By JIM PARKER
The Post and Courier
Sometimes, it’s best to leave well enough alone. That’s what Tim Barkley discovered four or so years ago.
Barkley, publisher of Charleston Home + Design magazine, has organized shows since the early 2000s aimed at promoting the home improvement and redesign fields. They include the Custom Home + Remodel Show, which this year takes place Aug. 16-18 at the concourse area of The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium.
Over a decade, he’s seen the highs, lows and rebounds of the housing industry in metro Charleston and elsewhere. One of his periodic efforts is to informally check with design and remodeling ventures about their businesses and the state of the profession.
For a time, that wasn’t easy – or even wise, Barkley says.
“There was a point during the recession, I stopped asking clients how their business was going,” he says.
Thankfully, entrepreneurs in the home design and accessories trade are talking again, now that the housing market is in full recovery mode.
“Business is booming,” Barkley says. “Vendors report a marked increase in demand from homeowners to build or improve their homes. These same vendors are beginning to hire more employees to meet the demand.”
That’s all good.
“But the increased volume of work can mean longer wait times to start projects,” Barkley notes. “Advice to homeowners interested in having projects started and completed by the holidays later this year? Make contact early,” he says.
Barkley considers the custom home businesses to be optimistic, yet a little cautious. The magazine publisher asked businesses whether the market has returned to peak 2008 levels. “Most are saying, ‘not yet,’” he says.
The upcoming Custom Home + Remodel Show will be the third of five Charleston Home + Design-backed events at Johnson Hagood Stadium, a “nontraditional venue” chosen for temporary duty after the Gaillard Auditorium closed for renovations in 2012.
“The people who display at the shows insisted the show stay downtown,” Barkley says. “But finding a venue suitable to meet the needs of the show was hard to find.”
Vendors settled on Johnson Hagood Stadium, and the show this month “means they are over the hump,” he says. Two more events will take place before the shows return to the new Gaillard Center in January 2015.
Barkley says the three-day Custom Home + Remodel show typically draws 3,000-3,500 people. Meanwhile, 90-100 vendors already have signed up to take part. Big days include Friday, Aug. 16, which sports free admission as well as the accompanying 9th Annual Hurricane Expo.
“Some people have asked us in the past, why do we do a fall home show in August?” Barkley says the custom home and remodeling event dates to 2005, and before the first one, organizers researched what the industry wanted. According to Barkley, many businesses said, “If we do it in September or October, there’s not enough time to get with clients (to complete a project before the holidays).”
This year could be an even greater time crunch for homeowners as businesses recover from the housing downturn. “We’ve been bouncing along the bottom,” he says. “Now we’re seeing a nice steady rise. That translates to more homeowners, (requiring) more lead time.”
Barkley says a misconception is the show will be held on the stadium football field. “No displays whatsoever are on the field,” he says. “Everything is underneath The Citadel’s $42 million, six-story addition they built several years ago. All displays are protected from the elements, shielded from the hot Lowcountry sun.”
This year, organizers went a step further, contracting with Aggreko global power generation and rental corporation to provide two 25-ton temporary air conditioning units to further ensure the concourse areas underneath stadium seating are comfortable.
The Custom Home + Remodeling Show, meanwhile, returns a number of popular galleries, demonstrations and mini celebrities.
For the second straight year, a contestant on Destination America Channel’s “hit” cable reality show BBQ Pitmasters will appear.
Summerville native Jack Waiboer of Carolina Pitmasters BBQ Cooking School will demonstrate grilling techniques for free on Saturday and Sunday at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., while his competitive barbecue team will be selling food to the public. He debuted on BBQ Pitmasters July 28.
In 2012, Solomon Williams of Carolina Rib King and BBQ Pitmasters finalist offered free grilling demonstrations.
Other attractions include:
• A $20,000 “backyard makeover” contest, in which professionals will re-sculpt rear decks, porches and lawns for one local winner.
• The 9th Annual Architects’ Gallery of Custom Homes, showcasing the work of four top Charleston architectural firms. The event is designed to raise awareness of consulting an architect when building a new home or undergoing a large remodel or renovation.
• Charleston Hurricane Expo on Friday. The purpose is to raise awareness and urge the public to have a plan and take steps now to prepare in the event of a hurricane threatening the Lowcountry. During the expo, 500 free “hurricane kits” will be provided to the first 500 families. With a retail value of more than $30, each kit includes an Energizer Weatheready LED flashlight, personal hygiene and first aid kits, sunscreen, emergency whistles, waterproof document binder, glow sticks, dust masks, Brown Jersey gloves, can opener, lip balm and trash bags. More than 50 local, state, and federal emergency agencies and groups are invited to the expo. The show hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 16, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 17 and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 18. Friday is free admission, and Saturday and Sunday are $7 during regular show hours for patrons 13 and older.
“It’s a custom home show, (which is) not for everybody,” Barkley says. “But if you want your home to look like a million bucks, it a good show to attend.” For more, visit www.customhomeandremodelshow.com.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or email@example.com.
Lowcountry Hurricane Protection shows what can be done to build an upscale outdoor kitchen guarded by storm-resistant shutters (Provided).×
An attendee takes a look at siding materials at the show in January at Johnson Hagood Stadium sponsored by Charleston Home + Design. The magazine is likewise sponsoring the Custom Home + Remodel Show at Johnson Hagood (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Local design firm Cook Bonner crafted this over-the-top bathroom for a prior year Custom Home + Remodel Show (Provided).×
Attendees pick up tidbits from exhibitors at the show (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
J.D. Smith showed off this stunning covered patio (Provided).×
Perennial growers show off plants and flowers at the winter event, attracting interest from showgoers (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Many exhibitors handed out or displayed their business cards (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Chris Rose, a regular at the Custom Home + Remodel Show, designed this elegant kitchen (Provided).×
This bathroom design from AKL includes a glass enclosed walk-in shower and garden tub (Provided).×
This exhibit shows off various high-end flooring materials (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×
Ethan Allen sponsored the White Room Challenge at the January show at Johnson Hagood Stadium (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).×