Time Well Spent

Gilcrest/Jewett hosts first Vendor Showcase.

On one of the first really hot days this summer, Gilcrest/Jewett offered a cool alternative for its customers—the first-ever Gilcrest/Jewett Vendor Showcase.

According to Gilcrest’s Matt Thompson, “A lot of our vendors have done events like this in other regions. It just sounded like such a great opportunity. I decided we had to put one together here.”

After discussing it with the rest of the management team at Gilcrest, Thompson had the entire event organized in just a few months. “We just changed computer systems,” he explains. “And this event not only gave us the opportunity to update our data and get more-accurate details to serve our customers better, but it allowed our vendors to display products and educate our customers on things that sometimes get missed in the day to day.”

To promote the event, Gilcrest/Jewett included invitations in statement mailings, sent out email blasts, and made phone calls. The company also coordinated with the Greater Des Moines Home Builders Association to host the HBA Business After Hours networking following the Vendor Showcase. “Gilcrest/Jewett usually hosts an HBA After Hours event in June, so it made sense to just combine the two activities,” Thompson says.

Held at the Prairie Meadows Event Center on May 24, the Gilcrest/Jewett Vendor Showcase included over 70 vendor booths featuring products such as engineered woods, lighting, molding and millwork, and hardware.

“We were really excited about the show,” says Empire Company’s Mark Cassidy. “Gilcrest/Jewett has a great customer base, so we knew it would be well attended. And it was a well-designed setup that allowed us to spend a lot of time teaching and training the attendees about what’s new from Empire.”

Empire—a manufacturer and distributor of moldings, millwork, stair systems, and railings—offers a stair-part line featuring iron balusters and an MDF primed shiplap material, both of which are in high demand with homeowners right now.

“Builders really wanted to know what’s new, and they wanted to learn,” Cassidy says. “The whole focus was on education, not necessarily influencing sales.”

Steve Nolan of Huber Engineered Woods agrees. “The entire event was geared toward education, and attendees were eager to see what the vendors had to teach them.”

Nolan says he has participated in a number of contractor events at lumberyards and smaller venues, but nothing like the Gilcrest/Jewett Vendor Showcase. “Gilcrest/Jewett put a lot of work into this event at the back end, and it showed,” he says. “They gave builders a lot of options for information, and it seemed like a great selection of vendors with plenty of space.”

Cary Hock of K & R Wholesale says, “I’ve been in this business 15 years, and this is the best contractor event I’ve seen. It took the cake by far.”

K & R, a distributor focusing on man-made decking and decking systems and accessories, had a new product to highlight, so Hock was especially pleased for the opportunity the Vendor Showcase provided. “We were actually able to demonstrate the product, the Step Clip by DuraLife, not just talk about it. There’s nothing even close to it on the market, so it was fantastic to be able to show it and educate contractors.”

Another reason Nolan believes the event was so successful is Gilcrest’s reputation. “A lumberyard channel can really drive the market, and Gilcrest/Jewett is so good at educating their customers, providing them with the information and the tools to make the best decisions for their own customers. That shows,” he explains.

Huber Engineered Woods itself has a long-standing reputation as a manufacturer of engineered woods and materials, offering premium products to the construction industry. “The Gilcrest/Jewett Vendor Showcase was a great way to inform builders about our products, especially our new high-end subfloor. And the way Gilcrest/Jewett marketed the event made the builder the focus. The point was to meet their needs,” Nolan says.

“Gilcrest/Jewett has a huge following, and this event was unbelievable—I’ve never been to a contractor event that was so well attended. And to be able to spend that kind of time with contractors one-on-one is rare,” Hock says.

“We wanted vendors to have the chance to showcase the innovative products that builders don’t always see,” Thompson says. “We got a lot of comments that evening, like ‘I never knew you did that.’ Our customers were amazed at the products they didn’t even realize were available.”

“Matt and his team did a great job having sales people walk through with builders and introduce them to the vendors. Gilcrest/Jewett knows their customers and helped connect decision makers to the vendors that could help them be even more successful,” Nolan says.

Thompson says he hopes to make this an annual or biennial event, offering even more educational opportunities for contractors next year. “Our success at Gilcrest/Jewett has always been relationship-based. That’s always going to be the case. But this event helps us develop a greater marketing presence while still keeping the focus on our customers. That’s why we did this—to educate our customers on all the products and vendors that are out there.”

“It was absolutely a home-run event,” says Cassidy. “It was well attended. Gilcrest/Jewett had plenty of help, so everything ran smoothly. It seemed like we blinked, and it was 7:15 already. And we still weren’t done. Nobody wanted to leave.”

“At most contractor events, attendees are just sort of passing through,” Hock says. “At this one, we were answering good questions, having great interaction the entire night. I don’t know if Gilcrest/Jewett realizes what a unique experience this was.”

Attendees and vendors alike left this one knowing it was time well spent, even on a sunny work day. That’s not always the case.