‘Menards guy’ dead at 91

In the category of advertising icons, few can top Ray Szmanda, even if few people know his given name.

They know him as the “Menards guy.”

Ray died on Sunday, his son reports. He was 91.

Ray Szmanda was a man who I was proud to call my dad. He passed away on May 6. He was 91.I think he would have liked…

Posted by Charles Szmanda on Sunday, May 6, 2018

It hardly seems possible that it’s been 20 years since Szmanda has been the chain’s spokesperson, a job he held starting in 1976.

His signature black glasses didn’t even have lenses in them, according to Nick Meyer, who worked with him for Menards and publishes a tribute today.

Even in his later years (he was in his mid-70s by the time I worked with him) he had a booming voice that would echo throughout the aisles of the westside Eau Claire Menards, commanding attention from unsuspecting shoppers. We’d be tucked away in the paint aisle with lights, cameras, and microphones and as soon as he started in on the script at full volume, the rubbernecking from customers would be hilarious.

He was a legit celebrity. Imagine for years hearing Ray’s voice on TV selling you carpet and yard supplies and then suddenly you’re actually in Menards and you hear him in real life in the aisle behind you.

People were in shock. And he loved every minute of it – waving hello, shaking hands, and giving the people what they wanted with a boisterous “Save Big Money!” on command. It was as much fun as I’ve ever had at a job.

In an earlier interview, Ray said people stopped him and asked him to say, “Save big money at Menard’s.”

“They don’t even say that. They say, ‘Say it.’ And I say ‘Save big money at Menard’s!’”

(h/t: Paul Tosto)