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Surface Appeal

President Mitch Salomon (center) and some of his team at Salomon Flooring.

President Mitch Salomon (center) and some of his team at Salomon Flooring.

The flooring business has changed in many ways since Mitch Salamon Sr. opened his shop 75 years ago, with an array of products he couldn’t have envisioned. But other elements haven’t changed at all, say today’s second- and third-generation leaders of the company, from the importance of punctuality to helping customers work within their budget, all of which has helped Salamon build a roster of repeat customers in some of the area’s most important industries.

Visit Sarat Ford Lincoln in Agawam, Ford of Greenfield, or Balise Hyundai of Springfield, and chances are you’re walking on a surface installed by Salamon Flooring.

Since 2014, in fact, the West Springfield-based company has completed six-figure jobs at those dealerships, plus Curry Honda in Chicopee, Balise Ford in Wilbraham, Prime Hyundai in Rockland … the list goes on.

“Car dealerships are building now; there’s a lot of growth and consolidation,” said Mark Salamon, a third-generation vice president at the family-owned flooring business, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. “We have a lot of projects going on with car dealerships; the opportunities are enormous.”

Assisted-living centers — which are also seeing a building and renovating boom, thanks to the largest population over age 65 in the nation’s history — are another strong niche for Salamon, with recent flooring jobs including Linda Manor in Leeds and Stonebrook Village in South Windsor, Conn., and several others now underway.

“We’re local contractors from Western Mass., but we do work all the way into Boston and New York and Connecticut,” Salamon said. “We do a lot of school work, assisted-living centers, car dealerships, government work, VAs, Navy work — small to large — as well as residential projects.”

Company President Mitch Salamon told BusinessWest that his father, also named Mitch, launched the company in 1943 in Holyoke, later moving it to West Springfield, where it has been based for more than a half-century. “It just evolved through the years, and when I was old enough to assist, we eventually broadened our scope of work and expanded our operations.”

Today, with 36 installers in the field and an office staff of nine, Salamon Flooring continues to build on its name, and its key niches. Major school projects in the past five years include a half-million dollars worth of work at UMass Amherst, plus jobs at Pioneer Valley Christian School, Baystate Academy, Bay Path College, Chapin School, West Springfield public schools, Wilbraham & Monson Academy, and Springfield Technical Community College.

Then there are the medical facilities — including Riverbend Medical Group, Baystate Medical Center, Mercy Medical Center, MedExpress, AFC Urgent Care, and other large practices. Meanwhile, recent government projects have included four naval bases around New England and Veterans Administration facilities in Northampton and Bedford.

A Vietnam veteran decorated with the Bronze Star, Mitch Salomon says being a vet qualifies his company for a competitive edge in the bidding process for government work, but added quickly that its track record provides a greater edge. “Our credibility and reputation are so strong that, once we affiliate ourselves with a contractor, we’re invited over and over for anything else they bid.”

Laying It Down

Mark Salamon noted that the company cut its teeth on residential projects, and started to shift more toward commercial work when his father took over. “As the third generation goes on, we do mostly commercial work, with some light residential.”

Popular products these days include broadloom carpet, carpet tile, luxury vinyl tile (LVT), vinyl composite tile (VCT), hardwood flooring, granite, ceramic tile, and sheet vinyls. Products like LVT, VCT, and sheet vinyls, he explained, offer more durability than traditional vinyl products while providing a realistic wood or tile appearance.

The majority of customers today are looking for long-term durability, he added, whether to protect a floor from dog claws and heavy use by kids, or due to a high-traffic location in, say, a retail store or car showroom.

From left, Carol Salomon, Mitch Salomon, Mark Salomon, and Karen Salomon Shouse

From left, Carol Salomon, Mitch Salomon, Mark Salomon, and Karen Salomon Shouse represent the second and third generations of company leadership.

“LVT is becoming very popular and replacing hardwood in a lot of homes,” Salamon went on. “The way they’re constructed these days is a very realistic look that mimics wood, with beveled edges, graining on the surface, and it’s about half the cost of hardwood. Some have lifetime warranties, and some are waterproof.”

Commercial clients are increasingly choosing LVT as well, Mitch said, particularly high-traffic facilities like hospitals, healthcare practices, and assisted-living centers, for its blend of durability and a more pleasing appearance than traditional vinyl tile.

