Meeting face to face at business expo
— More than 100 exhibitors showed up to network in a tough economic climate. It was the Chamber's 90th annual expo.
Business networking is easy when the money’s flowing.
In good economic times, opportunities for investment abound. Unfortunately in 2012, the economy is horrible by most accounts.
Yet, members of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce are still putting on their happy faces. In fact, they say, networking is more important than ever in today’s tough times.
Perhaps that’s why exhibitors showed up in record numbers for the Chamber’s 90th annual Business Expo on May 9 at Holy Family University. And while the event’s “Business is Blooming” theme might have been a stretch in economic terms, it probably reflected their collective mentality perfectly.
“I think when it’s a tough economy, everybody in the company should be networking for the company and being a representative,” said Dianna Gallen, officer manager for B.Q. Basement Systems. “To me, this is the old-fashioned way of doing business, meeting people face-to-face. People want to get to know you and what you’re about.”
Based in Erdenheim, Montgomery County, B.Q. started about 15 years ago in the Mayfair basement of owner Brian Quinn. Quinn, a construction contractor, hired his neighbor Gallen to answer the phones. B.Q. offers 27 different products to help property owners protect their basements and crawl spaces from water infiltration.
“We started in 1997 with probably four employees. Now we have twenty-five and we’ve expanded our office space,” Gallen said.
More recently, they’ve expanded their outreach. The company was a first-time exhibitor at last week’s Business Expo.
A while back, Gallen attended a business association event in Willow Grove and coincidentally saw a former employer, who invited her to a Northeast Chamber event. Since then, Gallen’s become active in the Chamber.
“This is how networking works. You never know who you’re going to meet,” she said.
McMenamin Family ShopRite at Frankford and Morrell avenues was another first-time exhibitor. According to pharmacy technicians Amanda Rocks and Amanda Morse, the supermarket opened about three years ago.
The McMenamin family also owns the ShopRite at Roosevelt Boulevard and Haldeman Avenue in Somerton.
“We’re like a family, and that’s how we treat our customers,” Morse said. “Last year, we did a health fair, and I know [the owners] want to get to know the community well.”
“The feedback has been really positive,” Rocks said. “One of the directors from Holy Family was here earlier and said that we helped them with their golf outing and how he was really thankful for that.”
According to event chairman Lou Feinberg, more than 100 exhibitors attended the event, representing a 20-percent increase over 2011.
“It shows that the economy is slowly growing,” Feinberg said. “Companies are spending money to highlight their businesses when before they weren’t spending.”
“It surprised me. I didn’t know it was going to be this big,” Morse said.
In addition to the business-to-business and business-to-consumer connections, some folks attended to look for jobs.
“I’ve had a couple of people come over and drop off their resumes,” Morse said. “I’m going to take it to human resources and, hopefully, we’ll get them jobs.”
The Expo attracted some businesses that have no direct Northeast connection but are looking to expand their marketing here.
Sand Castle Winery is based 12 miles north of New Hope, Bucks County. It’s a member of the Bucks and Upper Bucks chambers and participates in wine festivals and other promotions in the suburbs, along with the Lehigh Valley.
“We grow it, age it, bottle it and sell it. We do it all,” said Frank Le Vien, the winery’s director of festival sales.
The company operates a 72-acre vineyard on a hilltop overlooking the Delaware River and has a catering hall on-site. It looks like a giant sand castle and accommodates 175 guests inside, along with up to 400 in an accessory tent. The company also operates retail stores in Warrington, Trevose, New Hope and Phoenixville.
Joseph and Paul Maxian opened the business in 1985.
“[The Chamber] called the winery and spoke to Joe and asked if we’d bring some wine for tasting,” Le Vien said. “It’s marketing exposure. People see it, taste it and buy it later.”
Meanwhile, the famous Morey’s Piers in Wildwood also is looking to tap into the Northeast market. Last year, the amusement center made its Expo debut with good results.
“We offered all of the Chamber members a discount and were able to track that. I think our membership last year cost $500 and we got more than that in return [sales],” said Anne O’Boyle, the corporate partners manager for Morey’s.
“We just realized that so much of our target audience who comes to Wildwood every summer is in Northeast Philadelphia,” O’Boyle said. “Northeast Philadelphia is a really tight community that works together. I feel the doors of Northeast Philadelphia open on Friday and the people all come down to the Jersey Shore. Morey’s is a family business and people here really want to do business with each other.” ••