ABOVE: Mets legend Dwight “Doc” Gooden poses for a photograph with Queens Chamber of Commerce staff members at the expo.
BY BENJAMIN FANG
Photos: Dominick Totino
Citi Field was abuzz on June 21, but not necessarily with Mets fans.
It was the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s annual business expo, which drew a record crowd to Flushing. Nearly 1,500 people attended the gathering of businesses.
“We have more tables than we ever had, they were all sold out,” said Thomas Grech, Chamber President and CEO. “We had more registered guests than we ever had, which is all sold out.”
Grech said what attracted many attendees, especially early in the morning, was the expo’s various panel events, including the opening discussion on the transportation challenges in Queens.
On the expo floor, various businesses, from restaurants and hospitals to accounting and media firms, exhibited their products and services.
“We talk a lot about Queens being diverse, but if you look at the show floor, we even have a diversity of businesses,” Grech said.
He added that lots of business will be generated from the connections.
“If those 1,500 people suggest others to either join the chamber or refer them to people they met here for business, it could be quite an extremely successful event for those exhibiting and those who get connected,” he said.
For Flavio Avila, manager of Skyline Cruises, the expo was an opportunity for companies of all sizes to showcase themselves.
“That co-mingling between small and big is really tremendous here,” Avila said. “That exposure, to interact and to have a better feel is what that organization is all about.”
Rego Park chef Nupur Arora, who operates Queens Curry Kitchen, said she attended the expo many times, but this year was her first time exhibiting.
“There’s a lot of visibility we’re trying to build for the brand by coming here,” Arora said. “So far, it seems to be very popular.”
That face-to-face interaction is even more important in the Internet age, when customers are often buying from anonymous people, she said.
“It really helps to have an authentic person behind the brand, the story is as important as the service or the product you’re trying to sell,” Arora said. “When you interact with people, they really get to see your energy, your personality, your vision behind the brand. That’s how they can relate to whatever they’re buying from you.”
At the expo, Arora’s booth gave away free samples. Even a small bite allows the customer to experience the range of flavors offered in her food.
“As a chef, I always try to demystify the process and make it simple so people are encouraged to embrace flavors,” she said. “This is a great way to do it.”
Arora added that she’s always looking for more collaborations in the community, such as cooking workshops, demonstrations and food tastings.
“That’s a way to draw people together, create a dialogue for food, and create acceptance and tolerance for different ethnicities, which I think Queens is so well known for,” she said. “I embrace and celebrate that. I love everything Queens.”