Vendors: Weather puts dent in first-day home show attendance at Mystic Marriott

Ryan Hancin, 5, of Franklin concentrates as he uses a hammer to build a wooden toy boat at the Home Depot Kids Workshop table at the Eastern Connecticut's Premier Home Show at the Mystic Marriott on Saturday. The show continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Groton — Jacob McBain of Stonington had two choices for how to spend his 11th birthday before his party on Sunday: a hike at Bluff Point or a trip to Eastern Connecticut's Premier Home Show.

He picked the home show.

"I've never been so I just wanted to check it out and find out what it was like," he said, adding that his father and grandfather worked in construction.

McBain may have been in the minority among those considering visiting the show. Vendors said Saturday that fewer prospective customers were stopping by tables than did last year, which they pegged to the weather.

"It's too nice outside to be here," said Ian Buckley, a designer for Amity Construction and Design, which is based in Old Lyme.

Ultimately, 1,500 visitors came by, about the same as Saturday during last year's show, according to Sherri Cote, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, which organized the home show in conjunction with the Builders and Remodelers Association of Eastern Connecticut.

This is the second year that the two entities have collaborated to bring vendors to the Mystic Marriott for a day of networking with customers and fellow businesses.

Chamber President Tony Sheridan said that the show overall was seeing an increase in the proportion of serious shoppers, which he attributed to a recovering economy.

One attendee Saturday was Maria Lavin, 51, of Ledyard. Lavin said it was the first home show she'd ever attended and that she came on a whim after seeing signs leading to the show.

She said she made an appointment with Kitchen Magic to have an estimate done on the kitchen remodel she's wanted to do for years.

She and her husband plan to pay off their mortgage in two months, she said.

"I'm thinking I can maybe swing it now," she said.

Cote said the focus of several changes to the show, including downsizing, was to attract serious shoppers as opposed to "tire kickers" who show up just to browse.

The show shrank from 175 vendors last year to 130 vendors this year. Organizers also passed on erecting a tent as they did last year, and shifted the Saturday hours of the show from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Organizers also added a few things to the show. For example, this year's show included events for children, such as the Home Depot workshop and a visit from the Easter Bunny. Cote said the activities were intended to make the home show more appealing to families.

Reviews from vendors were mixed, with people in the home industry saying the weather had cut a significant dent in attendance.

Kevin Greene, event staff with insulation company Easy Care Energy Solutions, said that last year, three or four people would visit his table at a time, but this year they were coming by one at a time.

Buckley and the owner of Amity, Russ Smith, said that the company was establishing fewer leads. Buckley said the company had achieved only three solid connections with potential customers by 4 p.m. Saturday.

"Last year, I remember coming back, we had so many leads it was difficult to handle it," Buckley said.

He said that attending was still worth it because it allowed Amity staff to make connections with other vendors in addition to raising the company's visibility.

Paul Russ, owner of Russ Antiques and Auctions out of Waterford, said he "definitely had some good quality leads" from offering free appraisals of antiques at the show.

Last year drew an estimated total of 5,000 visitors over the show's two days. Cote said she anticipates more people will come to the show today, in part due to colder weather. Temperatures Saturday peaked near 70 and are projected to top out in the high 50s today, when the show continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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