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David Klotz of Construction Solutions and Supply showed an electric fireplace at the Northeast Florida Builders Association's annual Trade Expo.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 14, 201612:00 PM EST

New products, old friends at annual NEFBA Trade Expo

by: Carole Hawkins

Sometimes builder trade shows are filled more or less with the same vendors as in years past — 2016 wasn’t like that.

A whole new crop of trade partners showed off roof shingles and countertops, contract labor and mortgage insurance at the Northeast Florida Builders Association’s 48th annual Trade Expo.

About 60 vendors signed up for last week’s event at the University of North Florida.

NEFBA President Chet Skinner said it was another sign of how active the building industry has become.

“People are busy and it’s a good busy,” he said. “Business is out there to be had.”

New faces didn’t necessarily equal inexperienced tradesmen.

J&J Imports and Fabrication are new NEFBA members.

But the company has been building and installing marble and granite countertops in Northeast Florida for 25 years.

“A lot of builders know us from five or 10 years ago,” regional sales rep Hans King said.

During the downturn, the company pulled back to focus on work as a Home Depot contractor.

The Trade Expo was an opportunity to reconnect with homebuilders, contractors and purchasing managers. And to show off a company sign cut by a new waterjet.

With the market rebound, a lot of mom-and-pop countertop companies are opening up, King said.

“It’s making pricing hard right now. But we’ve been doing this for so many years. For a big company like Home Depot to trust us, it says something,” he said.

Matt Byatt also was meeting builders he hadn’t worked with in years.

His Jacksonville-based company, DriMaxx, is a general contractor that restores homes damaged by water and mold. Even in new construction, that’s helpful, he said.

“Things happen all the time. Someone can leave a faucet on or drive a nail through a pipe,” he said.

During the last building cycle, Byatt ran a company that performed the same service, but sold it before the market turned. Many builders don’t know he’s back in business.

“It’s been great, it’s exactly what I expected,” he said of the trade show. “It’s given me an opportunity to reconnect with the builders who I had relationships with before.”

David Klotz of Construction Solutions and Supply already has quite a few builders for clients — ICI Homes, D.S. Ware Homes, Drees Homes and Dream Finders Homes. The trade show gave him the chance to tell even more builders about his fastest-growing product.

Construction Solutions and Supply specializes in fireplaces and outdoor kitchens. Three years ago, Klotz started seeing electric fireplaces take off in Jacksonville. Nationally, it’s the fastest-growing product in the hearth industry, he said.

“At first we were installing 20 of these per year. Now we’re installing 20 to 30 per month,” Klotz said.

Electric fireplaces throw off a lifelike flame encased in a glass sheet. They’re used year-round, with or without space heating.

They’re easy to install, because they don’t need venting or a gas line.

“There’s no gas guy and no cleaning. You can put it in any room,” Klotz said.

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