Friday, March 5, 2004

Landscapers hope to reap big returns

By Jeff McKinney
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Judd Klusmeyer of Merrill's Nursery Landscape & Supply Co. works on a landscape display in the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center on Thursday, in preparation for this weekend's Fifth Third Bank Cincinnati Home & Garden Show.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/ERNEST COLEMAN

Landscaper Steve Lichtenberg expects to earn back in sales several times the nearly $12,000 he is investing to set up at the Fifth Third Bank Cincinnati Home & Garden Show.

First-time participant Jean Russo Gould will use the show to plant a seed for Merrill's Nursery Landscape & Supply Co., a Mason firm that next month begins selling shrubs, flowers and other nursery products.

Lichtenberg and Russo Gould will be among more than 340 exhibitors at the 38th annual event, which opens Saturday at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center at Fifth and Elm streets downtown.

The show will feature 20 major garden installations, allowing landscapers, designers and contractors from Greater Cincinnati to display their creations and enabling visitors to pick up ideas as spring approaches.

"It creates leads to bring in new business and show off our creations," Lichtenberg said. "If we can do it in a 20-by-20 booth, imagine what we could do in their back yard."

His company, Lichtenberg Landscaping in Mason, could generate about $300,000 in new sales from the show, he estimates.

He said he could make up to $60,000 from one major job, which might include extensive landscaping around a home or the installation of paver patios and stone steps.

The show, along with the Homearama high-end housing expo in June, is a big part of his marketing plan. "Between this, Homearama and word of mouth, that pretty much covers it," he said.

For Russo Gould, the show also holds promise. The owner of J.R.G. Landscaping Co. and Merrill's, Russo Gould estimates she invested $10,000 to $15,000 to set up her exhibit. She figures the show could easily bring $50,000 to $75,000 into the nursery, a business she recently bought. And for her landscaping company, she projects the event could generate another $300,000 to $400,000 in sales.

"Mailers are great, but they don't show a person what you can actually create for them," she said.

Adam Perkins, owner of Masterpiece Audio/Video & Automation in Fort Mitchell, also hopes the show pumps in new business. His firm installs speakerless audio systems inside homes.

He estimates the show might help boost sales by $100,000. But mainly he wants to expose consumers to new home technology. "It could help me build brand and product awareness."

If you go

What: Fifth Third Bank Cincinnati Home & Garden Show

When: Saturday to March 14.

Hours: Saturdays, 10:30 a.m- 9 p.m.; Sundays, 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tuesday & Thursday, 5 p.m.-9 p.m.; Wednesday & Friday, noon-9 p.m.; closed Monday.

Where: Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center.

Tickets: $10 adults, $3 for ages 13 and younger. $7 through Friday at Fifth Third.

Information: 281-0022;

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