Women of Influence: Sue Nichols

A view from the top…
Sue Nichols is an independent contractor in sales at Amusement Today.
She also is the sole proprietor 5centride, a business she created with her art talent. She water colors on canvas and has the art transferred to coffee mugs, tiles, tissue boxes, knick-knack boxes, compacts and other items.
She also sells some of her originals.

Sue Nichols

Accomplishments and affiliations…
•Member, Outdoor Amusement Business Association (OABA)
•Member, Showmen’s League of America (SLA)
•Member, International Independent Showmen’s Association (IISA)
•Member, National Amusement Park Historical Association (NAPHA)
•Member, Furnace Art Guild of Dickson, Tennessee

Nichols would not change a thing
DICKSON, Tenn. — Over the last decade, members of the outdoor amusement business industry attending the IISA trade show in Gibsonton, Florida, make time to stop by Sue Nichols’ booth.

They stop to chat with their long-time friend while perusing her merchandise of coffee mugs, tiles, tissue boxes, compacts, knick-knack boxes and more, all adorned with her artwork depicting a scene inspired by their industry. 

Sometimes they can find one of their own rides or concession trailers on an item. Sometimes they will recognize another carnival’s ride or trailer. 

In addition, they may place orders with her that she will send at a later time. 

Oh, and, yes, they can purchase an ad in Amusement Today from her since she works as an independent contractor for the trade magazine. 

To Nichols, she is living the life she loves. She is a salesperson at heart. She loves the live entertainment industry, particularly the outdoor mobile industry: “It is so family oriented.”

 And she has found that her art, while always being a source of relaxation, in its uniqueness, has become a lucrative side business for her, which she calls 5centride. 

Nichols may have been surprised at some of her career decisions along the way, but there are very few things she would want to reverse. 

Born and raised in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a community in the north central mountainous part of the state, Nichols can recall stomping around midways with her grandparents, parents, her two brothers and sister at local fireman’s carnivals. She even ended up working the Cake Wheel game one week at one of these events when she was 16 years of age.

She couldn’t have known then that later in her life she would personally know the people that owned the rides at those fireman’s carnivals, the Reithoffer family. 

Her family also regularly attended the Bloomsburg Fair, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Every year her family made the annual trek with to Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, to her dad’s company picnics. 

“I wasn’t afraid of any rides,” Nichols said. “I liked it all.”

She still has that affinity. She said she will ride any ride at least once and that includes the thrill of the 300-foot-tall Skycoaster at Fun Spot in Orlando, Florida. 

Nichols also had an art talent that she fed throughout high school by enrolling in art classes. 

She began her college education at a community college, attending there for two years before transferring to Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, for the school’s art program.

“I ended up not liking it there,” she said. “We were told what to paint everyday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.”

She transferred to Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, putting her art on the back burner and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Advertising. 

She entered into an internship right after college graduation at a local daily newspaper where she had the opportunity to experience different positions. 

“I was shocked to realize that I liked the outside sales the best,” she said.

After her internship, she took a job at a chain of local weekly newspapers in the Washington, D.C. area in outside sales. 

The job was stressful. She began to question her career choice. She took a few career tests that showed she was, indeed, in the right field but, perhaps, with the wrong company. 

Trusting the results of the test, she took that leap of faith so many do along the way. She answered a blind ad for a job at a printing company that offered a company car and promised a lot of traveling. 

She took the job and settled in working at National Ticket Company in 1981, becoming the first woman sales representative at National Ticket.

This was her first experience working in the live entertainment industry. She fell in love with it. 

That first year at National Ticket she traveled to her first International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions convention in Kansas City, Missouri. There have been many more.

 She also traveled to trade show fair conventions, baseball meetings, horse racing conferences, movie theater conventions and arena managers conventions. 

She met carnival owners, fair managers and arena managers, attributing many of these introductions to her boss, Bill Alter, “who knew everyone.” 

She also met young professionals working for a trade publication called Amusement Business. In 1988, that company ended up hiring her away from National Ticket and she continued in sales and travel. 

While working for Amusement Business, she once again took up her artwork, primarily for relaxation. She concentrated on watercolors during those years. And even after leaving Amusement Business in 2001 to concentrate on being an independent contractor with a couple of other publications, she continued her painting. 

 At first, she focused primarily on landscapes. She threw in a painting of a bumper car one evening and the rest is history. Since 2004, she has sold thousands of pieces of artwork. 

She began selling ads for Amusement Today as an independent contractor in 2003. That is where she is today. 

She feels lucky to have been able to maintain her professional skills and her artistic talents. She knows it could have been just one or the other. 

But the door opened for her and she walked in and hasn’t looked back. 

—Pam Sherborne

This article appears in the DECEMBER 2020 issue of Amusement Today.
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