I traded a foot of snow and an earthquake in Chicago for a Queen Mary-full of sunshine and optimism in Long Beach.

All I can say, after spending three up-lifting days at the 6th annual Closets & Home Organization Conference & Expo, is that if you had an inclination to attend but didn’t, you made a mistake.

This year’s was one of the smallest in terms of exhibit footprint and attendance but was more than compensated by the spirit of passion, focus and drive. As Jeff Klein, newly installed president of the Association of Closet and Storage Professionals so aptly put it in welcoming fellow “Closeteers” to the event, “This is where the survivors are gathering.”

Ok, we know there are plenty of other closet professionals who are alive and kickin’, but apparently with their heads in the sand.

What they missed
Those of us who attended the Closets Conference & Expo were energized in numerous ways. We were inspired by the words of closets patriarch Neil Balter, founder of California Closets, who in accepting the ACSP’s Pioneer Award, reminded us that closet and home organization products are valued by consumers and that the future is bright.

We gained fresh insights into the value of company branding from keynote presenter Brice Cooper of Brainchild Creative and how to leverage the power of social media like FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter by designer/marketer Denise Butchko of Closet Works. Rob Meyers of More Space Place gave us valuable tips for closing the sale and Suzy Whatley of Rev-A-Shelf taught us how to run our businesses leaner.

Attendees explored diversification into new product markets by Kevin Jepson of Closets Etc., learned how to become a market leader courtesy of David Angers of Closet Tailors, and compared design tips from a panel of their peers.

They interacted in Peer2Peer roundtables on subjects like marketing, showrooms and CAD/CAM software. Many took advantage of programs on product pricing by Sean Benetin of Millwork and More and green cabinetry by Benetin and Tim Woolery of Gemini Coatings, which was presented by the Cabinet Makers Assn.

They were the first to view the results of the latest consumer research survey presented by Laurel Didier, publisher of CLOSETS, and were delighted by “Lessons Learned” by the ever-entertaining Steven Mann.

Meanwhile, on the expo floor
They connected with current and potential new suppliers and witnessed the debut of many new products specifically for their use. On the show floor, they also saw software demos by 20-20 Technologies and Microvellum, plus epoxy garage flooring by Garage Experts.

In the end, if I heard it once, I heard it 100 times – surprisingly awesome event.

We learned that we have a future and for those who attended, the future is now. The rest of you will have to take a number and wait in line.

See you in Charlotte, NC, next Feb. 23-25? I certainly hope so.


Plywood in the News: Luge safety; corn bin rescue

A plywood barrier was erected in Curve 16 of the luge course used for the Winter Olympics in Whistler, BC, scene of a fatal accident. It was a better-late-than-never safety precaution after Nodar from the Republic of Georgia lost control of his sled and slammed into a steel post at 89 mph during a practice run.
 
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Plywood was used by emergency crews coming to the aid of a man who was rescued after being trapped for eight hours in corn bin in Farmington, MN. The man was inside the grain bin chipping away at some frozen corn when the product shifted. He was buried in corn up to his armpits about 50 feet below the top of the bin. His head and one hand were above the surface.

Workers built a plywood barricade around the man to hold back the corn, and trains were stopped to prevent vibrations which could also cause the corn to move. Meticulously removing corn by hand, the rescuers were eventually able to free him and hoist him out of the bin. 

Read more.
 

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