Myrtle Beach area Home Show pulses with improving economy

sjones@thesunnews.comFebruary 21, 2014 

The noise level Friday at the 34th Annual Home Show at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center seemed noticeably higher than it was for the show in 2012.

Back then, at least some exhibitors sat in their booths looking lonely and forlorn, and wondered aloud when asked if they were going to make it to better times. Friday, shoppers buttonholed sellers asking about products ranging from homes to specialty screening. At some booths, you had to wait in line if you wanted information.

Brent Burns, who with his brother started Everstone by Burns in 2005, said the economic collapse left them dazed with doubt. Business is still a bit sluggish, he said at his booth in the home show, but it’s getting better. Overall, he figured the company’s business in decorative stone mosaics is up 20 percent over where it was in 2012.

They downsized their staff during the hard times and took other jobs to keep their families going.

“You’ve got to diversify yourself a little bit,” he said of surviving a bruised economy. “Business may be bad, but you’ve still got bills to pay.”

Rose Anne O’Reilly, executive vice president of the Horry Georgetown Home Builders Association which sponsors the show, said the buoyancy at this year’s show is no doubt improved by the improving economy. While it seemed there were substantially more exhibitors than two years ago, O’Reilly said there were the same number of spaces as there have always been.

There may have been a few more exhibitors inside the hall, but there was an overflow into the center’s large lobby area and the show opened with 15 exhibitors on a waiting list for space.

“It’s been getting better the last few years,” O’Reilly said of attendance at the show. “We’ve always had a good show, but the economy is improving ...”

The show, which has more than 200 exhibitors, is open through Sunday. Admission costs $5 for anyone age 16 and over. Those younger get in for free.

Peter Murray of Southern Exposure Sunrooms said he thinks business now is comparable in numbers of jobs to what it was in leaner times.

“The volume’s there,” he said, “but the profit margin’s down.”

Murray explained that the price of building materials has gone up, and he’s had to drop his prices 15 percent to 20 percent to play in today’s economy. He sees business staying about the same for this year, despite a plethora of building going on from Murrells Inlet to Brunswick County.

But he’s not discouraged, he said with the same grit as Burns over what it takes to be successful.

“It’s what you’re dealt,” he said. “You battle through it.”

Glenn Weltzel of Weltzel’s Custom Screen Rooms in Conway said he didn’t see an appreciable loss of business during the recession. He said he does a lot of business in Grande Dunes and that like others works from referrals from existing customers.

But he’d picked up five new potential customers in just the first hours of the show.

Likewise, decorator Lucy Hendricks of Legacy Interiors said the pace of her business hasn’t fallen off since she started it in 2010.

What’s different now is the amount of money people will pay for her to beautify their homes.

Two years ago, she said a decorating budget may have ranged between $30,000 and $50,000. Today, it’s up to $100,000.

Martin Pettigrew, co-owner of Monarch Roofing, said his company had a single booth for the 2012 show. Last year, the company took four adjoining booths, which rose to six this year.

“We’re seeing things we didn’t see four to five years ago,” he said.

He said that at this time in 2012, the company had two jobs. On Friday, it had seven.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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