The EXPO is one of the largest fundraisers each year for the chamber’s Shop Rome campaign. Proceeds from the event help the chamber promote shopping in Rome on three occasions during the following year. The first push takes place during the spring, followed by a back-to-school campaign and then the annual holiday shopping push.
This year’s EXPO is a sell-out as far as vendors go, featuring close to 85 different businesses spread across 100 booths. Several businesses have opted to take up two spaces this year to show off their goods and services.
Among the food vendors this year are the Berry College Milk Enterprises, Kroger/Murphy Cheese, LaMarie’s at Magretta Hall, Provino’s, Sam’s Club (promoting their extended bakery), the Three Rivers Club (Rome Braves) along with the WOW Café and Wingery.
Expo Chairman Kaitlyn Greenley at Coosa Valley Credit Union said the theme grew out of roundtable discussion by the committee, which was seeking a theme to help showcase the community.
“One of the committee members said the Greatest Shopping on Earth and I said, that’s it, we’re done,” Greenley said. “It’s definitely something that the business can work with to decorate their booths and show everyone what they’ve got.”
Debarah McCarley, a marketing executive with the Village Theatres, said the carnival theme fits in perfectly with the her company’s plans to show “Madagascar 3” as part of its Christmas Pop’n’Corn series during the holidays. The theaters’ booth will feature a “Madagascar 3” Afro-Circus theme complete with rainbow wigs and a cannon where children can have their pictures taken with characters from the movie.
The event provides an opportunity for small businesses across Rome to network with one another, particularly during the closed-door Business After Hours on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m.
The member committee has been working on the event for months to plan the event.
Parking for the event, both Friday night and Saturday, will be available in the Third Avenue parking deck, courtesy of the Coosa Valley Credit Union.
During Saturday’s public opening, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., the public will have an opportunity see what local businesses are offering in advance of the Christmas shopping season.
“For any individual or business it’s the opportunity to really see all at once what Rome and Floyd County has to offer, to be able to network with peers and get information you might not otherwise be able to get without going directly to the business itself,” Greenley said.
Not everyone is excited abou the EXPO though.
Linda Shepherd, a member of the Small Business Action Council and office manager at Fore Orthodontics, said that her employer would not be participating this year.
“We’ve surveyed a couple of years after we did it and we never actually got any patients from it, it just didn’t seem to be what worked for us,” Shepherd said.
Kelley Abbott, general manager at the Rome Athletic Club, however, is an enthusiastic supporter of the EXPO.
“I believe this is our fifth year being in the Business EXPO. We really enjoy the networking opportunities that the chamber provides us amongst other businesses in Rome,” Abbott said. “This gym has always, even though its changed owners, it’s always been local owners and it’s an excellent opportunity not only to meet the public but to become more aware of what Rome offers so that we can help each other.”
Abbott said the expo has definitively helped increase membership at the 24-hour gym.
Greenley said that the committee has really focused on making the event a quality event for both vendors and the public.
“The slight price adjustment has really helped bring more quality people instead of a quantity so that businesses are not just giving away 500 items to just anyone,” Greenley said.
“We get a lot of publicity through it, a lot of networking with other businesses, I just think its one of the best things around,” said Regina Wright, administrator of the Riverwood Retirement Life Community, 511 W. 10th St.
She said she feels she has attracted clients for her retirement community as a result of exposure in past expo events, and said the event is definitely worth the expense.
The cost to chamber members for the members only Business After Hours Friday event is $8.
The expo is open to the public Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, with children 6 and younger admitted at no cost.
The Small Business Action Council of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce hosts the EXPO. Corporate sponsors this year include the Coosa Valley Credit Union, Kroger, and LaMarie’s at Magretta Hall, DaVita Dialysis, Kindred Hospital of Rome and Purchasing Alliance Solutions.