Oak Harbor business expo brings out local flavors

Dave Hand, owner of Bay City Bistro in Oak Harbor, cooks up mussels for people to sample during Thursday’s Expo at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Dave Hand, owner of Bay City Bistro in Oak Harbor, cooks up mussels for people to sample during Thursday’s Expo at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

With the economy lagging, more and more people are seeking advice on how to invest their money.

Randy Wall of Penn Cove Financial said during Thursday’s Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Members Expo that he’s seeing more inquiries about his services.

Wall said that during good financial times, people tend to think of themselves as experts but they often seek assistance during tight times.

He was on hand during the twice-yearly expo to increase his visibility in the community. He said his one-man business, which he’s been operating for three years, needs all of the visibility he can muster.

Penn Cove Financial was one of more than 30 local businesses attending the expo, which the chamber tries to hold in the fall and the spring. The event allows some visibility for local chamber members that don’t have a store.

“We have a lot of home-based businesses and non-traditional businesses without a storefront,” said Jill Johnson, executive director for the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, adding events like the expo allow businesses a chance to meet customers and network.

There was also a chance to sample some of the food several local restaurants produce. Bay City Bistro, Sweet Rice, and Deception Pass Cafe and Grill all offered snacks to sample. In addition Ryan Rodgers performed, adding a bit of color to the night.

“We wanted to have a different vibe than a traditional business expo,” Johnson said.

The three-hour event allowed businesses to push their products and find new customers.

Although not based on Whidbey Island, Deception Cafe and Grill relies on its residents to stay in business.

Owner Kathy Longstreet was serving appetizers in hopes of drumming up some business for her catering service.

Located on Highway 20 north of Deception Pass, she depends on islanders for much of her business. Most of the people living in Anacortes normally don’t head down Highway 20 to go to a restaurant. She is pushing catering because she thinks there’s a market for it with the military and local businesses, and it will provide a boost to get through the slow winter season.

Another couple of cooks were providing samples to passersby to get out the word of a new restaurant that opened at the beginning of the year on Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor.

Sweet Rice opened last January and cooks Lek Allen and J.J. Netthai were providing samples. Allen said the expo was a good way to get their food out to the community.

There were more than restaurants advertising their services Thursday night. A wide spectrum from banks to lawn care services were showing their stuff.

One business was busy telling people about a retirement community in Oak Harbor.

“We’re just out here telling people who we are and what we do,” said Scot Ratzlaff, executive director at Harbor Tower Village. Staff manning the booth that night were quick to point out some of the activities residents in the community enjoy. Recently they helped students at a local elementary school, toured bed and breakfasts, and snacked on coffee and donuts at a local grocery store.

Whether it was drumming up business to help get through the slow part of the year or planting an idea on where someone should retire, the expo seemed to succeed in providing a boost to local businesses.

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