Chester County Home Show is great fit for area businesses and consumers
By Stone Lieberman
By NATALIE SMITH
As spring approaches, so does a great time to make those repairs or improvements to your home. But one of the more intimidating aspects of being a homeowner is knowing the best place to go when you need help.
Whether it’s replacing a misbehaving water heater or having a backyard patio installed or even finally painting the downstairs powder room, home improvements can be overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start. Of course, you want to work with businesses that are dependable. But wouldn’t it be better if they were from your community as well?
The Western Chester County Chamber of Commerce is making the search a lot easier, by gathering dozens of these local businesses in one place.
On March 26 from 4:30 to 7 p.m., the Chamber is presenting its Chester County Home Show, a free, consumer-friendly event at the Banquet Hall of the Wagontown Fire Company. Visitors will have a chance to look over the business displays, chat with the representatives and consider who may be the best “fit” for their needs.
This is the second year for the Home Show, the first having attracted more than 300 interested folks to the Downingtown Country Club. The move to the Wagontown Banquet Hall in 2018 is to accommodate even more exhibitors and a larger crowd.
“It was pretty dynamic last year,” said Chamber Executive Director Donna Steltz, listing just some of 2017’s 40 types of vendors and exhibitors, “between energy companies and home repair, heating, air conditioning, electrical work, painters, windows, cabinetry, solar energy and flooring.”
Steltz said the first Home Show was the brainchild of Chamber Treasurer Bill Shaw, and it seemed a natural for the group whose membership is primarily comprised of small businesses. “The show was created because we knew our mom-and-pop vendors are always on the job, and they can't get out to grow their client base,” Steltz said.
This year, Steltz said she is expecting more than 50 vendors, with some representing broader areas of interest, including the Chester County Department of Emergency Services, the non-profit Good Works and The Chester County Press.
Mark Milanese of Milanese Remodeling was the chairman of last year’s Home Show and is its 2018 presenting sponsor.
“When Donna called me last year about joining the Chamber and said I especially want you on board with this new event, the Chester County Home Show, it didn't take any persuading at all.
“The idea of a home show just for our geographical region was such a great idea, and one that I wholeheartedly support,” Milanese said with enthusiasm. “It’s good for our local contractors and good for local residents.
“The big home shows in Philadelphia and King of Prussia and York and Harrisburg – those contractors are too far away, and some of those guys are so big, they’re national.
“Having a trustworthy, honest local businessperson that lives where you do, and you can meet face-to-face is a great opportunity for the homeowner and for any business who deals with people that are local,” he said.
Among the vendors will be Bob Sparr of J-S All Things Plumbing in Honey Brook. Chamber member Sparr was also an exhibitor at last year’s show and was eager to sign up for the event on March 26.
“I've done a lot of trade shows and home shows for other people and some on my own,” said the business owner. “Sometimes it's a hit or miss. This was definitely a hit.
“Even though it was scaled down in size as far as some home shows go, I got a fair amount of business. People would call. It was very productive.”
Sparr said you couldn’t beat its appeal, for both a person in the trades and a potential customer.
“There were a lot of homegrown individuals there. You didn't have a lot of people coming from the other side of the state, you didn't have people coming out from Philadelphia. … I'm a very small company and if someone who comes in there from Philadelphia, that's out of my area. Safe to say that 90 percent of the people at that show were well within my geographical area of operation.
“It wasn't so big that you'd get lost in the chaos, but big enough to get some business out of it. I thought it was perfect.”
Sparr has been giving a lot of thought to his display for this year’s show, taking note of the popularity of television home improvement and real estate shows. The hottest thing in the world of plumbing right now? Tankless water heaters, he said.
“Millennials and others watching HGTV are catching up on some buzzwords about pieces of equipment in the plumbing industry. I want to try and take advantage of that. There is some new equipment in the market that I plan on having there on display. I’m planning on doing something that catches peoples’ eyes.”
And if your home improvement projects are more of the DIY variety, there will be folks there who can help get you started.
Chip Clavier, of Hatt’s True Value in Thorndale, sees the Chester County Home Show as an excellent opportunity.
“It’s a local event, local customers. So anytime you don’t have to travel far to get in touch with new potential customers, it’s always a great event to attend. And of course, your house is such an important piece of your personal financial wealth, like any other investment you need to take care of it.
“Things like painting the inside of your home, updating your kitchen and bathroom faucets, keeping your deck clean and stained, coating and sealing your driveway -- those are all important things that we can help our customers take care of, and that can ensure the value of their home remaining high.
“Maybe they'll get someone to do some flooring or the basement, and they can finish it up themselves with painting. So, it’s kind of a win-win situation for the customer and for us.”
Clavier said his store display will be a combination of the familiar and the unexpected.
“We’re going to promote Benjamin Moore paints. [The brand] has a great reputation in the industry and is a great user-friendly paint. But we also will have a couple new projects. Kind of surprise, demo-type products that will help the homeowner.”
In addition to his zeal for the upcoming event, Clavier is also an advocate for the Western Chester County Chamber.
“Anytime you can get in touch with people who belong to a chamber of commerce, you know that they're good people in the community. They're not fly-by-night outfits and going to take your money and not complete your job. The Chamber has a great selection of businesses around the area that take great pride in keeping their reputations high.
“I think that's the biggest thing for the local homeowner; finding reliable, good sources to get things done.”
Home Show sponsor and Chamber board member Milanese said the business association is looking ahead.
“It’s Chester County's only home show and we're looking for this to grow. The Chamber has a commitment in supporting it and watching it grow to a full-fledged local event.”
Milanese extended an invitation to all county residents. “For that person who lives in Western Chester County, it's great, but it's not just for Western Chester County. It's for all of Chester County. Doesn't matter if you're from Parkesburg or Downingtown or Oxford or Exton.”