PONTIAC, MI — The setting was perfect. It was early March and temperatures in southeast Michigan were nearing a spring-like 60°F. Homeowners from around the region were beginning to think of home improvements and planning their budgets on projects to beautify their homes and make them more comfortable.

Could there possibly be a better time to put out a shingle and promote some great year-end furnace specials or spring central a/c packages? We asked some of the 18 hvacr-related businesses at the 2000 Michigan Home and Garden Show, a four-day event in the Pontiac Silverdome.

Be ready with show 'give-aways'

“Seventy percent of our business comes directly from shows like this,” said Bernard Grossman of American Discount Heating & Cooling, Inc. “We offer show discounts, which helps a lot.”

It also helps that American offers financing to residential customers through Consumers Energy, a local gas utility.

The modus operandi of any exhibitor at a home show is to offer visitors discounts on goods and services as a thank you for visiting their booth. One local union chapter pitched in to support Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) contractors who were showing their equipment.

Joseph Sarrach, organizer for Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 80, said his group does its part. “We contribute to the rebates offered by members of the Better Heating & Cooling Bureau.” These discounts included $200 off replacing a/c units or furnaces.

Ed Lietz of Randazzo Sheet Metal said he was happy to see the warm weather. “We had a good turnout this year compared to last year,” when it snowed, he said. “This show gets us a lot of new business.”

Randazzo used a familiar face to attract people to its booth: Dave Lennox.

“Dollar for dollar the booth does a good job,” added Joe Miller of The Heating Authority, Inc. “The business [generated] pays for the show 10 to 20 times over during the year.”

Good location

Randy Young of Nichols Heating & Cooling said he was fortunate to be working on the floor of the Silverdome, where the entertainment and innovative booths were located. He manned the booth with Kevin Poehlman, a first-year installer for the company.

“We generate up to 40 sales leads per show,” said Young. “They don’t all buy right away, but I just sold a $20,000 job from a lead from last year’s show. We are just planting the seeds at these shows.”

Phil DeRue paced the Aladdin Heating & Cooling booth a few sites down from Nichols, and said that traffic had been pretty light that day, but that “We still get some good strong leads. People ask us the standard questions about pricing and ductwork.”

Jim Foldesi of Kast Heating & Cooling/Blue Dot, had a differing point of view about the show. “We really don’t get too many sales from the leads,” he said. “But our competitors are here and we have to be here.”

Jimmy Elmer of Otto A. Trzos Co. Inc. said that people paid his booth a visit because they were interested in one particular thing. “Radiant heating gets a lot of questions from visitors. It’s getting real popular.”

Utility presence

The local utilities were well represented at the show too, selling hvacr service packages. Detroit Edison, Consumers Energy, and Michigan Consolidated Gas had representatives giving out home service information.

“It [the booth] is a way of keeping your name in front of the people,” said Dennis Meteer of MichCon Commercial Services. Meteer is a former employee of Flame Furnace, one of three Detroit-area contractors acquired by the utility when it formed its Home Services Division.

Mike Wilbraham, show producer for ShowSpan, Inc., the show sponsor, said this was the best turnout since 1992. “It came in a close second to the number one-attended show in 1992.” ShowSpan has been sponsoring the Home & Garden Show for 11 years.

Shows like these are yet another way for contractors to showcase their products and services and put their best foot forward. But does it work for everyone? Send your “show tales” to John Hall c/o The News; 248-362-0317 (fax); halljl@bnp.com (e-mail).