John and I have just wrapped up a six-city speaking tour for the wonderful folks at Marketplace Events, a group that produces an international assortment of home shows. Chances are you have attended one of the MPE shows as the company produces 42 consumer home shows in the US, 16 in Canada, and eight holiday shows. The 66 combined events, in 32 markets, attract 20,000 exhibitors, 1.8 million attendees, and another 3 million unique web visitors annually. From 14 offices, the 150-person staff produces some of the most successful and longest-running shows in North America, including market-leading shows in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal—some of which have thrived in their markets for more than 75 years.
The Marketplace Events team asked me and John to hit the road this “Show Season” to present “From Drab to Fab: How to Make Your Home a Knockout with Prints, Pattern, & Color” and off we went—with 3-4 presentations per show combined with lots of PR and marketing opportunities. Usually, there is an HGTV personality who speaks at the shows, too, and we are the just-under-the-marquee name. And that’s OK by us.
So hello, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, and, finally, Buffalo, New York! Specifically, the Indianapolis Home Show; the Great Big Home + Garden Show in Cleveland; the North Atlanta Home Show; the Philly Home + Garden Show; the Jacksonville Home + Patio Show; and the Buffalo Home Show.
John and I love meeting and greeting and bringing our passion for prints, patterns, and fun to new markets, so participating in the Marketplace Events shows is a dream. The shows have made us better public speakers, and we have really learned to interact with our audiences and gauge them accordingly. We have built a grass-roots fan base who really gets behind us. Plus, we get to explore a city that perhaps we don’t know, and there’s nothing better than exploring America.
The Grand Tour was a whirl, lots of great people, lots of great presentations… heaps of good eats… and loads of great meet and greets!
Two days in each city, then out! Fast and fabulous…
Indianapolis was great fun… We stayed downtown at The Alexander which was choc-a-bloc full of cool art but needed a bit more attention to service. Still, the glass-walled hotel provided the perfect base from which to explore Indy’s super-cool downtown with its wonderful central market, eateries, and sports venues. We wandered charming Massachusetts Avenue and found some great stores such as Global Gifts paired with restaurants such as the Garden Table and Hedge Row. We dined at iconic, circa-1902 St. Elmo Steak House and split the kicked-up shrimp cocktail and a sirloin as we took in the colorful crowd over Manhattans, our new potable of choice. Note to self: Sport coats might be a bit overdressed in Indy. A quick Uber ride whisked us off to the city’s Newfields museum complex where we perused a terrific cross-section of art from Georgia O’Keeffe to Cezanne and Sol LeWitt before speaking at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. We lunched with new friends that we met at the MPE show at the historic, chintz-filled Woodstock Club (and we all dined together, too, at a North Carolina transplant’s stunning downtown home) and took a quick spin through the local Calico outpost before hopping on a plane home.
A few favorite questions from Indianapolis showgoers:
“How can I update my beige living room sofa?”
“Can I wallpaper my bathroom?”
Our next stop was Cleveland, and it was biting cold as we checked into The Kimpton Schofield downtown with the massive bathroom in our guest room and cozy lobby with burning fireplace. We breakfasted next to music legend Nile Rodgers who was opening for Cher and were mesmerized by the décor and service and cooking at the incredible Marble Room (wow, wow, wow!) but not so much at eatery L’Albatros Brasserie. Our presentation was beautifully received, and we had lovely cocktails with an Instagram friend, Mitchell, who owns a wonderful interior design business in Cleveland.
“What color should I paint my front door?”
“Are florals coming back?”
Atlanta is always fun, but there is too much traffic in the ATL for our taste. We dined with a PR guru at her charming home in southwest Atlanta and concocted world-domination plans; we wandered through Atlanta’s culture-filled Midtown nabe; we explored absolutely charming, pedestrian-friendly Duluth, Georgia and ate too many biscuits; and we spoke to a terrific, engaged crowd at the MPE show. We also dined at wonderful Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar in Marietta with the wonderful Suzanne Cooper, a powerhouse who creates advertising programs for various shelter magazines, including Traditional Home and Cabana—what a dynamo!
Wayne, Pennsylvania was a great Main Line home base for the nearby home show in Oaks, PA, although the Wayne Hotel could use a Madcap Cottage overhaul. We celebrated my birthday lunch with the terrific Hannah Levine from Momeni at the always-inspiring Terrain Cafe outpost in Devon; we met an Instagram pal for dinner; we visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and passed on the too-crowded Barnes Foundation but wandered Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden; and we dined at the counter (and made new friends!) at the lovely Cornerstone Bistro & Artisanal Market in downtown Wayne. We supped in charming Chestnut Hill with our dear friend Ann Marie for Valentine’s Day and sipped Champagne in Eddie Ross’ stunning, sprawling studio space in Norristown, PA. We did a book signing at the fantastic Ballard Designs outpost at slick King of Prussia Mall and met the fantastic, whip smart Jenn Frederick from Fox29 as we did media tours for the home show.
“What are the best ways for me to bring my passion for the great outdoors within?”
“Tell me more about performance fabrics…”
The PR guru on the Jacksonville Home Show, Liz Morgan, is a dear friend, so she set the tone for a super-fun, action-packed weekend. The Omni Hotel in downtown JAX was just fine, but the nearby Cowford Chophouse eatery wow-ed us—we loved the décor, the steak we split, our English server, and the wine list! We were interviewed by the fantastic Melissa Ross on the local NPR outpost and hosted a fabulous tea party after our presentation attended by loads of show attendees. We brunched in the historic Springfield neighborhood and visited the terrific Bleu Chocolat Café, owned by talented chef Erika Dupree Cline.
“Where can I have my grandmother’s furniture reupholstered?
“I have a suite of matching dark-wood furniture in my bedroom. Can I paint the night tables? And, if so, can you recommend a good color?”
And then it was on to Buffalo, New York for our last stop. We wanted to love the Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center, a former insane asylum that boasts incredible period architecture but iffy service. The “sprouted” beets used as décor in the restaurant were definitely a takeaway that will appear in the House of Bedlam. We loved Hutch’s for dinner and Buffalo’s wow-inducing architecture such as the Liberty Bank Building and Mesopotamian-style City Hall and realized that the hipster trend is very much alive and well in Buffalo. Tattoos! Man buns! No problem! However, the crowds at our presentations were great, and we did heaps of TV and radio. Sadly, we didn’t make it to Niagara Falls as we both came down with a flu on our last day…
And, whew, there you have it!
John and I are so glad to be back home with the dogs but hope we will be invited back for more Marketplace Events tours next year… Viva MPE!