Business expo

The Wytheville Fire Department gains some new admirers as community children tour a fire engine and talk to firefighters about their jobs.

Nearly a hundred businesses and organizations took the opportunity to showcase their goods and services Thursday evening at the Wytheville-Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business & Community Expo.

Hosted at the Wytheville Meeting Center, the expo is designed to give community members a chance to learn more about local businesses, non-profits and community leaders.

“I’ve learned about a lot of businesses I’ve never even heard of, especially the small ones,” said Tiffany Alley.

This year’s event was Alley’s first. She spent the evening keeping up with her two small children as they eagerly ran to see what was at the next booth. In addition to the cool swag she and her children collected, Alley’s daughter, Raeliegh, also discovered Girl Scouts.

“My husband was a Boy Scout, so I think Girl Scouts is something she might like to do,” Alley said.

This year’s expo was also a first for the Wytheville Fire Department. Chief Marc Brade said the department was happy to get the opportunity to be more involved in the community.

“They pay our salary, so we want to be out and about, letting them know that we’re doing everything we can to improve our community,” he said.

Children were given the opportunity to climb on board one of the department’s engines and check out a firefighter’s gear.

As well as the opportunity to recruit young admirers, public events like the expo also give the department a chance to recruit volunteers, which are always in demand, Brade said.

Likewise, ABB employees took the opportunity to mingle with community members. An eye-catching Jacob’s Ladder electric arc demonstration drew visitors to the booth.

Though most expo visitors would have no need for a $30,000 transformer, mechanical engineer Brian Akers said the event gives ABB employees the opportunity to talk about the work they do in the community.

The leading employer in Bland County, ABB is heavily involved in the community and contributes to events like Relay for Life and the Angel Tree program, as well as other community projects.

“Bland County is a really small community and 90 percent of our workforce comes from Bland County, so we try to be a part of the community as much as we can,” Akers said.

The expo gave other businesses the chance to give out samples of their goods. At booths near the entrance, visitors were greeted with the aroma of boberry biscuits from Bojangles’ and muffins and pastries from Rural Retreat’s Java Blend Café. As they progressed through the maze of vendors, visitors’ taste buds were also treated to samples from restaurants like Open Door Café and Sagebrush.

Java Blend owner Mary Ann Zook attended last year’s event, but didn’t open her doors until September. Returning to the expo allowed Zook to demonstrate her “perfect blend” of community, coffee and cuisine, she said.

“There’s people here today that maybe have seen me on Facebook, but now I’m able to present my product. I really love interacting with the people that come in.”

Non-profits take advantage of the event to let the community know about their causes and services.

“It’s a really good way to network,” said Bland Ministry Center Director Dee Dee Hoosier. “There are so many people that don’t know about our services.”

Hoosier gave free toothbrushes at the ministry center’s booth to promote the center’s dental clinic, which serves uninsured or underserved Bland and Wythe residents. During the expo, Hoosier was also able to tell community members about other programs the ministry center offers, including a food pantry, a clothing closet and home repair assistance.

Other vendors included community programs, medical services, health and wellness programs, staffing agencies, retailers, manufacturers, banks and more.

For more information on chamber events, visit

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