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At a glance
What: Taste & Trade Expo
Who: Nearly 80 businesses and organizations were registered as of early last week, representing areas including banks and credit unions, security, dentists, home furnishing and health care.
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Orthopaedic Capital Center at Grace College in Winona Lake
Cost: $3, pay at the door; children under 12 are free
Photos by Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Chuck Ault, of Collier’s Heating & Air Conditioning, services a furnace. Collier’s will exhibit at the Taste & Trade Expo.

Expo gathers businesses

80 booths at Kosciusko County show to highlight area services, eats

Becky Everett of Collier’s assists a customer. Collier’s will be alongside 80 other vendors at the Taste & Trade Expo.

Collier’s Heating and Air Conditioning will spend two days later this week manning an exhibit at a two-day Taste & Trade Expo in Kosciusko County.

Collier’s employees will be at the expo with representatives from nearly 80 other businesses.

There’s no guarantee what kind of actual sales Collier’s might see, but the investment of time represents potential.

“I think it definitely helps produce sales and leads,” said Stephanie McNutt, Collier’s marketing coordinator. “It definitely gets our foot in the door.”

The Warsaw Kosciusko County Chamber’s Taste & Trade Expo is expected to attract about 3,000 people, Trina Hoy, vice president of communications and events.

The early-bird registration deadline offering discounts for exhibitors was Sept. 14, but the Chamber was still getting interest from businesses more than two weeks later.

“It’s funny because people wait to the last minute, and so we’re still getting registrations,” Hoy said last Tuesday.

The 2011 expo also attracted about 80 exhibitors, but just seven were food exhibitors.

This year, there’s going to be more to “taste” – literally. As of last Tuesday, 13 food exhibitors were registered.

“It must be good for them to be here, to exhibit,” Hoy said. “It’s good for everyone. Everyone gets a lot of exposure.”

And food. And networking.

And… potential business deals.

McNutt said the expo is a good opportunity to explain to visitors the importance of maintenance – tuning up furnaces and air conditioners and making sure ducts are clean.

“Whether they use us or not, the expo gives us that food in the door,” she said.

A+ Sign Graphics, an 8-year-old North Webster business that specializes in commercial signage, is participating in the expo for the first time.

Harold Waters, one of the three co-owners, said the A+ Sign is providing signage to promote the expo and in exchange receiving exhibit space.

“We’re trying to expand our business,” Walters said. “We’ll get our product in front of more people hopefully and it’s a chance to show off what we do.”

Penguin Point Black Tie Catering in Warsaw has participated each year in the expo.

“It’s always fun to meet our past and future customers,” catering director Rebecca Ward said.

Penguin Point is one of the food exhibitors and uses the expo to showcase some of the offerings people may not find at Penguin Point restaurants, such as Crème Brulee Cheesecake.

“A lot of people love our swiss steak, our roast beef au jus; the list goes on,” Ward said.

“We like to display things that people can’t find in the restaurants,” Ward said. “We do a lot more than people realize.”

The caterer plans a Hawaiian theme for at least one of the two days this year with a palm tree with pineapples stacked as the tree trunk and a sampling of various fruits at the base.

Maple Leaf Farms will be a first-time participant. The company, which has a plant in Milford opened a retail store, Duck, Down & Above, in Leesburg where its corporate headquarters are so it can sell duck, chicken and related items in October 2011.

Previously, Maple Leaf provided product to restaurants, distributors and some area grocery stores, Phil Herbruck, the company’s communications specialist said.

The expo is an opportunity to draw more attention to the retail store.

“It’s local and it’s a good chance for us to get our name out into the community,” Herbruck said.

Along with the food sampling and potential business deals, the expo will keep participants entertained with performances that include area choruses and dance schools and the Suzuki Strings of Winona Lake.

“It’s a business expo that we’ve created a community event out of,” the Chamber’s Hoy said.