Everybody Wins

Second Annual Gilcrest Trade Show tops last year.

The first Gilcrest Trade Show, which was pulled together in a few months and held last spring, surpassed expectations. But it also gave organizer Matt Thompson of Gilcrest/Jewett Lumber Company, bigger goals for the second year.

“Last year’s event was very well-received,” says Thompson. “This year, because we had a full year to plan, we were able to put together elements in direct response to the feedback from last year.”

He says the motivation for the show in the first place was to help Gilcrest’s customers and vendors connect. So adapting the event to attendee feedback was key to making that happen. “Last year we got only positive comments. But there are always things to improve,” Thompson explains.

Some of the changes—like moving the event to HyVee’s Ron Pearson Center in West Des Moines—had an immediate effect.

According to Ron Ulrich of Hallmark Building Supplies, “Last year’s event was really good, but this year’s was even better. The venue seemed more centrally located. That may have affected the attendance, which was even higher than last year, and that one was a great event.”

Hallmark, which is a wholesale distributor of high-end building materials, had four booths at the show. “We have a small line of products,” Ulrich explains “But all are top-quality, and we were able to promote each of our four main product lines to a steady stream of builders and remodelers.”

Mid-Am Building Supply’s Paul Dannen agrees. “We weren’t able to participate last year because of a previous commitment, but this year’s event was a great experience. It gave us the opportunity to get our products in front of a lot of different people that we don’t normally get to talk with, like designers.”

Dannen says the company has already discussed hosting two booths next year instead of just one because of the number of products Mid-Am offers. “Mid-Am distributes building materials through six Midwest locations,” he says. “We offer everything to build or remodel a home except the 2×4s and the plywood—from doors and cabinetry to hardware, insulation, siding, and everything else.”

Mid-Am’s booth at this year’s Gilcrest Trade Show featured new colors in composite decking, new types of deck rail, and a new interior line of barnwood and shiplap products.

Attendance at the event was up more than 20 percent over last year, according to Thompson, with over 300 people coming through the doors. And new activities, including a “treasure hunt” throughout the vendor area and an educational seminar, encouraged attendees to spend more time at the event.

“The seminar was very well-received,” Thompson says. “We’ve had a number of vendors say they would be interested in hosting similar classes next year. That’s also something the customers have mentioned. They like the idea of more continuing education options.”

Although approximately the same number of vendors participated this year, several hosted multiple booths, and all praised the new venue, which was less cramped and allowed vendors and attendees plenty of space for product displays, demonstrations, and conversation.

“Our purpose isn’t to make money. We’re trying to help our vendors and customers connect,” Thompson explains. “Sometimes builders think they know a product well, so they don’t take the time to look at other ways it can be used. And some of the products represented aren’t flashy, but they can make a builder’s job easier or add value that a builder hasn’t considered. This trade show is an opportunity for our vendors and customers to make those connections.”

Ulrich says one of the main reasons Hallmark decided to participate in the first Gilcrest Trade Show was because of the relationship he’s had with Gilcrest over the years. “I’ve been working with Gilcrest for more than 14 years. So we wanted to support them with this, but it was a great experience for us, too. Last year’s was good; this year’s was even better. We’re in for next year 100 percent.”

Dannen says the same. “My boss and I had that conversation the night of the event. We’ve already started planning what we’re going to do for next year’s booth, even looking into educational opportunities we can offer.”

Thompson isn’t one to pat himself on the back. He says the general enthusiasm within the industry may have played into the positive results from this year’s Gilcrest Trade Show. And, as is always the case with an event this size, he has a few things he’d like to tweak for next year.

“There are always things behind the scenes that need some minor tweaking,” he says. “And we’re talking with our vendors to make sure the event is set up in a way that encourages their success, whether that’s adjusting the food and beverage arrangement, offering more seminars, or designing different sponsorship opportunities. Their success is our success.”

Based on the attendance and the comments from the Second Gilcrest Trade Show, everyone came out a winner.