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Business expo ladles out advice, gifts

At the Chamber of Commerce event, entrepreneurs, non-profits and large companies tout their wares and services.

By MICHELLE JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 2001


LAND O'LAKES -- Susan Easter of Lutz went to the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce Business Expo Saturday for the online seminar.

"It was very informative," she said.

Afterward, she went through the expo building to see the exhibits sponsored by area businesses and saw a lot of new businesses she didn't know were in the area.

Easter owns Maia Associates, a business that provides resources for other occupations.

"We might use some of the services I saw today," she said. "It was a great expo."

The two-day expo was held at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Complex on Collier Parkway. Almost every available space was taken.

"I think it is a big success," said Ida Silver, a member of the chamber. "Everyone is friendly, and just about every booth is giving something away."

Pencils, pens, note pads, candy and baskets for door prizes were handed out.

At the Habitat for Humanity booth, Gary Amsler was looking for volunteers for the non-profit organization that is starting up in central Pasco county.

"So far, we have 30 volunteers, but we need more," he said. At his booth, Habitat was giving away chances for tool belts and a Wal-Mart gift certificate.

"Lou Molnar is on our board of directors, and he paid for the booth as well as the membership in the chamber," said Amsler.

The organization hopes to start its first house by the end of this year.

The price for renting a booth ranged from $53 to $90 for chamber members and was $125 for new members who signed up for the occasion.

Awards were to be presented at the end of the event for the most creative booths.

At Prudential Tropical Realty, a tropical paradise theme was used.

"We have this theme every year," said Jerry Dickson. Jimmy Buffett music played in the background, pineapples sprouted silk orchids and leis were given to visitors. Prudential also gave away bananas, pens, rulers and school calendars.

"These are special hybrid pineapples," quipped Dickson.

Other booths included baskets and pottery from the Longaberger Co., and information from Paradise Lakes and Lake Como, two of the area's nudist resorts, Taylor Rental, Merrill Gardens and Creative Printing.

Heritage Bank and SunTrust were among the banks with displays.

At the SunTrust booth, children were playing a spinning game and vying for prizes such as beads, candy and gum.

"We had flying things, but we ran out," said Joyce Miguel.

In previous years, SunTrust had paint and beads for the children.

"But that was messy," said Miguel. "We finally got smart."

Michelle Thompson, 8, of Land O'Lakes won some purple and gold beads.

"I'm having fun and I got lots of free stuff," she said.

At the Republican Club booth, Devin Anderson, 8, was guessing how many jelly beans were in the glass elephant jar.

If his 3,050 guess was correct, he would win half the jelly beans and half the money raised by charging $1 per guess.

Lisa Van Broehhoven, owner of the 54-U-Store, said business was brisk at her booth.

She was giving away popcorn and key rings.

"It's our intention to expand your home into our home," she said. "It's your attic, your basement, your garage."

At Baskets of Distinction, Lynda Wilson was talking about all the different baskets she creates for special occasions.

"Usually, I can do the basket in one day," she said.

A photo album contains pictures of the different ones she makes.

"I deliver them locally and I also pack and ship," she said.

The Career Central booth, staffed by Suzanne Sargent, had pamphlets and brochures describing it as an umbrella agency for other employment services, including Harbour House, the Department of Children and Families and Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.

"We administer like a subcontractor," she said.

-- Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (813) 226-3459. Her e-mail is jones@sptimes.com

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