Connections around for Garner Chamber Expo event

kjahner@newsobserver.comApril 15, 2014 

— As the earlier Expo crowds dwindled into a steady trickle of potential customers, Joe Theys of Manager’s Payroll, at least half-jokingly, groused at the two Aflac representitives. Their stuffed duck, he said, was taking all the attention from his side of the aisle.

Not that he said it wasn’t worth the effort. With more than 1,000 attendees, Thursday’s Garner Chamber of Commerce Business and Consumer Expo provided plenty of opportunities for businesses seeking exposure and Garnerites seeking to find out what businesses might be availible in town.

Missy Rhodes of Aflac bantered back-and-forth with Thays, and the district sales coordinator then talked about the opportunity for her and businesses like hers.

“I’m new to the Chamber so this was way exciting to me,” Rhodes said. “I want to be a part of the community. Our office is in Garner, our employees are in Garner.”

With time left still in the six-hour event, Rhodes said she had already scheduled about 14 visits with potential customers. Many, she said, were with other representatives of businesses at the expo.

“I’ve now become besties with Lorriane’s Coffee,” chimed in fellow Aflac rep Jennifer Quintero. “So I’m going to go start hanging out there now.”

Quintero said she likes to shop local, and like many of the businesses and residents present spoke about the value of putting a face and a personality to the businesses they used.

The free event saw many non-participating visitors flow through, such as Robin McKay who laughed with Seed Communications account manager Kevin Hooper as her kids played with a MondoPad, a giant interactive computer screen.

“It’s pretty useful seeing the the things that Garner has to offer,” said McKoy, a longtime Garner resident. “There are things I didn’t know were in the nooks and crannies.”

The variety of the more than 80 organizations represented not only spanned industries but age. Some had been long established, others were brand new. Craig Furlough opened a Home Video Studio franchise in Garner just this year; the company offers services ranging from home video-to-digital transfers, video editing and production, and video and film equipment repair.

“It has been beyond what I’d hoped,” said Furlough, who didn’t know quite what to expect coming in. “I’ve made a lot of contacts.”

Two booths away, Joshua Walker took a break from his booth – he’s the director at Eleos, a community center – to sign up for more information from Planet Fitness. Flanking his Eleos booth sat a display for Buffaloe Lanes and a storage facility, Turner Farms Self Storage, with N.C. Theatre and Lorraines’s Coffee House across the aisle.

“It’s been a great opportunity to meet a lot of people, see a lot of faces, let people know who we are and what we do,” said Walker, whose 3-year-old community center provides an array of services involving tutoring, arts, self-esteem and a food pantry. “Driving by the sign someone might not necessarily know.”

Amy White runs another charitable organization well-known in the area, and sure enough, Community of Hope also had a booth. Asked what her biggest reason for being there, her answer was blunt.

“To not have a presence here would be a mistake,” White said.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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