Hundreds attend fifth annual Belpre Business Expo

Dr. Lori Hawkins, left, and Hawkins Family Dentistry office manager Carol Knepshield, center, talk with Belpre resident Tonya Lehew during the fifth annual Belpre Business Expo Monday at Boxer’s Bed and Biscuits on Washington Boulevard. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

BELPRE — Hundreds of people gathered Monday at Boxer’s Bed and Biscuits to visit and interact with businesses that serve the community at the fifth annual Belpre Business Expo.

And that included several exhibitors from outside the city itself.

“I think we’ve got to stop thinking we are separate communities,” said Karen Waller, executive director of the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce, which partnered with The Parkersburg News and Sentinel and Boxer’s on the event. “We really are a metropolitan area.”

Waller said local businesses serve people from around the region and residents shop beyond the particular city they call home.

“We’ve got businesses that are growing all over the Valley,” she said. “This building itself is an example of what can happen with a good business plan, a dream, good financing.”

Bob’s Market and Greenhouse retail manager Jon Neff smells a flower before handing it to Kenna Roush, 2, of Vincent, Monday during the fifth annual Belpre Business Expo, held at Boxer’s Bed and Biscuits on Washington Boulevard in Belpre. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

This was the second year in a row Boxer’s played host to the Expo. Last year, the business — which offers pet boarding, day care, grooming and more — was preparing to open in the former Middleton Doll factory it now calls home and many attendees were excited to get a sneak peek.

“We just had such a big turnout the first year, we couldn’t wait to welcome people again,” said Emily Hardbarger, marketing director for Boxer’s.

The business, which also offers veterinary care and dog training, has continued to grow over the last year, with plans to expand into a little more than 22,000 square feet of empty space in the facility, she said.

“Some days, we have over 100 dogs here, just for day care alone,” Hardbarger said. “It’s been booming, and we’re just trying to keep up with the demand.”

In addition to reminding potential customers of the services they offer as the weather warms, Bob’s Market and Greenhouse retail manager Jon Neff said events like the Expo provide a chances for businesses to interact as well.

“Setting up and tear-down, you’re always meeting someone new,” he said.

Dr. Lori Hawkins, of Hawkins Family Dentistry, said she wanted to be more involved with the chamber and the Expo also gave her a chance to let folks know about the new office she’ll be building next to Taco Bell on Washington Boulevard. It will come with a new name as well — Smiles on the Boulevard.

“This is awesome,” Hawkins said of Monday’s turnout. “I’m meeting a lot of new people.”

Runyon Lock Service owner Jim Runyon said it’s important to come to events like the Expo to keep the Parkersburg-based business’ name out in the community.

“Everybody’s going to need our services sooner or later,” he said.

The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Resource Center at WVU Medicine Camden Clark was on hand to promote sun safety, check people’s skin with a DermaScan device and spread the word that they’re available to serve cancer patients and their families, even if they aren’t being treated at Camden Clark.

“We’re for the whole area,” said center Chairwoman Lesa Hunter.

Parkersburg resident Bobette Grimm said she enjoyed the Expo.

“You find out things you didn’t know … and you get caught up with everything that’s going on in the business world,” she said.

Waller said she expected attendance to top 400 and perhaps approach 500 Monday.

“The News and Sentinel is happy to once again partner with the Belpre Chamber of Commerce,” News and Sentinel Publisher Jim Spanner said, thanking Boxer’s for serving as host. “It’s a great showcase for the Belpre business community.”