What a difference a year makes. Last year the opening weekend of the Philadelphia Home Show faced the dual obstacles of a monster snowstorm and the National Football Conference's title game in South Philly between the Eagles and the Falcons. This year the weather was pleasant, the Eagles weren't playing and the crowds came out to the Convention Center.
Sunday morning the lines were nearly out the door, and by noon the vendors had already run out of bags for people to put their goodies in. Of course overflow crowds in Philly are to be expected.
According to a Central Philadelphia Development Corporation report, Center City alone has added 8,235 housing units since 1997, with plans for an additional 7,209 units by 2009. And with a huge array of exhibitors on hand to entice new and longtime homeowners alike with a wide range of products and services, the opening weekend of the now 25-year-old event (which runs through Sunday) boasted a decidedly festive atmosphere.
The exhibitors are split into various categories, including windows and doors, kitchens and bathrooms, fencing, home builders, interior design and marble.
Generally speaking, visitors seem to adopt one of two strategies to experience the event. The first and more popular method is to wander around and see what catches your eye. The second is to head directly for the items and services you're most interested in.
I chose the wandering method, and after stopping by Designer Garage, a company that helps you organize your cluttered garage and improve both its practical and aesthetic qualities, I stopped in at By the Yard Inc., an outfit that makes outdoor furniture and accessories with a twist. There we were greeted by Debby Anderson, who filled us in on the product.
You make outdoor furniture?
"Yes. We're based in Minnesota, but we ship around the country. We do outdoor furniture made from recycled plastic milk jugs."
How long have you been around?
"We've been in business 13 years, but the plastic lumber supplier that converts the milk jugs into 2-by-4s has been around for 33 years. The product initially was used a lot commercially in the egg industry for barn dividers. We just started doing residential stuff 13 years ago, and it's been growing by leaps and bounds every year."
Usually when you think plastic furniture, you think kids' stuff.
"People do have a lot of preconceived notions about plastic. They assume it's going to be lightweight, and therefore break, and possibly not be very comfortable to sit in. But there are actually as many different kinds of plastic as there are of wood. This plastic is 30 percent heavier than cedar. If you use heavy plastic like this, it will withstand the elements and look good."
Is this your first year at the Philadelphia Home Show?
"Yes, and I'm blown away at the response. People like the maintenance-free aspect of the furniture, but I think it's the recycling that's really pulling them in."
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