February 2014 marked the end of a era and a new beginning in the business landscape of Powell River. After 23 years, Evergreen Exhibitions decided not to return to town with its Powell River Home Show.
Rather than accept the disappointing news, a three-time exhibitor at previous home shows decided to investigate how to revive the event.
“I was fairly new to being back in Powell River with a new business and the home show was one of my biggest revenue generators of the year,” said Leah Rourke, owner of Relish Interiors. “It was the best tool I had for meeting potential clients, so I decided to look into making sure it continued for people who felt the same way.”
After researching everything involved with organizing and producing a new version of the show and putting together a budget, Powell River Home and Garden Show was born. Three months later, Rourke’s vision was realized when the inaugural weekend of the show’s current incarnation took place.
“The first year I didn’t start planning until March and the show was in May,” said Rourke. “It was really challenging to get exhibitors because it was such short notice and I didn’t have a list to draw from; it was starting from scratch.”
Prior to Rourke’s first year as organizer, the home show was part of a circuit that included stops on Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast.
“It was starting to fizzle out. The organizing group was from out of town and wasn’t doing anything to engage with the community and give people a good reason to come,” said Rourke. “They were having a hard time getting businesses to exhibit.”
Rourke placed more focus on local businesses, to give Powell River residents the opportunity to learn about products and services available in their own backyard. After the 2014 show, Powell River Home and Garden Association (PRHGA) was created with an aim to address a disconnect between local businesses and consumers by bringing them together at a well-organized event.
“Powell Riverites are very community oriented, and we believe they want to support local businesses,” said Rourke. “But the truth is, sometimes it is easier to shop out of town, or order things online, because local consumers don’t know everything that is available right here.”
The non-profit group, which now produces the show on an annual basis, includes Rourke, its president, and board members Melanie Sullivan, Daniela D’Onofrio, Valerie Griffiths and Marci Gruntman.
PRHGA believes putting a face to local business through the home and garden show reinforces community strength and builds consumer trust, said Rourke.
According to Powell River Chamber of Commerce vice-president Cory Carr, PRHGA has provided more of a local feel for the show.
“They’ve done a great job bringing in local vendors and turning it into much more of a community event,” said Carr.
Heading into its third year, the evolution and popularity of the show is evident, based on the growing number of businesses participating and residents choosing to attend in 2014 and 2015. As a result, exhibitor booths are sold out for the 2016 show, with local businesses accounting for 95 per cent of the reservations.
“Businesses have found a great value in terms of getting a booth now compared to what it used to be,” said Carr. “It has given the business community an avenue to let people know what they do.”
Rourke’s goal, and that of PRHGA’s board, she said, is to always find different ways to make the show interesting, new and fresh. A variety of contests and amenities have been added in a effort to draw more people in.
“We’ve doubled in size in both exhibitors and attendees, we’re pretty happy with it.” said Rourke. “Now people are starting to realize it’s a good event and putting it in their calendars.”
PRHGA is hoping more than 5,000 people will attend the 2016 show and witness the impressive efforts some of the businesses put into their booths and displays, said Rourke.
Powell River Home and Garden Show takes place from 4-9 pm Friday, April 29, and 9 am-5 pm Saturday, April 30, at Hap Parker Arena in Powell River Recreation Complex. For more information, visit fb.com/powellriverhomeshow or call 604.485.9333.