By Lauren Zaepfel
Approximately 700 eventgoers from all over Western New York gathered at the Tonawanda Castle on April 9 for the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas Women's Expo & Boutique.
Vendors of fashion, finance, home, health, beauty and jewelry filled the many rooms of the castle. Fashion shows and beauty, cooking and crafting demonstrations were put on by local businesses throughout the day.
"It's a wonderful event," said Michele Krienbuhl, owner of Michele's Motif Boutique and Gift Shop, who held a fashion show at the event. "It's a great opportunity for small businesses to get out there, and a great opportunity for the general public to see what businesses are out there."
Joey Quigliano of D'Avolio, a returning vendor of the expo, said the event is a means of creating awareness about the business, "showcasing our product (and) giving the health benefits about extra virgin olive oil."
"(For) some of these small business(es) that don't have an opportunity to get out and tell what their product is, this gives (them) exposure to people from all over that come to this event," said Angela R. Johnson-Renda, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas.
She said the event gives the Tonawandas chamber "exposure to all of Western New York. You don't have to live or work here. You can join our chamber, so you could be a part of our events. We give our members discounts to be part of these events and, hopefully, everyone that isn't (currently a member) is a future member."
The event also serves as an outlet for community, health and wellness and charitable fundraising.
The YWCA, and the Catholic Health Center for Women of Mount St. Mary's Hospital were among the many vendors. Walgreens in North Tonawanda collected donations for a May 26 event, "Red Nose Day," telecast to help raise money for child safety, health and education across the U.S.
"It's fun to get out here and meet new people, see a lot of people we know," said North Tonawanda Walgreens store manager Rob Grosskopf of Wheatfield. "It is a lot different this year - different clientele, there's a lot more people."
"It's great to get new customers," said Walgreens Senior Beauty Adviser Mary Grace Ohrum of Niagara Falls. "I think each time we've done this we've gotten new customers. ... It's packed. It seems really well organized."
The event has occurred every other year, but Johnson-Renda said, "I've actually asked the vendors, because this is so highly anticipated, if they'd like to see this every year, as opposed to every other year. So that's something we're going to review."
Michele Krienbuhl (second from right) of Michele's Motif Boutique and Gift Shop, stands with her fashion show team. They are decked out in her homemade aprons and other clothing offered at her business on Webster Street in North Tonawanda. (Photo contributed by Michele Krienbuhl)