By David Bjorkgren, Special to the Hellenic News of America
The 26th annual Hermes Expo was a foodies delight. With this year’s Expo focusing on the hospitality industry, vendors set up their products and services April 26 to show off the latest and the best, with tempting free samples along the way.
A casual stroll through the Concordville Inn’s conference center put you within hands reach of cheesesteaks, hamburgers, chicken, imported olives and cheeses, pastries, coffees, beer and more.
“We’re not a massive Expo where you feel like a number,” said one of the organizers, Aphrodite Kotrotsios, speaking at the Expo’s awards dinner. “It’s a specialized and targeted Expo where you receive individualized attention and service. We cater to our sponsors and exhibitors by personally networking them with businesses and professionals of our community. When you grow, we grow. When we grow, you grow. It’s a chemical reaction and we understand that here. This personal contact is unmatched by other Expos and networking opportunities and we are honored to have all of you here supporting this unique business forum in Delaware County.”
A quick canvassing of the vendors indicated some pretty happy exhibitors this year.
Spiro Bardis, exhibiting for Expo sponsor Sirob Imports, stood behind dishes of delicious-looking olives and cheeses as eager visitors crowded around to sample. Sirob Imports has been a regular exhibitor at the Expo for years. They like to come to connect with old customers and find out how they’re doing, while also encouraging new customers to check them out.
Sirob Imports is a 42- year business, offering top quality Mediterranean foods from Greece, Spain, Italy and other nations worldwide. “[The owner] goes to Greece to choose the perfect products to bring over here. We continuously grow and grow and grow,” Vargis said.
Bill Moore, brand director for Lancaster Brewing Company, handed out small cups of craft beer. Owned by a Greek company, the Keares Restaurant Group, the brewery, located in Lancaster, continues a tradition of making hand- crafted beers while offering freshly-prepared food at its restaurants.
“This was a great opportunity to get in front of some other Greeks and PhilHellenes that own restaurants or catering businesses or whatever. Our owner felt it was a good opportunity to network, to interchange thoughts,” Moore said. “We’ve got a great reception today with people trying (samples).”
Barbara Ann Zippi, creator of Ciao Bella, a locally produced cable television program on the cultures, foods and traditions of Italy, was excited to promote the similarities between Italy and Greece at this year’s Expo. This is her first appearance as an exhibitor and she’s hoping for more cross-cultural opportunities down the road. On April 26, she used the Expo as a backdrop for a special half hour taping of her cable show. “There’s so much between the Italian culture and the Greek culture…because of heritage, culture, traditions…we felt that with the Hermes Expo wouldn’t it be fun to have an Italian pavilion,” she said.
Sokratis Ballas, business development manager, was exhibiting for Megas Yeeros, a world-wide producer and distributor of authentic Greek Yeeros and other ethnic food products. He described the Expo succinctly as “good people, good food, good company.” Megas Yeeros is hoping to educate restaurant retailers and distributors on the innovative food products they are now offering. “Awareness and education is what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said. The Yeero is the number one food trend in the world and now the company is developing a strong presence in America as more Americans embrace Mediterranean foods.
The 92-year-old family-owned business, Brakebush Chicken, had a variety of chicken products for restaurant owners and distributors to try out. Cheryl Larzelere, Philadelphia territory sales manager, said the Wisconsin company sells nation-wide, offering 250 different items. She works with distributors to sell the products to diner and restaurant owners and other customers such as schools.
This is her first time exhibiting at the Expo with Brakebush and she appreciates the Expo for giving an opportunity to show off the latest items and trends. “It keeps the ordinary diners, the mom and pops, the smaller places, it keeps them up to date with the growing trends with what’s going on,” she said. “It’s just giving them new ideas.”
The aroma of a cheesesteak wafted from one exhibitor’s booth. The samples were courtesy of Advanced Pierre Foods, the largest Philly steak manufacturer in the country.” If you eat a Philly steak anywhere in the United States, there’s about a 75 percent chance that it’s ours,” said Sam Salupo, Jr. director of operator sales, East food service. “Obviously we are showing off the Brandywine Valley brand Philly steaks” he said, as he hands a cheesesteak over to a visitor. The company has 12 production facilities, including a newer one in Vineland, New Jersey.
Kevin Bruton, president of the Purple Picnic People, was hoping to find some new products for his business. Purple Picnic People is a catering service offering a unique, informal catered experience. The company has a commissary in Springfield and also runs two golf courses, Penn Oaks Golf Club in West Chester and the Galloway National Golf Club in New Jersey.
“We do a lot of company picnics and graduation parties,” he said. More and more companies are going with informal events so his business offers comfort foods like barbecue, burgers, hot dogs, seafood in a more relaxed setting. There’s also more desire for international cuisine.
“Hopefully I’ll find some new products I’m not aware of, a new angle we can use for menus.”
Not all of the exhibitors had food to display. Peter Milios, legislative director for the American Hellenic Institute in Washington DC, was at the Expo to promote Greek Heritage Night at the Phillies on June 20.
“Since there’s such a strong connection with the Hermes Expo and many Greek Americans coming here as well we thought we’d advertise here,” he said. “We’re here selling tickets to see if people want to come to the event and will embrace the Greek heritage and will enjoy a night at the baseball game.”
The American Hellenic Institute focuses on U.S.-Greek relations, which he describes as good and strong, building on hundreds of years of history between the two countries.
InterGlobe Press II, LLC, an Expo sponsor, specializes in designing menus for restaurants and has about 800 customers. Exhibitor Thomas Verdhi said the Expo has been a good way to get customers. “A lot of people come. It’s generated a lot of business. They call me up when they are ready to do business,” he said.
Realtor Irene Vrentzas with Joe Maggio Realty didn’t know what to expect when she showed up at the Expo this year. “It’s bigger than I thought it would be,” she said. This was her first time exhibiting, though she’s attended past Expos. “We’re just trying to network and expose people to the Delaware market,” she said. She likes the hands-on activity of the Expo as opposed to just running an ad.
“You get to actually meet the people and they get to meet you,” she said.
90% of the exhibitors declared their participation for the 2018 Hermes Expo and especially they voted to go to 4 places next year (March 2018 ), New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC taking part at the Hermes Trade Route. For more information, networking, exhibiting and or sponsoring events at the unique Hermes Expo please contact call 610-446-1463 or e-mail [email protected] or visit our web at www.hermesexpo.com