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Attendees look to get their thumbs green


Hail, wind and thunder were the featured players Sunday outside the Spokane Convention Center. Inside, people milled about the Spokane Home and Garden Show, daydreaming about landscaping, decks and other projects best suited to warmer weather.

Eager gardeners examined seed packets, talked about lawn treatments and stared longingly at the greenhouse displayed by Solar Gem Greenhouses, of Tacoma, images of tomatoes and cucumbers dancing in their heads.

“This gardener had spring onions and flowering tomatoes at this time last year,” said Solar Gem Greenhouses Sales Manager Eric Conrad, as he pointed at a binder filled with pictures of plants in the company’s greenhouses. “And it was in Snoqualmie.”

Thousands of people turned out over the weekend to look for contractors, buy home products and scavenge for ideas at the show.

For Tracey and Rick Trom, it was a way to escape a dreary weekend and plan for the deck they will be building this summer.

“We want to see what’s out there,” Tracey Trom said.

Vendors said attendance seemed down compared to last year, but the people at the show also seemed more serious about spending money on their homes and gardens.

The economic forecast was on the minds of many.

A slower housing market has changed the customers at The Closet Guys, said salesperson and designer Heather Wilhelm, who noted fewer people at the show.

Wilhelm also remarked that most of those visiting her booth were homeowners as opposed to contractors building houses.

“Maybe some people are waiting for the cloud to lift,” she said.

Rising oil prices mean that asphalt roof shingles will likely be increasing in price this year as well, said Jack Goodwin, a roofing specialist with Kodiak Roofing Co.

Shingle prices remained steady for more than a decade and then shot up 40 percent over the past five years, Goodwin explained. In addition to increasing prices, he warned there may be shortages in late summer.

“For people wanting to put on a new roof, sooner is better than later,” Goodwin said.

Economic stimulus checks pushed some into the home improvement market.

“I had one couple say they were going to get new flooring with their check,” said Michelle Johnson, a salesperson and designer with Carpet One.

Mary Kendall was in the market for just about everything – patio furniture, kitchen remodeling and flooring. Kendall just bought back her family’s farm after it left their hands for several years. Now the entire place is getting a makeover.

“It needs some love,” she said.

The other main ingredient necessary for those at the show is time.

Stacy Bernath and others with Clearwater Summit Group spent three days constructing a multi-level patio with plantings, a fountain and pergolas.

Bernath said that the economy has slowed business some, but that being at the show reminds people of her company when the time is right for them.

“I think the economy thing is going to be short-lived,” she said.

Like spring, Bernath said better financial times will come.

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