UNIVERSITY PARK — Despite opening a few vendors shy of last year’s event, organizers of the 30th annual Home and Garden Show at the Bryce Jordan Center said the 2014 edition is on par with past years, and they hope to add foot traffic with fresh ideas.
Last year, the home show saw about 8,000 visitors, said Builders Association of Central Pennsylvania Executive Officer Abbie Jensen. This year she expects about the same.
Starting as The Home Show in 1984 at the Nittany Mall, it eventually outgrew the space and in the mid-1990s moved to the Jordan Center. This year, the name was changed to “Home and Garden Show.”
In the past few years, the number of vendors hasn’t fluctuated much, and the cost for vendors and admission remained the same this year.
“We’re doing good,” said Ann Guss, Builders Association of Central Pennsylvania board member. “We’re not immune to problems, but we have a lot of good builders and consumers in the area and see a good future.”
Guss also represents Kish Bank at the home show.
Guss said that some members have gone out of business, and other exhibitors have not come back due to economic reasons, but the board aims to continue to bring people into the show.
“It’s about adapting and making the show attractive by adding more seminars that are geared toward what people want to know,” Guss said. “You can watch HGTV, but people want to see information firsthand.”
The show, which is hosted by the Builders Association of Central Pennsylvania and sponsored by Pennwood Home & Hearth, runs through Sunday. Last year, there were 130 vendors at the home show. This year, the show features 127 vendors throughout the weekend.
“The whole purpose is to make it convenient for consumers in the area to come and think about their dream home, and find people who can create it for them,” Jensen said. “It’s a one-stop shop.”
One notable vendor, Tubbies Spa & Patio, was missing from the vendor list this year. The State College-based company leased space at the Blair County Home and Garden Show in Altoona last month, but opted out of the State College show.
The Blair County show is stable, said Linda Stotler, vice president of communications and marketing at the Blair County Chamber of Commerce, which annually hosts the show with the Blair/Bedford Builders Association.
That event had 130 vendors and about 2,500 visitors who came from as far as Maryland, and Stotler said that the key to success is knowing the community, watching the market and working with trends.
“Our success has to do with the longevity of the show,” Stotler said. “We’ve been through it all. I think we do offer what people need for a niche market and try to keep the integrity of a home and garden show to make sure the focus is exactly that. We’re in a small market, and we know our hometown and we know our people.”
The Blair County show will enter its 45th year, making it the longest-running home show in central Pennsylvania, Stotler added. But that presents challenges.
“We have to constantly think how to keep it fresh and keep people interested, but we have a dedicated committee that works on this and has started planning next year’s show,” Stotler said. “I think everyone is so passionate to keep the show viable.”
One of the larger home shows in the commonwealth — the Pennsylvania Home Show in Harrisburg, which ended Sunday — has seen a significant downturn this year.
In its 40th year and usually held for nine days, this year, it downsized to a four-day event and raised vendor costs, said Linda McMasters, assistant executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Harrisburg, which annually hosts the show at the state Farm Show Complex & Expo Center.
The Harrisburg show had about 300 vendors and an estimated 15,000 visitors this year. McMasters said that attendance may have been down, but the quality of customers was up.
“We saw more people coming to the show and giving business to the exhibitors rather than just coming to the show as something to do with no specific agenda in mind,” McMasters said.
The State College home show charges $600 a space, while the Blair County show charges $400.
Michael Confer, of Re-Bath in Bedford, has exhibited the company’s services at the home show since it started 30 years ago. He said the price of renting space is worth it, as he gets approximately 20 percent of yearly business at the show.
Confer also was at the show in Altoona, where he received so much business that he’s still trying to catch up, he said.
“We do these because it’s where we can meet our customers in a personalized setting and let them know their options,” Confer said. “We come to these shows because it’s a good way to get business, find potential customers and network.”
Re-Bath specializes in one-day bathroom remodeling.
Bonnie Plafcan, of Expert Home Builders in Northumberland, made her way to the home show for the 10th straight time for the same reasons as Confer.
She said the company has made it to five other home shows across the commonwealth, which account for about 10 percent of annual business.
“I think people want to see what they’re getting — a product that they can see right in front of them,” Plafcan said. “We pull out samples and photos and are able to speak with them one-on-one — something they can’t really get online.”
Having someone to speak with and seeing a model up-close are reasons why Huntingdon County residents Joan and Gary DuBois came to the home show on Friday.
The couple are remodeling their kitchen in a home they built outside of Huntingdon in the early 1980s.
“It’s like a mall where you can get everything you need in one place,” said Joan DuBois. “You get ideas, quotes and names of conractors who can help.”
The home show has added “garden” to its name, and it will include additional seminars and services, as well as a “Centre Park” on the arena floor that includes life-size outdoor-living amenities, Jensen said.
There will be an art section on the concourse level of the Jordan Center, Jensen said.
“We think adding art to the home is just another new aspect we wanted to include, because it makes a home personalized,” Jensen said.
The builders association partnered with the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania for the gallery space.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648.Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.