Up Close and Personal
Andrew Crane said the annual Home & Garden Show staged by the Home Builders and Remodelers Assoc. of Western Massachusetts (HBRAWM) began as a way to get contractors out in front of people who needed projects done.
These days, with the prevalence of the internet, consumers can do a lot of their research and shopping online, and they do.
But here’s the thing — the annual show, now in its 69th year, still draws a crowd.
“There are a lot of people that still want to meet their contractor, look that person in the eye, maybe see what their trucks or equipment look like, talk about specific projects, and see pictures. That’s how I like to shop,” said Crane, HBRAWM’s executive director. “The Home Show is for people that want to see and talk to contractors, as well as other people. If I’m buying windows and I get a chance to touch that window and slide it up and down or left and right, I feel better about that product. And that’s what the Home Show offers.”
This year’s edition runs March 21-24, in and around multiple buildings at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield. Crane says he expects about 15,000 visitors over those four days.
“If I’m looking to build a home … I’d like to find a guy that’s built several homes, or dozens, or hundreds, educating me about the process,” he continued. “It’s probably the single biggest investment you’ll make in your entire life. If you buy a car, it lasts you five years, six years, maybe 10 years. If you buy a house, it’s supposed to last you 50 years, 60 years, 80 years. So it’s kind of a big decision.”
“You get a chance to touch them and feel them without traveling to 20 different spots and other lumberyards all over Western Massachusetts; you might be able to do it all in the same building.”
Meanwhile, homeowners looking to renovate — and that number spiked during the stay-at-home months of the pandemic, and remodelers still report a high volume of projects today — will find plenty of vendors of windows and doors; flooring, countertops, and tile; appliances and furnishings; and much more.
“You get a chance to touch them and feel them without traveling to 20 different spots and other lumberyards all over Western Massachusetts; you might be able to do it all in the same building,” Crane explained. “We might be able to show you several of the products — different roofing, different siding, that type of thing.”
Plenty of Reasons
The annual event sees all types of attendees who visit for a variety of reasons, Crane noted. Attendees typically fall into one of several categories:
• People planning to buy or build a new home, who may visit with builders, real-estate agents, financial institutions, and sellers of component products;
• People planning to remodel or renovate, who may want to check in with all of the above, plus vendors of the aforementioned windows and doors, appliances, home furnishings, and more;
• 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;
• 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
• Lifestyle-conscious individuals, who like to check out trendy, high-tech, or time-saving products, as well as home furnishings and products focused on self-improvement, fitness, and health.
The latter categories inject some fun into the Home & Garden Show, Crane said. “We hear it every year: ‘where’s the beer-nut guy?’ or ‘where’s the pickle guy?’ Those type of things are what make a show entertaining. We call ourselves the Home Builders and Remodelers Association, but everybody likes to look at the radio remote-control helicopter that flies around.”
Even with the more serious home-related purchases, everyone wants some variety, he added.
“You don’t want to look at 500 sheds, but it’s really nice to have a dozen there to look at, with different types of shapes and colors. It’s really nice to see windows, but you don’t want to look at 300 windows. As you travel through the aisles, you’ll see different fences, you’ll see different roofing, different siding, and then you’ll bump into the pickle guy, or you’ll bump into the beer-nut guy, or the person selling knives and pans. These are all part of the entertainment.”
Speaking of entertainment, Crane said he’s often considered the show a social event, or at least part of one.
“Before I was involved with the Home Show, I used to go because I would see my neighbors and friends. We would plan to meet at the Home Show at 6:00, walk the Home Show for a couple hours and see dozens of our friends, and then we would plan a dinner date, go somewhere with our wives and have a nice meal somewhere.”
He also noted that the show is an inexpensive outing, and just about everyone who checks it out will find something useful, whether they’re looking for it or not. “In some cases, people will pick up a card and might not even call that vendor or contractor until a year later, when they remember that they ran into them.”
For vendors, the show can fill up an entire year’s worth of projects, Crane said, so people need to manage their expectations and plan ahead. “If you’re looking for a roof, you might have to wait until August to get it. And after the Home Show, you might not even get it this year if that’s the person you want to use.”
Meanwhile, “other people are just there to make sure that the general public knows they’re around if they ever can be of service. You know, pass out the business card, and it goes on the refrigerator, and if you ever need this or that, you take the card off the refrigerator and call that person.”
The Right Stuff
The Home Builders and Remodelers Assoc. is almost 100 years old and continues to represent contractors so they can understand state and national regulations, as well as keeping the general public informed of what services are available in the region.
“All the businesses that run a good business — meaning they plan, they advertise, they keep the right insurances, and they keep their licenses intact — are doing fine because they have a responsibility to their employees and to their livelihood,” Crane said of today’s business climate. “So when they attend education and learn how to write or rewrite contracts as laws change, that protects the public, and it protects them.”
At the same time, “when a person is shady in any business, they don’t put themselves out in front of the public. They kind of skirt the system, so to speak. So the people you’re going to meet at the Home Show are putting themselves out in front of everyone for the world to see, so people know they’re in business, they’re legit, and you can count on them being educated,” he went on. “So you’re not just hoping for the best. You’re ahead of the curve with your selection process.”