Part of a product’s durability stems from the surface preparation and moisture mitigation Salamon offers. Mark added that ever-expanding options in materials makes it easy to “value engineer” a job that meets the client’s needs within his or her budget.

“A lot of products start with the architect specifying something,” he noted, “but once budgets are set, sometimes value engineering comes into play, and we can make the projects fit their budget. We certainly have some clients with tight budgets, but we can find products that fit their needs and still give them quality and durability.”

Repeat business has been an important element of Salamon’s success, he went on. “Once we jump into a market and complete successful projects, we’re asked to bid a lot of similar projects again. We pride ourselves on giving 100%, doing the project on time, on schedule, and handling whatever obstacles are in the way, which creates repeat business. General contractors like us and trust us on projects.”

That’s partly because of the legwork Salamon completes well before it shows up on a job site, from the products to be used to a list of workers preapproved to work in certain settings — including background checks for military bases and CORI checks for school settings.

“We make sure the paperwork needed is done, so when the project starts, there are no delays,” he said. “General contractors like to see that set up in the system; it makes it very easy for them, which makes the process of completing the job that much quicker.”

Another important element of working with general contractors is making sure punchlist items are resolved immediately, thus preventing delays in the schedule. And he appreciates contractors with a similar emphasis on punctuality.

“We enjoy working with good general contractors that have their jobs well-organized, well-financed, and on schedule,” he said. “It makes our job easier, makes the projects come out nicer, and increases the chance for additional work with them.”

Carol Salamon, Mitch’s wife and the company treasurer, agreed. “The general contractors we work with have pride in their work; they’re not sloppy.”

Stepping Forward

Mark Salamon noted that the company has grown substantially over the past six years, emerging from the post-recession years with a substantial surge in business. “Every year has had strong, positive growth.”

The company has been a community fixture in more ways than installing floors throughout the region. Among its charitable efforts, Salamon Flooring and Salamon Realty, another family business, donated funds last year to the West Springfield Fire Department to purchase a utility task vehicle from Springfield Auto and Truck.

The emergency vehicle was put into use at the Big E in September and made 63 runs there. With its smaller size, it’s able to navigate through large crowds and access areas of the fair that would be challenging to reach with an ambulance. It is also used to reach emergency situations in Mittineague Park, the Bear Hole Watershed, and other places.

As for its flooring business, the Salamon family plans to be a local fixture for the foreseeable future. While Mark and his sister, Vice President Karen Salamon Shouse, represent the third generation of company leadership, they won’t be the last; Mark’s son, Beau Salomon, is a student at UMass Business School, but comes to work during summer vacations and other breaks, and sometimes on the weekend when needed, with every intention of coming on board full-time after graduation.

“He has the leadership ability that my father and grandfather had, that a lot of the guys here look for, Mark said, “and he’s a hard worker — something you don’t see in a lot of kids nowadays.”

He’ll be coming on board at a time when those niches that have driven so many sales, from auto dealerships to schools to assisted living, continue to experience a wave of construction. “The market is strong. We have some quality competition, but we strive every day to be better.”

“We’re not going anywhere,” Salamon Shouse added. “With the competition in the area, we have to bring our best to every job.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Home Builders Landscape Design Sections

Something to Build On

Gisele Gilpatrick says her family’s business, Pro-Tech Waterproofing in Chicopee, typically garners about six months’ worth of business from the Western Mass. Home & Garden show — just not all at once.

“They’ll take our information, but they won’t always call next week,” said Gilpatrick, Pro-Tech’s office manager and the chair of the 64th annual Home & Garden show, slated for March 22-25. “They’ll say, ‘we saw you six months ago, or a year ago, or two years ago. I pulled out your card, because I have a problem now.’”

That’s the value for many of the 350-plus vendors who will set up shop at the Eastern States Exposition on March 22-25. Among those showcasing their products and services will be builders, remodelers, kitchen and bath specialists, landscapers, painters, roofers, financial institutions, pool companies, and more.

“It’s a good chance for people to talk to us one on one about their situation,” Gilpatrick said. “Sometimes it’s easier to visualize things when you talk with someone in person, and people are more comfortable explaining what they need. Sometimes, people think it’s a major project and it’s not, while other times we have to tell them it is major.”

Either way, it’s easy to find answers — and second, third, and fourth opinions — with so many businesses on hand. For that reason and others, the annual event has become the signature showcase for the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. of Western Massachusetts, which produces it.

