Businesses from both sides of I-75 gathered at Robarts Arena on Sept. 15 to market their goods and network with other area businesses at the East Meets West Expo.
The expo is organized by the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce. The numbers are still bouncing back after COVID-19, but 80 booths lined the arena and about 500 people walked through.
“This is an opportunity for our members to showcase their products and services to the region, and for consumers to meet businesses who are giving back to the community,” LWRBA President Brittany Lamont said. “And (giving back) is really a lot of being a part of these organizations, whether it's the Longboat Key chamber or us.”
Several area nonprofits had booths. Restaurants were serving up their best dishes. A bar, DJ and lounge area encouraged the crowd to mingle while stuffing their faces and goodie bags. In its 14th year, the expo has evolved from the early days.
“Now it seems like it’s just the restaurants that bring food, but they used to have everybody bring food.” Margo McQueen of Home-Tech said. “There was a ton of food and a lot of alcohol too. It’s changed a lot over the years, but it’s still good.”
Sales Manager Todd Stubbs from Good News Pest Solutions had a blast. The fan-favorite dressed up in a cockroach costume, donned black sunglasses and danced through the aisles shaking his antennas.
“This is the first expo since COVID,” Stubbs said, “I wanted to come back with a bang.”
Last year’s expo only saw about 100 people and ended early.
“I’m pleased with the turnout, especially after last year,” Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce President Gail Loefgren said. “It’s just nice to see people coming out again.”