For years, a visit to the Central Arkansas Home Show has been a living idea book for homeowners looking to build or remodel their home, offering looks at the latest in design, home components, building products and technology. So, it’s only fitting that after decades in existence, the 2023 version of the show is showing off some new upgrades of its own.

 

Now named the Central Arkansas Home & Garden Show, slated for Feb. 11 and 12 at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds in Little Rock, the event is offering an expanded range of vendors to address projects both indoors and out.

 

 

“One thing that we love about our show, as I like to tell people, is it’s a one-stop shop for all things home-related, and garden is part of that,” said Meredith Townsend, executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Greater Little Rock which puts on the event. “Several people who’ve come to the show in past years have asked why we don’t have a garden component.”

 

Until recently, part of the answer to that was relatively simple: The market already had a show addressing everything to do with the yard and gardening. The long-running Arkansas Flower and Garden Show, which debuted in 1992, was a popular draw and establishing a competing show unnecessarily didn’t make much sense, Townsend said.

 

That all changed in 2021, when organizers of the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show announced it was ending the event due to declining attendance and rising costs. The demise of that annual happening created an opportunity, Townsend said.

 

“Out of respect for that show we didn’t really want to dip our toes into that, but with that show being no longer, it gave us an opportunity to go ahead and start expanding into that area,” she said. “It will take us a little bit to grow that side of the show, but what I’ve always said about our show is it’s all the places that you need to go to, all under one roof. Rather than spending time and weeks and a lot of hours going all over town, all those resources are in one place for you.”

 

The addition of the garden vendors comes at a critical time for the Central Arkansas Home & Garden Show, as it continues to recoup and build attendance. After years where 3,000 to 4,000 people visiting the show was routine, COVID delivered a gut-punch that still smarts.

 

“We actually held the 2020 show, which was scheduled in February,” Townsend said. “Then, in 2021 we had a show, very small. We pushed it back to late, late spring right after the Governor had given the okay to have large gatherings. Even though we had massive health department restrictions, we attempted it and it wasn’t the best attended show.

 

home and garden show

 

“The same thing happened last year. It wasn’t the best attended show, but we gave it our all and we got positive feedback from a lot of our vendors, even though the attendance wasn’t massive.”

 

Townsend said one of the things that has sustained the show through the leaner recent attendance has been the intentional mindset of the people who do show up.

 

“One thing I like to tell our vendors is that even when we were trying to do the show during COVID, which wasn’t fun in itself, this isn’t a show where people come just to kill time,” she said. “They’re purposeful; they’re not sitting around on a Saturday saying, ‘Hey why don’t we go out to the Home Show and kill three or four hours?’ That’s not the individuals that we see that come to the show.

 

“Every person that is there is looking for home solutions. So, whether we have 1,000 people come through or 5,000 people come through, every single one of them is motivated and trying to achieve something by coming to the show.”

Countertop World

 

 

It’s hard to imagine anything related to a new build, home improvement, outdoor living or yard and garden project that isn’t represented in some way at the Central Arkansas Home & Garden Show. While the final lineup is still being finalized, the show has a stellar reputation for featuring a wide collection of vendors offering goods and services curated over the many years of the show’s existence.

 

“Whether you’re looking to build a new home, remodeling, trying to get ideas, we’ll have experts on hand that can talk you through it,” Townsend said. “We have vendors on the banking side of things, mortgage loans, remodel loans, those type of things.

Countertop World

 

“You want to redo a specific aspect of your house? We’ll have several floor vendors, window vendors, countertops, everything that you can think of. Doors, windows, the full gamut.”

 

While most show attendees probably don’t think about it, the show also underscores the importance of residential construction on the local economy. According to 2020 data from the National Association of Homebuilders, the average economic impact of one new single family home equaled $327,681. Of that, about $188,962 covers wages and salaries, or the equivalent of 2.9 full-time jobs.

 

Acme Brick

 

Multiply that by the 862,000 single family homebuilding permits issued that year and the residential construction industry generated an economic impact of $283 billion and supported 2.5 million jobs. And that’s just in new single-family homes; the association also reported each rental unit in an apartment complex generated $142,000 and each remodeling job generated $83,000, creating about one job per project in each category.

 

Proceeds from the Central Arkansas Home & Garden Show go to support the work of the Home Builders Association of Greater Little Rock, which seeks to promote and strengthen this important economic engine. Business for homebuilders has been at record levels over the past several years, but with that high demand has brought increased challenges affecting timelines and costs.

 

Acme Brick

 

“When you talk about supply chain issues, it was really crazy there for a while,” Townsend said. “A normal timeframe to build a 2,000-square-foot, single-level home would normally take about six months, generally. The next thing you knew it was nine months, then 12 months and all of that is based off labor shortage and supply chain problems. We’d never seen anything like it.

 

“Those are things that our builders just had to get creative with in how to combat that for the homeowner, especially those that put their house up for sale and it sold the first day. When you look at how many houses actually went up during that time it really took the entire industry to make that happen. Honestly, I’d give our industry an A-plus for how it came through COVID.”

 

The association’s work isn’t just about feathering the nest of members, but also ways to improve access to housing within the community for all.

 

home show

 

“Advocacy is a big part of what we do as an association,” Townsend said. “We advocate for affordable housing, for example. We can’t control interest rates, but we’ve been instrumental in helping, at a national level, with the supply chain issues and getting those lumber costs down when they were just through the roof in the middle of COVID. We’ve been a champion on that side.

 

“During COVID, a framing package that was originally quoted in October 2020 increased by 30 percent six, seven weeks later, then to almost 50 percent by the end of the year. Builders don’t want to have to pass on those costs to the homeowner. Our members, Lumber One, Kaufman, Ridout Lumber, Whit Davis, did an amazing job finding the resources and doing the best they could to get their own purchase price down, which was huge.”

 

 

The association also works to help attract more skilled labor and tap new sources of workers, as evidenced by one clever attraction at the 2023 Central Arkansas Home and Garden Show.

 

“One thing that will be there is a children’s reading area where we’ll have reading hours,” Townsend said. “We have a book that the national association has put out called ‘The House that She Built’; it’s a children’s book and it goes through all the careers and all the things that go into building a home. It’s also written from a female’s perspective to really try to encourage girls to step out of the norm and get into trade careers. We’ll be doing some readings with that.”

 

For the latest information on the Central Arkansas Home & Garden Show, please visit hbaglr.com/homeandgardenshow.    

 

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