The baby lay motionless on a green mat. I paused.
"Brand new," said Andy Berger, owner of Axis International in Des Plaines, hurrying over. "It's remote control."
The baby was a doll; the mat, designed to soothe fussy infants to sleep, though when Berger tried to demonstrate how it works, it didn't.
"Might be out of batteries," he said. "A heartbeat sound, and it whooshes."
Graco this was not. The International Home + Housewares Show at McCormick Place offers everything from huge corporations displaying products known the world over, to plucky entrepreneurs ballyhooing items that might not even be on the market yet.
While I too scope out the latest — KitchenAid's "Color of the Year" is "Bird of Paradise," the love child of coral and peach — I prefer to excavate the deeper substrata of commerce.
"I've been doing this 35 years," said Berger, 67. "My biggest hit is that tank-top hanger. Sell 'em by the thousands every week."
The show, which ended Tuesday, lacked a certain hum.
"The older I get the slower it seems to get," Berger agreed. "The whole market changed. There's less and less brick and mortars. It's all internet. We do so much business with companies like Amazon, Zulu. You don't even have to talk to them. You put it online; if it sells, it sells. If it doesn't, they don't care. I hardly have to travel anymore."
That isn't good?
"You lose that interpersonal touch," he said. "It's all automated. You try to deal with Amazon, they don't talk to anybody."
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