A new location, new pitch tactics and the occasional new face brought variety to the Zebulon Chamber of Commerce’s annual business expo on Thursday.
Zebulon Middle School lent its gymnasium as a change in venue for the event, previously held at East Wake Academy. The move from one school gym to another was hardly a wild switch, but was just enough to get expo organizers outside the comfort bubble they had developed over the six years the event was headquartered at the local charter school.
“When you’re holding the event in the same place for so many years, it’s like a well-oiled machine,” said Kim Valentine, the chamber’s executive director. “But Principal Dalphine Perry and her staff were so accommodating and really went above and beyond to make everything fall into place. And I found other people, some of the attendees, seemed to enjoy (the new site).”
The chamber sold 62 booths for the event, up from about 55 last year. Valentine was still working to figure attendance totals Friday afternoon.
There were familiar expo faces, like that of Steve Stone and his avian display from the American Wildlife Refuge. There were others, like the folks from McLean’s Ole Time Cafe, that are familiar in town but were new to the expo.
Manager Cindi Wood staffed the McLean’s booth, doling out sandwich samples of the barbecue the Zebulon restaurant introduced about a month ago.
“It’s selling really great at the restaurant,” Wood said. “From what we’re seeing, we’re hoping this (expo presence) will help bring in more people.”
Mixing it up
Some other participants are regulars in Zebulon and at the expo, but came with a fresh approach to exhibiting. The group from Parrish Realty, for example, has decorated its booth with a different theme at each of the local business expos it recently attended.
On Thursday, Parrish’s theme played in with the upcoming season. The camo-clad “Home Hunting Headquarters” booth was the brainchild of agency owner William Parrish’s grandson, William Helms. It ended up winning the expo’s Most Creative award.
“Because we come out here and spend the afternoon, we ought to enjoy it and entertain and hopefully the folks who come through this afternoon will enjoy and remember it,” said Ginger Bullock, broker-in-charge at Parrish’s Zebulon office. “It always starts conversations. Sometimes it takes (visitors) a little while to realize there’s a meaning behind (the display). That’s when it gets fun is when they realize.”
Some booths were interactive, like PNC Bank and its version of the game “Plinko,” and one first-time display was lucrative in more than one way. The N.C. Department of the State Treasurer’s N.C. Cash unit was on-site helping people find unclaimed cash or property. All its patrons had to do was provide a name for a search and cross their fingers in hopes it turned up a hit.
N.C. Cash linked nearly $16,500 in unclaimed funds to attendees of the expo in a mere three hours, fueled mostly by the discovery of a $10,000 stock account purchased by a parent of the rightful owner.
“Overall we’ve got positive feedback,” Valentine said. “Arby’s, it was their first time there, and they thought it was great. And I was talking with the owner of (Mexican restaurant) Plaza Del Mariachi and she was so grateful because she got to speak with so many people who didn’t even know where she was located.”
Victory Lane Quick Oil Change won the Most Effective award for its booth, and the Vardy HPC spread was named Best in Show.
“There was definitely some competition going on (between exhibitors),” Valentine said. “They try each year – some of them really go all out to try to win an award.”