The home show started as a way to generate revenue to support the association, but it also provides member companies with a chance to market to an audience — and a big one, with around 20,000 visitors over the four days in a typical year — that might not otherwise see their name. Conversely, it gives attendees, many of whom simply come to the show for fun, a host of concrete (sometimes literally) ideas for home improvement.

The exhibitors — in more than 90 different categories — run the gamut from inspection services to security and alarm systems; Internet and communications to moving and storage; duct cleaning to pianos and organs.

Show attendees fall into one of several categories, the association notes:

• People planning to buy or build a new home, who may visit with builders, real-estate agents, financial institutions, and sellers of component products, such as hardwood flooring, tile, and appliances;

• People planning to remodel or renovate, who may want to check in with all of the above, plus vendors of replacement components such as windows and doors, as well as appliances, wall treatments, and home furnishings;

• Yard and garden enthusiasts, who tend to be interested in lawn and landscaping services; wall, walk, and edging components and materials; and trees, shrubs, flowers, and seeds;

• Lifestyle-conscious individuals, who like to check out trendy, high-tech, or time-saving products; home furnishings; and products focused on self-improvement, fitness, and health;

• Committed renters, who have no plans to own a house, but may be interested in space-conservation and space-utilization products, as well as home furnishings;

• Impulse buyers, who flock to vendors of home décor, arts and crafts, cooking and baking products, jewelry, and personal goods; and

• Those who attend the show purely for fun, who may arrive without an agenda but often develop ideas for future purchases and home products. “More than any other group,” according to the association, “these people are the ones who have come to rely upon our show on an annual basis and who perhaps have the greatest impact upon our vendors.”

Advice — on the House

In addition to the exhibitors, the four-day event will also include cooking shows, hosted by WMAS radio personalities, in the Home Show Kitchen in the Young Building. Various chefs from restaurants throughout the Pioneer Valley will be on hand to prepare some of their specialties, and audience members can ask them questions, try samples, and have a chance to win gift certificates from some of the establishments.

A children’s area in the Young Building will feature an art exhibit created by students from Thousand Cranes Studio and a chance to participate in creative activities, as well as Melha Shriners clowns and a live butterfly display from Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens. The Koi Society will have a pond built by C J Grounds Maintenance filled with koi fish, kids can get their pictures taken on a go-cart provided by Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting, Looney Tunes characters from Six Flags New England will be on hand, and Rolling Acres Outdoor and Science Summer Camp will help kids conduct science experiments.

Meanwhile, promotions and giveaways include the WMAS Kitchen Giveaway Contest, the Rock 102/Lazer 99.3 Ultimate New England Sports Fan Giveaway, and iHeartRadio’s $25,000 Home Makeover Contest.

In a dedicated outdoor area, several vendors will assemble outdoor structures such as sheds, gazebos, sunrooms, and furniture to spruce up the deck or poolside. Also on display in that area will be the large Beauty in Motion showroom of American Standard products.

Gilpatrick emphasized that the impact of the Home & Garden Show is year-round. “Some people may have a problem that costs $15,000 to fix, and they don’t have $15,000. But come next year, they’ve planned and budgeted, maybe secured financing, basically done what it will take, and that’s when we hear from them again. There’s a lot of that.”

This year’s show hours are Thursday and Friday, March 22-23, 1-9 p.m.; Saturday, March 24, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, March 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults, and children under 12 are admitted free. Discount coupons, available at www.westernmasshomeshow.com, knock $6 off the regular ticket price on Thursday, $4 off the regular price on Friday, and $2 off the regular price on Saturday and Sunday. Veterans and active military with ID receive free admission on Thursday only.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Home Builders Landscape Design Sections

Something to Build On

Gisele Gilpatrick says her family’s business, Pro-Tech Waterproofing in Chicopee, typically garners about six months’ worth of business from the Western Mass. Home & Garden show — just not all at once.

“They’ll take our information, but they won’t always call next week,” said Gilpatrick, Pro-Tech’s office manager and the chair of the 64th annual Home & Garden show, slated for March 22-25. “They’ll say, ‘we saw you six months ago, or a year ago, or two years ago. I pulled out your card, because I have a problem now.’”

That’s the value for many of the 350-plus vendors who will set up shop at the Eastern States Exposition on March 22-25. Among those showcasing their products and services will be builders, remodelers, kitchen and bath specialists, landscapers, painters, roofers, financial institutions, pool companies, and more.

