(March 7, 2014) The Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association’s Spring Trade Expo is back for its 40th year, filling the 41st Street convention center with exhibits from 270 hospitality industry companies this Sunday and Monday, March 9-10.
The show is for industry workers only and features everything from cooking demonstrations and alcohol samples to digital menu boards, furnishings and online travel management companies.
“Its just a great start to the season,” said Bill Reagan, president of Red Sun Custom Apparel in Selbyville, Del. “We get a chance to see a lot of our customers and it kicks off the spring.”
Red Sun returns to the expo this year with new ad specialty products and to exhibit its new, no-peel printing technique for T-shirts. While the company leaves the show with new customers every year, Reagan’s favorite part is reconnecting with old clients.
“It’s the first time after the long winter that we get to see a lot of our customers,” he said. “We reinforce our relationships.”
Cathy Donovan, who owns West Ocean City’s New Wave with her daughter and son-in-law Colleen and Matt Brown agreed the Spring Trade Expo marks the start of the tourist season.
“It’s the beginning of spring,” she said. “Everybody is back in their businesses and ready to do business for the year.”
New Wave has been a part of the trade expo since its early years, she said, and will showcase its apparel, embroidery, screen printing and hotel uniforms again this Sunday and Monday.
“It’s quite a set-up, our booths. There’s lots of samples for customers,” Donovan said.
“You can find anything you need to operate a hospitality business,” said Executive Director of the Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Susan Jones.
Product demonstrations include a cooking session with Chef Terry French, who won the second season of Food Network’s Extreme Chef and earned the title “Rebel Chef” for his unusual take on food.
French will take the Red, White & Brew Stage in the new Dockside Hall at 12 p.m. on Sunday, March 9, making pear- and rum-glazed fillets with roasted macadamia nuts while talking about his cooking and travels. There will be a meet and great after he cooks.
Another Food Network star, chef and sugar artist Steve Weiss will offer demonstrations starting at 11 a.m. Sunday and 12 p.m. Monday in the second floor ballroom. Weiss’ specialty is his sugar work, which takes about two hours from the time he melts the sugar to the completion of molding it into artistic pieces.
Delmarva Two-Way Radio, Inc. is among businesses offering seminars at this year’s expo, with a talk on wireless communications and efficiency.
“Its an excellent atmosphere for a business that does business in the resort area,” President and Owner Milt Warren said. “It’s the best show that I’m in.”
Other seminars at this year’s expo range from “10 Tips to Enhance the Hospitality Experience” to driving hotel and motel bookings online and using mobile marketing to draw customers to restaurants. Visit www.oceancitytradeexpo.com/ocmd-trade-show-schedule for a full list of seminar times and topics.
Attendees can also sample local craft beer, wine and spirits during the expo with Fin City, Burley Oak, Evolution and Backshore brewing companies present, among others.
The Spring Trade Expo started 40 years ago when Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association member Paul Wall, of Phillips Seafood Restaurants, suggested bringing an expo to this side of the bay bridge. At the time, the closest comparable event was in Baltimore.
The expo has grown from 26 booths that first year to around 270 companies represented at 400 exhibition stations.
The 11 original exhibitors still showing will have specials signs and balloons to recognize them in honor of the show’s 40th anniversary, Jones said. Those companies are Federal Paper & Chemical; Holt Food, Paper & Chemical; SYSCO of Eastern Maryland; Lehan Distributors; Pepsi Cola Bottling Ventures; the Restaurant Association of Maryland; Acme Paper & Supply; Coca-Cola Refreshments; and H&M Wagner & Sons.
Last year, about 4,500 attended the Spring Trade Expo and Jones expects more in 2014.
“We’ve really become a regional show,” she said. “I have seen an increase in registrations from across the bridge,” especially since the Baltimore show closed several years ago.
The Spring Trade Expo runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 9, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, March 10.
Registration costs $15 at the door and attendees must bring a business card or pay stub to prove they’re part of the service industry. Workers from hotels, motels, restaurants, catering companies, concessions operations, bed and breakfasts, property management companies, campgrounds, coffee houses, ice cream shops, nightclubs, liquor stores, convenience stores, cafeterias, nursing homes, schools and colleges or hospitals are welcome.
Visit www.oceancitytradeexpo.com for more information, including a floor plan and schedule of seminars and other events.