Most vendors who come to an outdoor trade show set up a tent, or maybe a booth inside a tent. Timber framer and custom builder Richard Krouse brings along a barn. And why not? The barn's not just his booth — it's also his product.
JLC caught up with Krouse at the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine, an annual event put on by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). As the name implies, MOFGA, and its annual get-together, are mostly focused on locally produced food and handicrafts. But the fair also plays host to a goodly collection of construction companies and related trades. This year, for example, JLC had a chance to talk with reps from Portland-based Revision Energy, Vassalboro-based Duratherm Windows (and sister company York Spiral Stair), Pittston-based house moving contractor Jewett Builders, and Belfast zero-energy builder and developer GO-Logic, among others.
Richard Krouse and his company, R. A. Krouse, go back a long way with MOFGA and the Common Ground fair. Krouse built the 60-foot by 80-foot custom frame for the organization's main gathering hall at the fairgrounds back in 1999. This year, Krouse set up a simple 18-foot by 20-foot frame with the help of son Christopher Krouse, carpenter Toby Swanson, and an occasional MOFGA volunteer. Wife Toni Krouse came along to help decorate the booth and schmooze with fair-goers. Many years, Krouse is able to sell his display frame to a fair-goer who wants a barn or cottage; Krouse didn't strike any deals this time around, but he says he did get some good leads.
JLC was at the show early enough to see Krouse and his crew stand the frame, and stayed long enough to see them take the frame down and head home (see slideshow). The wall frame was up when we arrived, and the crew was putting together gable-end rafter packages.
After a busy three-day weekend greeting fair-goers, the Krouse family was more than ready to pack up and go home. But the weekend's fine weather had brought more than ten thousand people out to the fair, and Krouse had made plenty of good connections.