Watch: New Stow Company Featured at Kent Business & Community Expo
The annual event at Theodore Roosevelt High School featured 117 vendors, including Stow-based company Live Intense.
Aside from art, jewelry and exposure, the sixth annual Kent Business & Community Expo provided an example of the difference a year can make.
Since last year's edition, the small business exhibition expanded from Theodore Roosevelt High School's gym to include what seemed like the entire building. For the first time, the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce partnered with Haymaker Farmers' Market to offer the goods of farmers like Phil and Mindy Bartholomae, whose Homeworth, OH-based Breezy Hill Farm was featured as part of the new component.
The additional space made way for 117 vendors, nearly 40 more than last year. She didn't have an exact figure, but Lori Wemhoff, the chamber's executive director, was confident Saturday's turnout handily surpassed the 1,200 visitors who came in 2011.
"I'm told we had a couple thousand people, but I have a hard time documenting that," she said. "Last year, we set a record with 1,200, but I feel, by far, we've exceeded that."
The visitors came to take in the event's unique blend of merchants. Those with a sweet tooth sought vendors like Char Libby, who sold "chocoholic bread" and ended the day with just one remaining baggie of bacon dog biscuits. The expo featured an abundance of fragrances, ranging from Barb and Gary Gibson's Aromatically Yours line of gift baskets and candles to Selak's Homemade Soap, which displayed an array of coconut and almond-oil-infused bars.
"I was really pleasantly surprised," said Stacia Smilek, a local independent jewelry consultant for California-based Cookie Lee. "I've done events like this before, and they're hit or miss — you really don't know what you're going to get. I was really excited to meet a lot of people and to see so many faces."
First-time vendors Janet Hallaran of Art Glass Fusion relished the opportunity to present her line of accessories and home decor items that were created with handmade glass.
The expo was especially helpful to young companies like Stow-based Live Intense, whose thematic line of inspirational clothing has only been around for about a year.
Local Folk band Rio Neon and the high school's choir provided cafeteria entertainment as shoppers took a break to eat. Students from the DECA marketing program also lent their hands, voluntarily helping vendors carry in products and running the concession stand.
Wemhoff said the event should only continue its expansion for years to come, and for good reason.
"Where else can you set up for $100 or $200 and get this kind of foot traffic?" she said. "We're growing and trying to come up with events like this to help our members grow their business."