Inspiration abounds at Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 7:02 p.m.

Rachel and David Logan ended up changing their backyard plans completely after a visit to the home show.

Bob and Donna Heiter were able, finally, to put together the plans for their kitchen that had been hanging over them for more than a year.

“It's like one-stop shopping,” Rachel Logan says of the annual Duquesne Light Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show that opens for a 10-day run March 1.

“There are just so many people there with great ideas. We went in with a plan and came out with something entirely different.”

John DeSantis, executive director of the show, says those kinds of changes or discoveries are a usual part of the show, which, this year, will be the biggest ever with 1,600 vendors spread over nine acres in the 32nd iteration of the show at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

A trip up and down all of the aisles in the show would result in a trek of about six miles, he says. It is a trip that will take visitors from $6 garlic graters to decks that can top $10,000.

It is a walk that also can lead a visitor to ideas that were never there before.

Landscaper Jeff Blunkosky, owner of Pittsburgh Stone and Waterscapes in Washington County, says the advantages of the show are similar to those at Labor Day weekend's rib festival on the North Shore.

“Why would you spend time driving around from place to place,” he says. “You can go to one place and talk to all the people you need. Everyone's there.”

He admits the show is demanding on home and garden professionals because they are forced to attend or have representatives there for the 10 days. Such a presence is necessary, because all the competition is there, too.

“If you're working in Pittsburgh, you just have to do it,” he says.

The home show led to his encounter with the Logans last year.

Rachel says the couple wanted a deck for their South Fayette home and thought the show would be a great place to center their search because of the assortment of dealers there.

Even though Blunkosky is not a deck dealer, they ended up talking to him and liked him — and his ideas. He came over to their house and convinced them there were non-deck directions they could go.

DeSantis says that type of person-to-person encounter is one of the biggest advantages of the home show.

“You are seeing the product right there and talking to the person who will put it in place,” he says. “You are not looking at it in a catalog or watching a video.”

He says such encounters have the same positive role for contractors.

John Nagg, owner of the Acclaimed Kitchens of Cranberry, says the home show is his company's “prime source” for business, along with by recommendations from past clients. His four years at the show have convinced him it is a necessary function, he says. “It puts you on the same playing field with all your peers,” he says.

Even if a customer decides not to use a contractor immediately, he says, that business might be filed in the “layaway” category for a later visit.

Bob Heiter and his wife grew up in Lawrenceville, but had traveled across the country in her career in the Air Force. When they finally moved back to a home in Mars, Butler County, they settled down to household tasks such as redoing their kitchen.

Of course, that job was not an immediate task, and they carried it to the home show for several years, gathering information. Finally, last year, they met Nagg.

“By the time we left that day, I said to Donna, ‘If we can afford him, we are going to use him',” he says.

Like Rachel Logan, Heiter says he knew “there is nothing like the home show” for putting together information about a project.

DeSantis knows that sort of thinking is a common feature among home-show visitors. He says his staff does about 4,000 exit interviews in the 10 days of the show and has found over the years visitors come with an average of six projects on the “front burner,” jobs they are really interested in doing.

But, he adds, there are 12 on the “back burner” and the heat can rise on those projects if the homeowner meets the right craftsman.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com.

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