By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas offers resources, advocacy and support for 600 businesses, organizations and individuals in Erie and Niagara counties.
But this weekend, as it has over the last 26 years, the chamber will be taking its offerings a step further, during the T-NT Expo, where 120 vendor booths, half of them run by chamber members, will be setting up shop for a two days inside the North Tonawanda Student Alumni Center.
Joyce Santiago, the chamber’s executive director, said the expo had traditionally taken place every other year, but after the introduction of the Women’s Expo in 2010, the business-geared weekends have now become an annual affair.
This year’s focus will be broader, a draw that brings in families as a whole rather than groups of largely women, as was the case in 2012.
“We were doing it every other year anyway so we weren’t having anything on the off year,” she said. “We brought in the women’s expo just to keep it fresh. Obviously it is catered toward women’s needs and its a bit more quaint, more of a ladies day out. With this year’s expo people tend to come with the whole family. It’s a lot more than a women’s outing, where the T-NT is more of a family event.”
Santiago said interest has grown among both vendors and patrons after the chamber allowed sales to take place in 2010, which opened up the expo to a larger swath of business causing attendance to swell to between 6,000 and 8,000 people.
“Introducing retail sales into it caused more people to come out,” she said. “It wasn’t just a showcase anymore. We found more vendors and different types of vendors wanted to participate and lot of shops wanted to sell items.”
The cost of procuring a vendors booth runs between $315 and $450, depending on whether those participating are members of the chamber.
Those selling their wares and promoting their organizations cover a gamut of community contributions, from health care to to self-help, designers, merchants, nonprofits and more.
“We’ve also seen an increase in the number of contractors who utilize the show to start getting a head start on home improvements,” Santiago said.
Among the more integral portions of the event is the collection of non-perishable items for the Vietnam Veterans Chapter #77 and the Interchurch Food Pantry, both of which depend of the expo to bulk up supplies.
Santiago said the expos also brings in new businesses each year that can help boost the fledgling ventures.
“This show can bring in a lot of their business,” she said. “A massage therapist was here for the first time a few years ago and was booked up for three months after the expo. But it definitely helps out the more established businesses too. We’ve had a lot of repeat vendors since we started.”
The T-NT Expo will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at 405 Meadow Drive, North Tonawanda. There is no cost for admission. For more information go to www.the-tonawandas.com.IF YOU GO • WHAT: T-NT Expo • WHERE: North Tonawanda High School Student Alumni Center, 405 Meadow Drive, NT • WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday • COST: Free to attend Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.