Whidbey wares spark interest at Biz Expo

Bruce Klassen of WIN Home Inspection shows Coupeville resident Julie Roth how a thermal imaging camera works. His was one of the numerous Whidbey Island-based businesses that participated in the 17th annual Uniquely Whidbey Biz Expo held over the weekend in Coupeville.

Even with the national economy tanking, Whidbey Island residents may be looking more toward local services to meet their needs.

Thousands of people came to Coupeville Saturday and Sunday to see businesses participating in the 17th annual Uniquely Whidbey Biz Expo in the high school gymnasium.

“I was so nervous with the economy but our numbers are holding well,” said Sharon Hart, executive director for the sponsoring Island County Economic Development Council. She said typically there are 3,500 people going through the doors during the two-day event. On Saturday, approximately 1,500 people attended; it looked to be even busier Sunday.

Approximately 140 businesses had booths in the weekend expo. People enjoyed sample massages, learned about new businesses such as Whidbey Island Moped and Liv’n the Dream bath and beauty products.

Hart said a lot of people attending the expo were talking to businesses about parties and home improvement.

Greg Yonkman, of Yonkman Construction, said there are a lot of nervous people out there reluctant to start new homes, but people had been stopping by the booth asking about remodeling projects.

Local real estate agent Wayne Locke did something a bit different during the Expo. In addition to information about Coldwell Banker properties, he also let people know about a home ownership training center that is opening at the Skagit Valley College Whidbey Island Campus.

“My goal today is to get some information out there,” Locke said Sunday afternoon. He is also part of Saratoga Community Housing.

For business owners participating in the event catering to locally-based companies, it provides a way to get in touch with local residents.

“This is where I live and work and I want to do business with the community,” said Garth Crisman, owner of the Closet Tailors, which designs and builds custom closet space out of his Coupeville location.

As to whether the Expo boosts business, Crisman said that is hard to quantify. People who learn about Closet Tailors often come in months, or even years, after the Expo.

For others, they had a booth to get reacquainted with the community. Roxanne Fairfax said she recently moved back to Oak Harbor and came to the high school over the weekend to give sample massages to passersby, which one person appreciated.

“She gives a great massage,” said Britt Hiatt, who works for Fakkema and Kingma.

Whidbey Island Moped had a booth to inform people about the fuel-efficient vehicles that are being sold.

“We just want people to become more aware that we’re on the island,” said Rona Ishikawa as she sat on one of the mopeds, which she said gets around 80 miles per gallon. In addition to sales, the Langley-based business offers training, rentals and accessories.

The Expo is also a place to learn about the organizations looking to help people.

Organizations such as Gifts From the Heart Food Bank and the Central Whidbey Lions Club had booths at the business expo.

So whether it’s finding anything from a fuel-efficient way for commuting to getting involved with charities in the area, the Expo had something to meet people’s needs even in worrisome economic times.

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