From banking institutions to real estate and waste removal services, the Fall Business Expo, organized by the Vilonia Area Chamber of Commerce and set up at Vilonia Elementary School, offered almost every kind of service imaginable, and then some.
"We had a few less vendors than at the spring expo," said Laura McNeel, executive director who was manning the chamber booth. "I think the effects of the economy may be trickling down here. But, the businesses that are here are top quality businesses and there’s a variety of services."
The majority of the 16 businesses with booths were representative of Vilonia businesses. However, a few were from Conway as well as other areas. All were using the event as a way to make face-to-face contact with clients.
Representatives from Vilonia Realty were handing out microwave bags of popcorn encouraging everyone to pop into their business. A sign on their table said "It’s not a scary time to buy." Owner Jackie Fowlkes was telling customers about the $8,000 tax credit that is still in effect for first time buyers. And, in Vilonia, she said, there are about 90 houses for sale.
"We had one person who has rented for eight or nine years that bought this year," she shared. Also, she said, sales are down about 10 percent in Faulkner County. However, she said, houses selling for $175,000 and below are still moving.
"They are moving slower than they were, but they are moving," she said. "Overall in this area, it’s not that bad. It’s just that we are used to better."
Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) 20th Judicial District were recruiting volunteers at their booth to serve as support "for children who need it the most." Information at the booth said there are 138 children in foster care in Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties. Of the 138 children, only 58 have a CASA. There are 80 children who have no voice in the court system, it was said.
Daniel Davis of Davis Real Estate, was providing information on Seven Point Lake Subdivision at Davis Ranch on Highway 107 in Vilonia. Located on 340 acres with a 22-acre lake in the middle, Davis shared, those buying the lots will have access to a jogging path next to the lake. The lake, he said, is already stocked and waiting. Some lake front lots will have boat docks and the starting price tag for them, he shared, is $49,500. Lots away from the water will begin at $29,500, he added. As far as sales, he said, he began with 17 lake front lots and five have been sold and there are offers on three or four others.
"We are doing pretty good during a recession," he added.
Fred Bowers, owner of Superior Interlock Services, Inc., located in Conway, was explaining the workings of breathalyzers in vehicles. His company, he said, installs them for $135 which includes the first month of operation. Afterwards, the cost is $60 per month.
"That’s what is required for first offenders (DWI) if they want to drive," he said.
Sisters Marilyn Henderson and Lisa Crook of Kynsie Printing and Create A Book in Jacksonville, were offering personalized books for not only children but also adults. They told customers their books, which basically costs about $15, is the perfect gift. They also talked about efforts to provide free books to schools.
Master plumber Ric Mayhan was manning his booth Ric’s Waterworks of Vilonia. As well as providing plumbing information, he was giving away a family game night basket.
John Lambert of Pearce Heating and Air Conditioning was explaining his job as a "comfort specialist" to attendees providing energy reviews and cost comparison analysts. He was also explaining the benefits of the federal stimulus bill that provides a $1,500 tax credit to people who want to replace equipment. A 30 percent tax credit up to $1,500, he said, is available for qualifying heating and air conditioning equipment during 2009 and 2010.
Registered Nurse Billie Collins was explaining the importance of Hospice Home Care. She told attendees she has never felt more appreciated in any other job as she has as a hospice nurse. Hospice, she said, is as much for the caregiver as for the patient.
"We fill in the gaps where we need to," she said. "Our job is to enrich one’s life as long as possible."
Decked out with frills and pink boas, Cassidy Sniegowski of Paisley’s Parties & Boutique, said her business is all about girls. The business is newly opened in Conway and provides a range of parties for girls specializing in birthday parties.
Staff members from Centennial Bank was welcoming folks to their booth for some friendly conversation as well as handing out cellular phone holders and computer mirrors. They were also encouraging those passing by to sign up for chances to win a couple of $50 Visa gift cards.
Michelle Maddox was manning the family’s new business, Vilonia ATA Martial Arts booth providing services to ages seven through adults. Her husband, Scott, teaches the classes on Monday and Wednesday nights at the Vilonia Nazarene Church. The cost, she said, is $40 to join which includes a uniform and a DVD plus $50 per month. Scott, who is also a band director, was the state champion last year in the men’s first degree ages 40-49, traditional forms and weapons division. Their son, Andrew, 13, is a red/black belt and son, Chris, 10, is a second degree black belt.
Staff at First Security Bank were providing chances to win a $50 gift card as well as providing information on their new free small business checking for DBA’s. They were also explaining their new checking account feature which for a fee of $2.95 a month provides $10,000 in AD&D insurance as well as $5,000 in identity fraud.
Angie Howard and Jessica Gifford of Faulkner County Waste Management were set up handing out miniature trash cans, filled with candy, and explaining their expanded services.
Howard said they have expanded their recycling services countywide at schools as well as starting to expand to businesses. The plan, she said, is to basically to "make recycling in the county as easy as in Conway."
A new concept, Howard explained, is allowing residents to now take foam and clothing as well as all plastics to the recycling trailers.
Jeff Burnside, area manager of Jackson Hewitt in Faulkner County, was explaining the benefits of the new E-signature that will be available for tax customers of that business in 2010. The new program, he said, will cut down on paperwork.
"You can go in a secure Web site and pull up your tax records for the next two or three years," he explained.
Also, he said, beginning Nov. 16, the tax service will offer a "holiday line of credit" program for people who qualify for an advance on their tax return.
"Now, not everyone will qualify," he stressed.
Representatives of Pace Fitness in Vilonia, had a steady line of people at their booth. Trainers were meeting and greeting and providing weight loss tips. They were telling customers about a new "Pilates for Beginners" class getting ready to begin and sharing information about how adult members may take advantage of free martial arts classes held on Tuesday and Thursdays.
A slow paced afternoon allowed some of the vendors to spend time visiting every table and getting to know the other attendees as well as collecting the free giveaways.
While the turnout may not have been as heavy as for the spring expo, McNeel said, she was pleased and anticipates the chamber will sponsor a fall expo in 2010.
"We were welcomed in by the school and we get a lot of teacher/parent conference traffic," she concluded. "It is an economical advertising tool for the businesses."