For Shatana Smith, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Expo started out as a healthy walk after math class with grandson Julian.
“I go to school at Lanier Tech,” where Thursday’s expo was taking place, “and I just wanted to see what was going on,” said the Gainesville grandmom, who is studying health information management.
But then the visit to the Ramsey Conference Center quickly turned into something more for Smith, as she stopped at a health-related booth and got some important and potentially helpful information related to her husband’s arthritis.
The Feb. 21 expo was an opportunity for area businesses to set up booths for a day so they can advertise products and services but also chat with prospective customers.
Chiropractor Lisa Richter of KLS Family Wellness Center in Gainesville was hoping to get out a message about pediatric screenings, particularly a test that involves pulling an infant to a sitting position. The test examines head control and whether the child may have nervous system issues.
“If we can screen children at an early age, we can determine if they are in line to get autism,” she said.
At the expo, Richter was performing a scan that checks nerves in the neck and spine, and determines whether any issues are present, such as a bone is out of alignment.
Loren Armour of Millie’s Drapery & Decorating Inc. in Gainesville said the expo offers vendors more than just a way to peddle products.
“I think it’s important just to be with the community,” she said. “We’ve been in business for 50 years. The community has been so good for us. We want to make sure we’re giving back, letting people know we’re still out here.”
Lisa Massari’s business, Athens-based BOS Medical, didn’t have a booth at the expo, but she said the event is important for “networking, just meeting everybody.”
Jerry Couch, general manager of Lanier Tent Rental of Gainesville, said those business contacts are vital.
“We do a lot of corporate business, with people wanting company picnics, like with the hospital. They have an employee appreciation day,” he said.
Otherwise, “everybody in the world is our customer. Someday, you’ll need us,” Couch said.
The chamber holds the event every year, with this year’s event moved from its normal venue, the Gainesville Civic Center, because of the recent temporary closure of the Civic Center’s ballroom.
With 67 vendors at the event, “it’s thrilling to see our small businesses thrive,” said Kit Dunlap, chamber CEO and president. “And there are so many different kinds of businesses. It just gives me a thrill to see them … and share that with the community.”
Amanda Wilbanks, founder and CEO of Gainesville’s Southern Baked Pie Co., was the keynote speaker at a luncheon that kicked off the event.
Wilbanks talked about how she got into the business, how it grew and her future plans.
Southern Baked Pie Co. has locations in Gainesville, Alpharetta and Buckhead, with plans for a fourth location in the Atlanta area in 2019.
“We’re trying to grow at the right pace,” said Wilbanks, who recently published a book, “Southern Baked: Celebrating Life with Pie,” which features Southern recipes for holidays and other occasions.