“It’s a good chance for people to talk to us one on one about their situation,” Gilpatrick said. “Sometimes it’s easier to visualize things when you talk with someone in person, and people are more comfortable explaining what they need. Sometimes, people think it’s a major project and it’s not, while other times we have to tell them it is major.”

Either way, it’s easy to find answers — and second, third, and fourth opinions — with so many businesses on hand. For that reason and others, the annual event has become the signature showcase for the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. of Western Massachusetts, which produces it.

The home show started as a way to generate revenue to support the association, but it also provides member companies with a chance to market to an audience — and a big one, with around 20,000 visitors over the four days in a typical year — that might not otherwise see their name. Conversely, it gives attendees, many of whom simply come to the show for fun, a host of concrete (sometimes literally) ideas for home improvement.

The exhibitors — in more than 90 different categories — run the gamut from inspection services to security and alarm systems; Internet and communications to moving and storage; duct cleaning to pianos and organs.

Show attendees fall into one of several categories, the association notes:

• People planning to buy or build a new home, who may visit with builders, real-estate agents, financial institutions, and sellers of component products, such as hardwood flooring, tile, and appliances;

• People planning to remodel or renovate, who may want to check in with all of the above, plus vendors of replacement components such as windows and doors, as well as appliances, wall treatments, and home furnishings;

• Yard and garden enthusiasts, who tend to be interested in lawn and landscaping services; wall, walk, and edging components and materials; and trees, shrubs, flowers, and seeds;

• Lifestyle-conscious individuals, who like to check out trendy, high-tech, or time-saving products; home furnishings; and products focused on self-improvement, fitness, and health;

• Committed renters, who have no plans to own a house, but may be interested in space-conservation and space-utilization products, as well as home furnishings;

• Impulse buyers, who flock to vendors of home décor, arts and crafts, cooking and baking products, jewelry, and personal goods; and

• Those who attend the show purely for fun, who may arrive without an agenda but often develop ideas for future purchases and home products. “More than any other group,” according to the association, “these people are the ones who have come to rely upon our show on an annual basis and who perhaps have the greatest impact upon our vendors.”

Advice — on the House

In addition to the exhibitors, the four-day event will also include cooking shows, hosted by WMAS radio personalities, in the Home Show Kitchen in the Young Building. Various chefs from restaurants throughout the Pioneer Valley will be on hand to prepare some of their specialties, and audience members can ask them questions, try samples, and have a chance to win gift certificates from some of the establishments.

A children’s area in the Young Building will feature an art exhibit created by students from Thousand Cranes Studio and a chance to participate in creative activities, as well as Melha Shriners clowns and a live butterfly display from Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens. The Koi Society will have a pond built by C J Grounds Maintenance filled with koi fish, kids can get their pictures taken on a go-cart provided by Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting, Looney Tunes characters from Six Flags New England will be on hand, and Rolling Acres Outdoor and Science Summer Camp will help kids conduct science experiments.

Meanwhile, promotions and giveaways include the WMAS Kitchen Giveaway Contest, the Rock 102/Lazer 99.3 Ultimate New England Sports Fan Giveaway, and iHeartRadio’s $25,000 Home Makeover Contest.

In a dedicated outdoor area, several vendors will assemble outdoor structures such as sheds, gazebos, sunrooms, and furniture to spruce up the deck or poolside. Also on display in that area will be the large Beauty in Motion showroom of American Standard products.

Gilpatrick emphasized that the impact of the Home & Garden Show is year-round. “Some people may have a problem that costs $15,000 to fix, and they don’t have $15,000. But come next year, they’ve planned and budgeted, maybe secured financing, basically done what it will take, and that’s when we hear from them again. There’s a lot of that.”

This year’s show hours are Thursday and Friday, March 22-23, 1-9 p.m.; Saturday, March 24, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, March 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults, and children under 12 are admitted free. Discount coupons, available at www.westernmasshomeshow.com, knock $6 off the regular ticket price on Thursday, $4 off the regular price on Friday, and $2 off the regular price on Saturday and Sunday. Veterans and active military with ID receive free admission on Thursday only.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Home Builders Sections

On the House

A sunroom built by Vista Home Improvement.

A sunroom built by Vista Home Improvement.

Brian Rudd parlayed 14 years of experience with his father’s large home-improvement company into his own small firm in 2008 — one he has grown into one of the larger players on the regional landscape. But that growth, he insists, has been measured and smart, because he doesn’t want to lose the emphasis on customer service that continues to drive impressive repeat and referral business.

