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Call Me the Breeze

OOH…Here’s One Thing

3 1,517


OOH …Here’s One Thing


by Jim Johnsen,
Managing Director, Johnsen, Fretty & Company




Call Me the Breeze



We lost a good one this past week folks.  Allan Cohen.  Maybe you heard of him, and maybe you didn’t.  Allan rolled that way.  So when I was deciding which song to serenade him with, JJ Cale came to mind.  Allan was a lot like JJ.  A true genius at his craft.  One of the best.  But he wasn’t into self promotion.  He was into gettin’ er done.  And he did a lot during his lifetime, including a CIA stint in the middle east, building a pest control business (which he hated by the way) and successfully starting, building and selling at least 3 different mall advertising businesses.  

Less you are wondering who JJ Cale was, he wrote some of Eric Clapton’s best songs and was one of Eric’s best friends.  Here is a quote from Clapton shortly after he passed in 2013:

“He had a unique ability to achieve deep artistic eloquence with deceptive simplicity, to make aural poetry without ever using a single note or lyric that wasn’t absolutely essential, and to make all of it sound relaxed and utterly natural.”

Sound like Allan?  You bet.  As The Godfather of mall advertising, he made it look easy, time and time again.  I vaguely remember the story of him chatting up a facilities manager at a regional mall (he was great at that) while there for pest control.  The manager got around to telling Allan what a pain in the ass the mall directory maps were because stores were always going and coming, and with each change the directory poster had to change.  Allan, never one to miss an opportunity, said to him, what if we took care of that for you?  The mall advertising business was born.  Soon to be followed by the three sided mall directory display, the wall mounted backlits, the empty storefront murals and the banner spectaculars, among other things.  All Allan’s brainchild by the way.  

Allan had a successful sale to 3M in the 80s and another to Clear Channel in the late 90s.  3M’s mall platform went on to become Outdoor Systems’ and then CBS’.  Ironically all 3 sophisticated large companies never ran the business as well as Allan.  I am not sure what that was but I have a hunch it had to do with his personal touch with the mall developers and his unbounded passion for pitching the medium to the agencies and direct clients.  

I always enjoyed working with Allan.  “No” didn’t exist.  When some one gave him “that’s too hard” he immediately went into “solve it” mode.  “Allan how the hell are we going to hang a banner from a beam 60 feet in the air without a scissor fork?”  “A motorized pulley system…of course.”  He loved challenges and rose to many during his life time. 

Lest I leave you thinking that Allan was a business animal, anything is further from the truth.  He had a love affair with his wife Maddie from the first day they met until his last.  He was also crazy about his kids, Adam, Shawn and Todd and enjoyed many ventures with them including movie production, mall advertising in Brazil, a digital media play and I’m sure a few more that I don’t know about.  

Allan was also full of large happenings.  He didn’t do ordinary well.  One of the ones I love maybe more than all his other stories was when he was hit by a car while riding his mountain bike and then trapped underneath it.  He almost suffocated to death but then one of his sons lifted the car up and someone else was able to extract him.  Don’t spit your coffee.  That’s a true story, witnesses and all. 

Allan, you were personable, smart, fun, eccentric and driven, but most of all you were cool.  I’m wishing you the breeze at your back on your next journey.  We will miss you.  



Securities transacted through StillPoint Capital Member firm FINRA/SiPC


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  1. Stephen Freitas says

    Thank you for the fine tribute to Allan. He was a great friend. Truly, “one of the good ones.”

  2. Thank you Stephen Freitas. He left a lasting legacy with our Industry.

  3. Alan High says

    A great guy. He was instrumental in helping us launch the mall advertising business in Canada. He will be missed

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