If you are traveling any distance by car this holiday season, chances are there’s a Buc-ee’s in your future. The monotony of miles of Texas highway is often relieved at this, the Disneyland of rest stops. At Buc-ee’s, food, flavors and Texas kitsch abound. If you’re lucky, you’ll visit the 68,000-square-foot unit on I-35 in New Braunfels. Here travelers will find 60 gas pumps and 83 of “the cleanest restrooms in America,” Buc-ee’s proudly claims.
Notably, a brilliant billboard campaign along the highway helps to build travelers’ anticipation.
“Buc-ee’s: Your throne awaits. 13 miles,” one states.
Who in the world is the author of this advertising? The answer is long-time Heights resident and highly regarded ad man, Lou Congelio. Congelio has been operating an ad agency, now called ACME Fish, in the Heights for 28 years.
The name ACME Fish is a little, well, different from the more common “Blah & Blah Ad Agency,” that might represent Congelio’s competitors.
“Yes, the name ACME Fish a little different, and my tagline is too,” Congelio said with a laugh. “It’s ‘Words is my business’.”
Congelio said he has always had a fascination with the word ‘ACME,’ and think it might have something to do with the TV shows he watched when he was youngers.
I think it’s from watching all those Roadrunner cartoons in my troubled youth,” Congelio said. “Maybe it’s because ACME means ‘the pinnacle of achievement.’ The name is unexpected, creative, yet relevant; relevant in that it says, ‘I’m different.’”
Congelio knows a thing or two about branding – he may even be the Godfather of ad work in Houston. For many years, he operated one of the city’s largest and most successful agencies, ”Stan and Lou.” In fact, it was too large according Congelio.
“Running a big agency means stealing time from creative work,” Congelio said I found I was no longer a creative. I wound up becoming more of an administrator, and I missed the creative stuff. Then the universe sort of pointed me in the direction of ACME Fish.”
While the reputation of the advertising business is dog-eat-dog, nothing could be further from true with this professional. Congelio helped launch “Only in Houston,” a non-profit initiative representing about 900 members of Houston’s creative community; people who work in advertising, marketing, public relations, graphic design, video production, the arts, music, dance, and all segments of the creative economy.
“Lou is one of those amazing Houstonians who truly believes rising tides raise all ships,” Christine Stevens, Director of Development for the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, said. “He has labored tirelessly to fund, grow, and sustain “Only in Houston, an organization whose sole purpose is to strengthen our city’s creative economy. He is always building, growing, and supporting the success of those around him. We are lucky to have him in Houston.”
Congelio will not be leaving anytime soon;he very much enjoys the area in which he lives and works. “I am proud of Houston, but I love everything about the Heights,” Congelio said. “The area offers a concentration of artists, filmmakers, photographers, studios and creatives of all sorts. I think being around all these creative people helps make me more creative. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.