Photo by Joe Boyle
Hills Chamber of Commerce members (from left) Teresa Stack, secretary; Georgia Vouris, board member and branch manager at Byline Bank; Phyllis Majka, president; and Art Golden, treasurer, greet the crowd that arrived Saturday for their Business and Community Expo at Conrady Junior High School in Hickory Hills.
For a third business and community expo, officials with the Hills Chamber of Commerce believed it was time for a larger venue to host the event.
Talk about good timing.
The business and community expo sponsored by the Hills Chamber of Commerce drew large crowds all day Saturday at Conrady Junior High School at 9700 S. Roberts Road in Hickory Hills.
Phyllis Majka, the longtime president of the Hills Chamber, said this year's event exceeded her expectations. She is pleased with the amount of vendors who were interested in attending the expo.
"We have had just a great response," Majka said at the expo. "Teresa (Teresa Stack, secretary for the chamber) deserves a lot of the credit. She got the word out through Facebook and other forms of social media, along with the newspapers. We have 62 vendors here and we are all filled up with more on the list. We had businesses waiting to get on."
Stack, who has been a member of the chamber for three years, believes it was a team effort to attract the large crowd of shoppers and vendors.
"It took a couple of months to organize this," Stack said. "You know, I do a lot of social media. I'm a member of a lot of groups. I'm in 17 garage sale groups, for instance. I'm in about 60 groups altogether. We contacted chamber members first to see if they were interested. I just then decided to blast it out there. We actually had 66 vendors. A couple didn't show so were able to replace them."
Stack mentioned that along with local businesses who were well represented at the expo, vendors arrived from all over the south and western suburbs. One of the vendors actually came as far as central Illinois and drove through a snowstorm that hit that region Friday night and Saturday morning.
"They were determined to get here and they didn't miss it," added Stack.
One of the reasons vendors came from great distances is that they had products that were saturated in their communities but not featured as much in the Chicago area, Stack said.
Majka said the expo drew a wide variety of vendors that included Judy's Pearls, Once Upon A Child, Pampered Chef, Marquette Bank, Sunshine Designs, Tealightful Tea, Flying High Gym, and Koraes School, which is located in Palos Hills.
Carol Hintze owns and operates her own business that she calls Carol's Cottage Creations. Known as "The Jelly Lady," the Downers Grove resident had a variety of jellies and jams for sampling. Some of the products had fruit flavors and another tasted like jalopenos.
"I grow jalopenos in my backyard," Hintze said.
Local businesses were well represented at the expo, including Gardner Eye Care in Hickory Hills. The business was started by Jim "Babe" Gardner, a 1929 graduate of St. Rita High School. He went out and got a college education and went into the optometry business in 1938, much to the chagrin of his father, who wanted to him to work in the stockyards.
His son, Dr. Jack Gardner, continues the business that dates back to 71st and Western Avenue on Chicago's Southwest Side. Jack Gardner was a member of the 1963 Prep Bowl champion St. Rita football team. He also has competed in numerous marathons.
Paula Gardner, Jack's wife, was greeting shoppers and said the event was a great idea.
"This is great coming out and seeing the whole community," said Paula, who has also competed in several marathons herself. "It's great for all the businesses."
Stack said this was a work in progress and that were a few learning curves along the way. Stack said she has run craft shows for years at St. Patricia Parish in Hickory Hills, where her children attended. Her daughter runs a craft show at Sacred Heart Parish in Palos Hills.
She believes a return to Conrady is likely. She has other ideas to bring businesses together and draw crowds. Stack is considering the idea of a "Food Truck Festival" that could take place in the parking lot of Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills. More discussion has to take place about how this could be arranged. The parking lot at Conrady is also another option.
"I've been doing this for a long time," Stack said. "it's easy. You just need for the people to come."