Meeting face to face at business expo

Former hockey great Bernie Par­ent greets fans and sells his books at the Great­er North­east Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce Expo. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

— 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.” ••

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