Brian Rudd graduated from college with a degree in accounting, but spent about six months in that field before deciding he’d rather work for his father’s company, Patriot Home Improvement.

That was in 1994, and he worked his way up to operations manager in that organization before the elder Rudd began contemplating retirement. Brian made an offer to buy the business, but his father didn’t take it — so he struck out on his own.

“I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do” during his years at Patriot, he said, but when he launched Vista Home Improvement in a second-floor apartment in 2008, he didn’t realize he’d soon be staring into the teeth of a global financial crisis and resulting recession.

“We didn’t think about the economic landscape; we thought about what we wanted to accomplish,” Rudd told BusinessWest, adding that the company’s small size — he did $319,000 in business his first year — was actually a benefit during a time when larger companies were struggling to keep their large crews busy. In other words, he earned enough business to survive and grow, one customer at a time.

“Whether times are tough or not, your house — outside of your children — is your number-one investment, and you’re going to need to have it fixed,” he explained. “And at that time, people were more selective about who to spend money with. We were always obsessed with taking care of the customer. And that’s how we grew.”

Starting with a focus on siding, windows, and roofing, Rudd hung up a shingle on Elm Street in West Springfield soon after, then moved to Vista’s current location on Riverdale Street three years ago — a space he’s already outgrowing, with 26 full-time employees and 24 more installers in the field. Last year, the company did $6 million in sales.

To reach that point took a lot of hard work and hustle, particularly while building a name that first year. “I’d be at Home Depot at 6 in the morning picking up lumber, then off to work a bunch of appointments.”

Brian Rudd says smart growth — not taking on more than the company could handle without losing its personal touch — has been a successful philosophy.

Brian Rudd says smart growth — not taking on more than the company could handle without losing its personal touch — has been a successful philosophy.

Weekends saw him at home shows, flea markets, and other events, soliciting for appointments, and then it was back to work early Monday morning for another non-stop week. But by doing so much himself in the early days, he was able to hone a customer-service philosophy he says has always driven his business.

“I really wanted to focus on customer service, because unfortunately, in this business, so many people get burned,” he said. “It’s a great business to be in — even now, I’ll be out checking out job sites for cleanliness, helping finishing up jobs … it’s a blast.”

Rudd knew he wanted to forge a more intimate, person-to-person model of business than his father’s large firm, so he has grown gradually, never taking on more than he could handle without losing that service-oriented touch.

“Our big thing is growing one good person at a time,” he said. “And as we get bigger, I’m still concerned with giving customers the ‘wow’ factor. They can choose anyone, so you have to give a great experience. That’s what we do. We’re not perfect, but when we make a mistake, we hold ourselves accountable for it and take care of it.”

Windows to Success

That philosophy, Rudd said, has helped grow Vista largely through repeat and referral business. “We might do a roof for a customer, and three years later, we’re back there doing the windows because they remembered the good experience we delivered.”

Today, Vista specializes in all types of exterior remodeling — custom doors and entryways, windows, awnings, decks, gutters, and sunrooms in addition to roofing and siding projects — but also installs bath and shower systems.

“We got into bathroom systems because, in the wintertime, when it’s cold, we want to keep working,” he said, adding that Vista has become one of the top dealers for its manufacturer of choice, Luxury Bath Technologies.

It’s a good niche to be in, he noted, because, while many homeowners enjoy tackling DIY projects around the house, they’re often loath to look behind the tiled walls of their bathroom and deal with issues of mold, poor plumbing, and other problems that might arise. Rudd recalled someone he knows who started a bathroom remodel on his own and still isn’t done six months later.

“Eventually you get so much mold and mildew buildup, you can’t avoid the project — it has to get done,” he said. “What’s your time worth to you? We can do it in a single day.”

However, quick turnaround doesn’t mean cheap materials, he noted. “I do not sell the cheapest products — they’re not the least expensive or the lowest-quality. Companies that do that are just putting lipstick on a pig. If you buy the cheapest windows, and five years later, there are problems with that window, and no warranty on it, well, that poor customer is out buying it again. We see this all the time. I partner with good manufacturers that have great warranties and great customer service. That is so key.”

For instance, Vista is one of about 200 Owens Corning platinum preferred contractors. As part of that program, the installers attend annual trainings, and each project is factory-inspected by Owens Corning when done, so the manufacturer knows the roof is installed to the correct specifications.

