By Cheryl Weber. Rosemont Remodeling owner Ed Sutherland went to the gym to bulk up his business. He participated in a Home Improvements Show at the local elementary school and came away with $200,000 worth of work. The show was organized by the citizens of Rosemont, a prosperous community in Alexandria, Va. Weary of the random search for first-rate remodelers, the organizers took a savvy approach that narrowed the competition considerably: The exhibitors had to be recommended by someone in the community before they could participate.

Exhibitors, which ranged from architects and interior designers to caterers and mortgage companies, paid $125 for an 8-foot table, and less for smaller tables. They were also invited to purchase advertising space in an exhibition booklet that visitors can keep for reference. Now in its third year, organizer Marguerite Lang estimates that this year's spring show attracted 1,000 people. Sutherland, who does no other marketing, says his $500 was well spent. "We're located right here in the neighborhood, and our niche is these older houses," he says. "I think we were positioned properly for our particular expertise, and with the right customers."

The outcome also pleased Randall Luster of Royal Street Builders. His efforts on the grassroots level yielded a $60,000 family-room remodel, and a dozen requests for appointments. "There were people who had seen my signs but didn't know who I was," he says. "I couldn't have done any better as far as dollars spent and the people I want to talk to."