers and 4 customer service staff.  They also recently hired an in-house loss control specialist that is also a NAARSO certified ride inspector.  The company works with an exclusive Lloyd's of London program that it provides to its customers.

While the company that started as a single operator has expanded over the years, Plouffe believes it is his industry knowledge and commitment to customer service that has set him apart and will be the factor that helps him continue to grow.  “Whether it is timely quotes, getting certificates, cab cards or handling claims, we know what our customers need and get them that information when they need it”, said Plouffe.

Blue Sky Amusements

Bill Reiss has a family dilemma.  He wants to refurbish his Tilt A Whirl but son Mike Reiss is fighting him about it, arguing against spending the time and money on that particular piece of equipment.  For Bill however, that Tilt is the most important ride in his arsenal. 

As a young 15 year-old  man working on a carnival for Mike Tellone at the Greenlawn Fireman's Fair one summer, the Tilt was his ride.  The lines one night were particularly long and Bill saw three girls try to cut to gain access to the ride.  Bill turned them away with an admonishment but not before one of fiesty young women turned around and cursed him out.  Bill asked a boy standing nearby who the girl was.  The boy, who turned out to be the girl's brother, told him it was his sister, and he wound up asking her on a date.  Three years later, Susan and Bill Reiss were married and they have been together for 45 years.  The ride later went to Charlie Cook and Bill bought it from him 20 years ago, keeping it all this time.

Family is an important part of his show.  Blue Sky was born in 2003 and 2020 will mark the company's 17th season.  Along with son Mike Reiss, his other son William Reiss Jr. operates games and food and his brothers in law John Keffos and Steve Maroules run the two units of his carnival.

The show currently has 38 rides split into two units that work in Long Island, North Jersey and sometimes South Jersey.

He has what he calls a “Sunday School Show” opening at 6pm and closing at 11 most days.  He plays all church dates, festivals and non-profit fundraisers.

Rides include a Vertigo, Himalaya, Rock Star, Spin Out, Orbiter, and Starship.  Reiss said the company may be adding a new spectacular ride this year but no announcement could be made at this time.

In addition to the working family, the couple has two grandchildren, Quinn Ivy Reiss and Kaiden Harrell.  Despite all the family, labor remains a huge issue for the show.  Reiss said without good help, it is very difficult to move the show and he needs foreign labor in order to keep the show in business. “We have to take action as an industry”, said Reiss, speaking of the perennial H-2B issue, adding “no one here wants to work anymore”.

Stay tuned for our Trade Show Wrap up report.

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