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Foxwoods home show draws nontraditional exhibitors

By Lee Howard

Publication: The Day

Published February 23. 2014 4:00AM

Mashantucket - Jason and Michelle Szmajlo came all the way from Oakville in Litchfield County to attend southeastern Connecticut's first home show of the season Saturday at Foxwoods Resort Casino, getting information on everything from flooring to roofs.

"We're looking for inspiration," Michelle said. "You're always dreaming."

The Szmajlos were two of hundreds of people who attended the first Foxwoods Home Show at the casino's MGM Premier Ballroom, an event that continues from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. The show is produced by Red Stone Promotions, which used to partner with the Builders and Remodelers Association of Eastern Connecticut on a home show at Mohegan Sun but took last year off after the builders and the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut decided to run their own show.

Jay Appleman, who runs Red Stone, said 120 companies are represented at the Foxwoods show.

"It's a great venue in terms of footage," Appleman said. "This is a destination."

The show represented a cross-section of home-related businesses, including builders, remodelers, green-energy companies, kitchen makeover experts and sun room installers.

But there were also organizations one wouldn't expect, such as the Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut ReStore, which sells donated building and remodeling items to benefit the nonprofit's efforts to provide affordable housing in the region. The Habitat in southeastern Connecticut recently merged with another organization to the north to expand its footprint while remaining headquartered in New London.

Alicia Townsend, a volunteer for Habitat, said the group attended the home show to spread the word about the wide range of items its ReStore offers - including furniture, appliances, building materials and even artwork - as well as to inform the public about its new store in Putnam and the move of its local store from Salem to Boston Post Road in Waterford. The ReStore gives homeowners looking to make improvements an affordable alternative, added Pegi Breckel, a member of Habitat's board.

"We also need volunteers and are looking to get property donated," Townsend said.

Another surprising exhibitor was Ken Startz, co-owner of Community Hearing Aids of Connecticut, which has locations in Groton and Norwich. Startz was offering home-show attendees free hearing screenings and was making appointments on the spot with anyone interested in following up.

"You can see if you do or don't have a hearing loss," Startz said. "We're also counseling people on how to protect their hearing."

More traditional exhibitors included Aqua Pool & Patio, an East Windsor company that does installations, service and renovations all around Connecticut and beyond. Exhibitor Bill Ferrara said the show was a bit slower than usual as of the early afternoon, but he was hoping it would pick up.

"We're at practically every show," Ferrara said.

"We do it for the exposure," added his colleague, Chris Beaupre.

Vincent R. Desilets, an exhibitor for the green-energy company Viridian, was getting a steady stream of interested show-goers who heard his pitch on signing up for an electricity provider that could guarantee up to 67 percent of the power comes from renewable sources. The company also has a partnership with Solar City to offer homeowners the opportunity for free installation of solar panels in turn for paying for the energy generated - at a price that he said would be guaranteed to be less than the utility companies would charge.

Exhibitors came from as far away as Florida, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, show sponsor Appleman said, but most were local companies.

"People are here because they have a project in mind," he said.

l.howard@theday.com

IF YOU GO

What: Foxwoods Home Show

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today

Where: MGM at Foxwoods, Premier Ballroom

Tickets: $10 general admission, children under 12 with an adult and active-duty military personnel admitted free

Information: www.foxwoodshomeshow.com; Call (800) 294-7469

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