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First Buy in Berkshires Expo Draws Crowds

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Nearly a 100 restaurants, hotels, home improvement, shops, home goods, printers, banks, health providers, technology businesses and others participated in the first Buy in the Berkshires Expo at Jiminy Peak. Above, Everett Morin of the Crowne Plaza finishes off crab cakes.
HANCOCK, Mass. — The region's first Buy in the Berkshires Expo drew a 1,000 people or more to Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort on Wednesday afternoon.

The collaborative effort between the Berkshires Visitors Bureau, Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and Jiminy Peak was designed to showcase the region's many business and cultural offerings to its citizens.

"This has just been incredible," said an ecstatic Lauri Klefos, president of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, about the turnout. "It's been absolutely astounding."

The expo started at 3 p.m. with a business networking hour, then opened from 4 to 7 for the general public. T-shirts promised to the first 100 people were gone within 15 minutes, Whorles ran out of free hot dogs shortly after 6 and the lines to the Mountain Coaster and Alpine Slide were long enough that Jiminy was still running them past closing time.

The expo had the air of an outdoor festival, with music from local bands and WUPE 95.9 filling the air, people visiting at tables on the resort's patios and families shuttling children back and forth between the booths and the free rides.

"People came in and had a good time," said Michael Supranowicz, president of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.

If anything, there wasn't enough time, said Amy Thomson of Pittsfield, who arrived with her husband and young son after 6. They'd hit the booths in JJ's Lodge but hadn't made it to Crane Lodge.

"It's a great thing," she said. "But maybe next time it could go later ... when you have to come after work, it's harder."

Close to 100 businesses, groups and cultural organizations were on display, offering a broad range of products and services along with discounts and drawings. Just based on participating groups, a Berkshire resident could:

Get a mortgage, build a house, floor it, heat it, secure it, insure it, clean it and fill it with scented candles. Pick up an eco-friendly bag and shop for organic vegetables, handmade creations, phones and Avon and at boutiques and malls. Tired of shopping? Get your spine aligned, unwind at a spa; eat out — anywhere. Work it off at a gym, on a golf course, in a kayak. Take in a play, a museum, a dance, a concert. Sleep in a log hideaway or a plush hotel. And when you wake up with a bad case of cultural, recreational or gourmet overload it, there's a health care center for that, too.

Booths offering food — such as Crowne Plaza, Gala at The Orchards, Jiminy Peak's eateries — had long lines, as did the free rides. But while food and fun were certainly a draw, the other vendors were getting attention, too.


BVB President Lauri Klefos, left, takes a break. Left, a 'Petite Dame' from Ventfort Hall; below, there was fun for kids, too.
"It's been a great success," said Jeffrey Folmer, executive director of Ventfort Hall and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox. Ventfort's table had a prominent spot in the connecting hallway in Crane Lodge and one of the fashion dolls from its "Les Petites Dames de Mode" exhibit.

It was a chance to connect with Berkshires residents who weren't aware of the museum and its offerings and with the all-important concierges at area resorts and hotels who recommend spots for tourists. "They all say how when they send people to us, they come back and thank them."

For Beth Carlisle of Williamstown, it was a chance to show off her custom designed shopping totes, a venture the graphic designer started about 18 months ago.

"I've sold quite a few today and taken some orders," she said. "I think it's been quite a success. My $125 [for the booth] was well worth it."

Brian Fairbank, president of Jiminy, said he hadn't "heard a person at any booth who didn't say this was a success."

He speculated that a second expo could double attendees and participants. "I was pleasantly surprised with the comments I've heard in the last 20 minutes," he said, as the expo was winding down. "It's a great showcase and something we can do collaboratively."

Surpranowicz also was bullish on the idea of expanding the expo based on preliminary reports. Vendors are always a little hesitant the first time around, he said, unsure if the timing or the location or their particular product will fit.

Klefos also pointed to hosts Fairbank and Jiminy as reasons for the successful outcome: "This was the perfect location." 

Perfect enough that one bureau staffer was asked by a visitor if there would be another expo next month.

The visitors' bureau has held showcases before to promote the region's cultural and hospitality offerings; the chamber frequently holds networking and other events. But this was the first time the two largest representatives of the region's economy teamed up. It's part of effort to get the county's business, civic and cultural leaders working together to promote the region.


Brian Fairbank of Jiminy and Michael Supranowicz of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. Bottom, there was a balloon, too.
It's also a benchmark in a campaign begun months ago to get Berkshire residents to support local businesses and organizations. To get them not just thinking about buying replacement windows here, but also taking advantage of the cultural attractions the attract tourists from around the world.

Glenn Harpin of Krystal Clean in Pittsfield isn't completely sold on the idea of a resurgent Berkshires. The 1978 McCann Technical School graduate still remembers when the mills were humming and has more faith in what might go in Stanley Park than in a museum. But the expo seemed to make an impression on him.

"Great living in the Berkshires? I used to think that was a joke," he said. "But you know, I think it's growing on me."

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Community submission
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