That program also provides lengthy warranties — “not the kind where you have to read the fine print, but true warranties, so if there’s a system failure 10 years from now, I’m covered by the manufacturer, and so is the customer.”

Vista’s headquarters on Riverdale Street is its third home in a decade, and the company is already threatening to outgrow the space.

Vista’s headquarters on Riverdale Street is its third home in a decade, and the company is already threatening to outgrow the space.

In short, Rudd said, customers shopping for roofing or other home-improvement needs get what they pay for, but Vista does try to work within each customer’s budget and offers no-money-down financing, which makes large, necessary projects slightly more amenable to a household budget. “It’s like when people are looking at a car — they’re not looking at the $50,000 price tag; they’re looking at the monthly payment.”

More customers each year are choosing Vista for those exterior and bathroom needs, he noted, and not only from Western Mass. The company has also opened an office in Northborough to service the central and eastern parts of the state. “We get a lot of referral business there, so having an office out there is so much easier.”

But at the end of the day, Rudd says Vista has grown because of the way customers and employees are treated.

“It’s all about customer service,” he told BusinessWest. “To me, the number-one person in the company isn’t me; it’s my employees. If you treat the employees like they’re number one, they’ll treat the customers like they’re number one, and that’s how it works here.

“We don’t have to be the least expensive guy to be the best,” he went on. “We provide very high-quality products and build off referrals and repeat business.”

High Grades

The accolades speak for themselves — Super Service Awards from Angie’s List the past six years, an ‘A’ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and the aforementioned platinum status with Owens Corning, to name a few.

While always looking to expand on the company’s product lines, Rudd said he won’t take on work he’s not accustomed to doing just to get a contract. But he said the region’s remodeling companies form a tight network, and will refer customers to each other.

“I love what I do; to me, it’s not work. I take care of my customers, and making money is secondary,” he said, adding that he expects to keep growing in the coming years. “It’s a fantastic business. As long as people live in houses, you’re in business. But a lot of companies are top-heavy; they don’t pay their help. And the help is what makes the customer happy.”

In fact, one hindrance to growth is the ever-present challenge of finding quality employees at a time when the trades are struggling to attract young talent.

“It’s hard to find good people, but I’m blessed to have great employees. That’s what makes it happen,” he said. “There’s a ton of opportunities, but you also have to pay people. Typically in this business, a lot of people don’t want to pay for talent.”

Rudd wants to go beyond that, and has a goal of making Vista an employee-owned firm, with profit sharing, within five years — which would help the company become even more of an employer of choice.

“We’re happy with where we are now,” he added. “We could grow more if we had the right people, but we’ll find them.”

Meanwhile, he’ll keep his boots on the ground as much as he can, in between managing the day-to-day affairs of a company that is a far cry from its humble beginnings in a small apartment at the start of the Great Recession.

“I run appointments, go to see customers, I’m moving bundles of shingles, I’m loading trucks. I absolutely love it,” Rudd said. “I’m a people person. I enjoy working with people, and it’s good for my employees to see me out there. Besides, it’s good exercise.”

Sure, but love it?

“I really do,” he said. “The minute I can’t do that, I probably won’t be happy. It’s that important.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Home Builders Sections
Home & Garden Show Offers Businesses Valuable Exposure

Brad Campbell

Brad Campbell says the home show is a valuable source of funds for the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc., but more critical as a marketing tool.

To call the Western Mass. Home & Garden Show a lifeline for certain businesses, says Brad Campbell, would certainly be underselling it.
“I know of one foam-insulation company that gets 60% of its business from the home show,” said Campbell, president of the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. of Western Mass., the organization that has been putting on the show for the past 58 years. This year’s event takes place on March 22-25, at the Eastern States Exposition.
That 60% figure isn’t an isolated example, he told BusinessWest. For some companies, the leads generated over those four days may account for up to 70% of their business for the year.
“The home show gives vendors the opportunity to market to an audience that normally wouldn’t see their name,” he explained. “They get in front of consumers for four days — more than 20,000 consumers, in fact. That, by itself, is a tremendous value.”
That exposure is, in many ways, a reflection of the goals of the association itself, Campbell noted.
“We’re an independent group made up of builders, remodelers, and what I call allied industries, industries that support builders and remodelers,” he said. “We have about 400 members, and our purpose is to represent the interests of those industries, both legislatively and by helping our members develop themselves as stronger business people. We offer education to our members to try to help them run their business more effectively and efficiently.”
The home show, he explained, started as a way to generate revenue to support the association.
“Like any trade group, we’re supported by dues from members. We try to keep dues as low as possible, and the home show has been able to be our funding mechanism to accomplish that. But that’s a minor point; the real purpose of the home show is that it gives the community the opportunity to see and touch and feel these new products we’ve developed, and incorporate them into their homes. It’s developed over the years to be a spotlight for these products and services.”
For this issue, BusinessWest sits down with Campbell to learn how the Home & Garden show continues to evolve in its 58th year, and why it continues to be that vital lifeline — or, at the very least, a springboard into a busy spring — for so many companies.

