From left, Main Street Clothing Company owner Lisa Williams and Stella & Dot stylist Amy Tibben show their styles off to the numerous guests at the 2017 Local Business Expo in Winchester on Sat., May 13.      Sawyer Helmer photo

Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
Record Staff
WINCHESTER – After months of planning, the 2017 Local Business Expo finally took place on Sat., May 13, at the Joel Steele Community Centre in Winchester. Over 800 people made their way through the doors of the Expo throughout the day making the Expo a whopping success.

Approximately 80 local businesses, vendors and community booths were set up on both floors of the Centre, with representatives manning the inviting displays for guests to explore. While many of the booths offered samples and options for guests to purchase, many of the vendors agreed the Expo was more about the exposure of local businesses in the community than anything else.

Planning for the Expo began around January and February of 2017. The Chamber of Commerce presented the idea and it was well received by the members. When presented to the Township of North Dundas, the Township jumped at the chance to be involved and the excitement grew. Many of the business owners were connected to the Chamber of Commerce, getting their foot in the door for the event. Combined with the word of mouth around town and at the 2016 Winchester Shop Crawl, local businesses began filing in.

Chamber of Commerce Treasurer and Town Vintner owner Shawn Brownlee was happy to have fortunate weather on Friday’s set-up day and was unfazed by the rain on Saturday since the community was at the Expo anyway. Brownlee spoke about how big an undertaking the project was for both the Chamber and Township, but with such a big turnout, it was all worth the long hours of work. The partnership with the Township worked out well for everyone, as the Community Centre was donated free of charge. This allowed for free admission to the Expo for the entire community. “Broad exposure events like this focus attention on local businesses,” said Brownlee. Almost every business owner present at the Expo has a story from Saturday’s event, about a guest not realizing they had a local option for those services.

Over 10 years ago the North Dundas Community held an annual arena sale for local businesses, but the event fizzled out. In the last few years, however, the community has shown a new drive to bring back the collaborative events to showcase the business talent in the area. It is no surprise that the Expo had a sold-out register for business booths.

The Expo had more than just the business booths though. A constant stream of performances and presentations were entertained on the main stage, local musicians showed off their skills upstairs and tasty treats were on sale throughout the Centre. After one of the performances by the talented dancers of Joanne Whittaker School of Dance, Main Street Clothing Company and Stella & Dot took to the stage for a mother/daughter fashion presentation.

Main Street Clothing Company owner Lisa Williams and Stella & Dot stylist Amy Tibben are no strangers to a fashionable partnership and the Expo fashion show was no exception. Williams and Tibben showed off a slew of different styles to keep wardrobes looking fresh and comfortable this season. Williams highlighted the fashion show as a great way for clients to see the store’s fashions on real women. As Williams said during the show, “It’s all about finding pieces that make you feel good about yourself.” In addition to the two fashion shows during the Expo, Williams was promoting her store’s options for private shopping parties and their new personal styling sessions. “It’s all about exposure. I love coming together [as a community] and featuring what we have to offer,” said Williams. Tibben added that the Expo was a great way for customers to realize that, “we are here and we are open for business.”

Cup of Joe owners Jo-Ann and Cory Houle had a welcoming display of breakfast sandwiches, muffins, baked goods and of course, coffee. Jo-Ann Houle said, “as a business owner, it’s nice to give support to all the other local businesses.” Houle is on the Chamber of Commerce and found it easy to get behind the idea of the Expo. “It’s just awesome to see what others have to offer,” Houle added.

Community projects like the Expo are becoming more and more popular. The exposure and small town economic development potential means a lot to rural communities. This sentiment was shared by John D. Mehard, VP Sales and Marketing of Armour Development. At the Expo, Armour Development was promoting their upcoming North Dundas Business Centre. The soon-to-be rentable office space is another opportunity for businesses in North Dundas to prosper and grow the local economy.

At the end of the day, the Expo was a, “huge success,” said Mayor Eric Duncan. Duncan continued to express how beneficial the venture was to change the community’s frame of mind concerning local businesses. “It’s all about meeting people and serving locals,” Duncan added. With the revitalized community spirit and more events always coming to North Dundas, Duncan concluded, “You never know what’s next.”