Hundreds of local and national contractors have worked feverishly through the week to erect custom displays in time for the start of today's Tri-State Home Show, exhibiting their skills and wares for the 13,000 visitors expected this weekend.
Reynolds Fischer barked out orders Wednesday as a swarm of workers assembled a patio waterfall garden inside the Chattanooga Convention Center. Stoneworkers for Dream-scapes, a competitor, transformed pallets of rock into a 450-square-foot terrace, gingerly assembling their giant stone puzzle.
The Fischer Irrigation and Lighting crew has worked for two days straight, cutting masonry for what Fischer said is his largest display yet.
"It costs a bunch, but you make it back," he said as he filled the waterfall with a hose. "With the economy the way it is, you've got to take every chance you get to reach customers."
That's the general sentiment at this year's Home Show, which covers 100,000 square feet and encompasses more than 450 booths.
Supervising the sprawl is Teresa Groves, whose cell phone rang every 15 seconds as she walked briskly through the building supervising vendors' efforts, issuing a stream of commands into her walkie-talkie.
"You want a sunroom, it's here, you need a painter, we've got painters, you need HVAC, we got it," she said.
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Groves, an executive officer with the Home Builders Association of Southern Tennessee, said that the recession hasn't affected the show.
"It gets bigger and bigger every year," Groves said. "We have nearly every type of contractor you could want under one roof."
Outside, a line of trucks waited to get in, hauling everything from gas grills to foam insulation.
Win Pratt, who runs Chattanooga-based Pratt Homebuilders when he's not directing traffic at the Home Show, said the event has never slowed, even when the economy was at his lowest point.
"I've always justified the event, even when times are bad," Pratt said.
It costs him $3,000 to put up a booth, but if he sells even one home as a result, it's a success.
In fact, it's more important than ever during hard times for members of the housing industry to continue marketing, according to Mike Moon, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Southern Tennessee.
"The most precious commodity our customers have is time, it would take months for them to visit all these vendors individually," he said. "It's the best deal in the state and the best show."
The interior design display for Yessicks, a newcomer this year, has already yielded a few leads, even though the show hasn't officially begun, according to designer Christy McDonald.
"We'd always wanted to do it but the timing didn't work out right," McDonald said. "The way I look at it, if one person decides to use us as a design firm, that's a great success."