Bricks and More
The scope of the home show has definitely expanded, Campbell explained, noting that it’s no longer just a showcase for new products and construction- and landscaping-related services. Visitors can learn how to finance their projects by visiting one of a whopping 10 banks and credit unions that will set up shop at the show. Other exhibitors — more than 350 in all, in more than 90 different categories — run the gamut from inspection services to security and alarm systems; Internet and communications to moving and storage; duct cleaning to pianos and organs.
“We even have automobiles at the home show,” he added. “It’s no longer just about homes; it’s about lifestyle, how we live our lives, whether it’s improving our backyards, creating an escape from the day-to-day, or the vehicles we drive, or the sheds we put things in. Sheds have also become a big portion of the show.”
The theme of this year’s show is ‘Rebuilding Western Mass., Rebuilding Lives,’ a nod to a freak series of weather events last year that turned countless lives upside down across the region.
“A lot of consumers haven’t figured out how they’re going to do it,” Campbell said in reference to said rebuilding. “This is a place where they can talk to professionals, talk to suppliers, architects, and find a way through the maze of how to get back on their feet.”
Responding to the storms of 2011, he noted, some fields (roofing and siding, for instance) were booming from the get-go, but much of the new construction still hasn’t happened because property owners and insurance companies continue to deal with claims, so there’s plenty of opportunity on the table for companies in dozens of specialties. “A lot of people were underinsured or uninsured,” he added. “We’ve all heard horror stories. It’s been interesting.”
That brought Campbell back to one role of the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc., and that is as a resource for consumers looking for construction services. The home show, he said, is one way to get that message across, by enhancing the group’s profile.
“That’s one thing that gets lost about our association,” he noted. “When consumers are trying to figure out which builders or remodelers to use, when they have questions, we’re possibly the best source for that information. When consumers call, we do the research. We have a referral program for our members, so when a consumer calls and wants work done on their home, we’ll find a member willing to do the work. Sometimes people think of the Yellow Pages first, but here, we’ve got the resources.”

Solar Proprietors
Those consumer questions often center around options for energy-efficient products, an increasingly noteworthy trend in building. At the home show, that’s reflected in everything from solar and geothermal products to a company like Eco Building Bargains, which specializes in repurposing discarded building supplies.
“We’re seeing more technology, more energy-efficient products,” Campbell said. “That’s what consumers are looking for. This year we have three or four solar companies, where in the past we’d have one. High-efficiency heating and cooling systems always play a big role.”
Also on the rise at the show — perhaps reflecting an improving economy — are luxury items, from pools and hot tubs to central vacuum systems and other gadgets that make home life a little easier.
Speaking of making life easier, Campbell’s organization aims to do just that for area nonprofits, many of whom are offered free booth space at the show. The Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. has partnered in the past with the Red Cross, Shriners Hospital, Rebuild Together Springfield, the American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, Harmony House, and many others. It also maintains a scholarship program for members’ children, which has doled out some $400,000 to date.
“We try to give nonprofits the opportunity to get in front of people and explain who they are and what they do; that’s an important component of community service that we’re promoting heavily,” he explained.
This year, the association is working with Homes for Our Troops to build a house in Granby for Marine Sgt. Joshua Bouchard, who lost his left leg and broke his back after his vehicle drove over an explosive device in Afghanistan in 2009.
Efforts like that, Campbell said, make it clear that “the culture of home shows is such not just about doing business. One thing I’ve found is that people actually go to these to see old friends, people they haven’t caught up with in recent years. It’s a social event as well as a consumer event.”
And if it helps to rebuild a few lives — from tornado victims to an injured Marine — then it’s a show even more worth seeing.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]