The Custom Home Furnishings (CHF) Trade School, Swannanoa, NC, founded by Cheryl Strickland, took a giant leap this year—and landed on both feet: one in Greenville, SC; the other outside of Philadelphia in Fort Washington, PA. This was the first time the school’s annual educational conference and trade show (its eighth overall) was held twice in the same year at different locations, and it becomes the schedule the school plans to follow in years to come.
That second step, the Philadelphia-area show, might have been just
a bit shaky at first. Held September 28 to October 3, it followed
the first show by eight weeks, which might have been too tight a schedule
for some exhibitors, several of which choose not make the trip (see
D&WC, September 2004, page 48 for a complete list of exhibitors
at either or both shows). The Fort Washington Expo Center also had
its problems—mainly its distance from the show’s host hotel.
But don’t get the wrong idea. Both shows were a success. According
to Strickland, the Philadelphia-area show actually had more registered
attendees than the Greenville show running August 4 to 8. When all
is said and done, including walk-in attendees, both shows were nearly
identical with about 600 attending. But the second conference also
served another important purpose: it drew people from northern states.
The first seven CHF conferences were held in either North Carolina
or South Carolina and drew heavily from that region. One of Strickland’s
stated purposes for having a second show was to serve professionals
who weren’t traveling to the conference in the Carolinas. The
Philadelphia-area show did just that. Strickland says in 2003, about
150 people from all Northern states combined attended the Greenville,
SC, event. This year’s Fort Washington show had nearly 100 attendees
from Pennsylvania alone, nearly 100 from New England and almost 100
from New Jersey and New York. Strickland points out that only 25 people
attended from Southern states, so the Philadelphia-area show not only
reached new professionals, it didn’t take many away from the
The Philadelphia area also is something of a draw in itself. At least
one window coverings retailer couple, Caroline and Gary Small of Monique’s
Draperies (See D&WC, December 2002, page 24) flew in from California
“to see exhibitors we wouldn’t normally see.”
A MOVE FOR THE BETTER
Both concerns, timing and location, are being addressed for the 2005
conferences. The Greenville show is scheduled for early in the year,
February 23 to 27, and again will be held at the Palmetto Expo Center
with Part Two returning to the Philadelphia area in October.
At the time of this writing, the Valley Forge Convention Center, with
adjoining and nearby hotels, is nearly confirmed for the second conference,
as are the dates of October 5 to 9. The Valley Forge facility couldn’t
be used this year because it was booked already. Strickland adds that
it is about five miles closer to the Philadelphia airport as well.
The heart of the CHF conference has always been the educational seminars.
An identical set of seminars was held at both of the event’s
locations and, again, this is the plan for future events. This year’s
conferences offered more than 70 seminar topics from design to fabrication,
hardware to lampshades, cornices to slipcovers, sketching to pricing
and from awnings to zippers.
Next year, in addition to the seminars, Strickland is planning a design/fabrication
contest on the exhibit floor. In the last couple of years one of the
most popular parts of the trade show floor has been the “Working
Workroom,” an area set up as if it were a real, functioning workroom.
It allows conference attendees to see how a workroom can be organized
and to get hands-on experience with working equipment from suppliers.
For next year, the show is planning to enlarge the space for additional
tables and workspace so contestants can take a pre-set amount of fabric,
tools and workroom supplies and within a time limit create a window
treatment using only the materials and supplies provided.
Strickland will judge the completed treatments. The first place winner
will receive a five-day class at the CHF School. Second place will
receive a free registration at the next conference. Third place will
receive Strickland’s videotape on swags and cascades.