This year, in anticipating of NeoCon, we asked a few people what they are excited about and what they love to do in Chicago. Frank Merlotti, President of Coalesse, John Rouse, Publisher of Contract Magazine, Joe Connell, a principal at Perkins + Will, Susan Lyons, President of DesignTex and Chip DeGrace, Senior VP of Creative at FLOR were all excited to share their thoughts with us.

Q: What are you looking forward to at NeoCon this year?
A: Frank Merlotti: The Coalesse space and our new product introductions by Jean Marie Massaud and Toan Nguyen.
A: John Rouse: As always, I look forward to all the new product introductions. We have 375 Best of NeoCon entries, a great year. I embrace the hectic 7-10 days as it rejuvenates me about all that is inspiring about the design industry and how much more it can and should contribute. Most of all, I love catching up with lots of friends over assorted adult beverages.

Q: How has NeoCon changed & improved in the past few years?
A: Susan Lyons: It is exciting to see companies responding to alternate work modes with new products and technologies. And of course, materials rule!
A: Chip DeGrace: The economy is finally lighting up. Our friends in the furniture business have been hit hard by industry belt tightening and as they go, so goes the show. There seems to be some zip in everyones' step. It'll be fun to get together with collective optimism.

Q:Where do you recommend out-of-towners go when coming to NeoCon?
A: Joe Connell:  I¹m a Rick Bayless fan, go to Frontera Grill for amazing Mexican food.
A: Chip DeGrace: Babette's for dinner. New favorite and it's close to the Mart on Kinzie. I really dig The Three Aces on Taylor street. A neighborhood joint with a great outdoor garden mixing Sinatra and lots of tattoos.

Q: What is your best NEOCON memory?
A: John Rouse: Too many to count! All the various early dinners prior to NeoCon with clients and friends, The Knights of NeoCon gathering, a new tradition of 10 company presidents having dinner afterwards to discuss the culture and climate of the industry and way back when: the original NeoCon News- another story for another blog.
A: Susan Lyons: I think this year will be!

Q: What is your favorite building in the Chicago skyline and why?
A: Frank Merlotti: The Shedd Aquarium. I love the Shedd for a variety of reasons: It is a world class aquarium; they are focused on conservation and the environment; I prefer architecture that utilizes smaller footprints – I am not a fan of glass skyscrapers; I had an amazing father/daughter day with Grace when she was six. We took the train to Chicago and spent hours at the Shedd. I will never forget that day.
A: Chip DeGrace: The Rookery on LaSalle St. is a short walk from the Mart but is my favorite building in Chicago. Designed by Burnham and Root. The skylit lobby was renovated by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905. American architectural vocabulary at its best.