The “local first” theme demonstrated at the 13th annual Business Showcase on Thursday couldn’t have thrived without the reciprocal relationship between customer and business owner.
On one hand, local shoppers have to be willing to show up and patronize the mom-and-pop operations that define Carson Valley.
And show up they did. The Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the expo, estimated that 1,200 people attended the four-hour-long event at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, including roughly 200 booth workers and 1,000 visitors.
“It’s certainly the most people and good activity I have seen in the last five years,” said Chamber Executive Director Bill Chernock.
Ruhenstroth resident Mary Jane Harding, wearing an American flag-themed jacket and carrying a blue tote bag, was heading for the savory booth of Lentine’s Italian Restaurant.
“There’s a restaurant I haven’t tried yet!” she exclaimed.
Harding said she’s attended the event for at least 10 years.
“I just like to support the chamber,” she said. “When I do my Christmas shopping, I always shop locally. I want to keep money in the county.”
On the other side of the relationship are local business owners, who must not only remain competitive in the age of globalization, but must be able to distill their product or service to prospective clients.
In the racing markets of the 21st Century, transactions occur at lightning speed. There is little, if any, chance for a second impression.
The Record-Courier asked three businesses at the showcase to pitch their product or service in one sentence or less.
Lori Baxter, manager of Flight Restaurant and Bar in Minden, said, “handmade food, everything from scratch, friendly staff.”
Joe Shaffer, owner of Silver Strike Lanes in the Gardnerville Ranchos, said “great place for Douglas County family entertainment.”
Dr. Marc Young of Carson Valley Foot Care said, “I’m a doctor, so if you got a problem, come and see me.”
Of course, a first impression is just that. Beyond the veneer of each booth were stories of perseverance, optimism and community.
Baxter, who was serving homemade potato chips and dip, said the eatery off Airport Road, historically a tough location, was nearing its first anniversary.
“It’s a steady climb,” she said of business. “It’s hard to get your name out there in the community.”
But, she said, the showcase helps everyone “get back to the basics.”
“It’s helping to put one foot in front of the other,” she said. “Those people in all our mom-and-pop businesses are trying to make a living and make the lives of their families a little better. It is so important to support local people who put their heart and soul into their passion.”
Shaffer and his wife Diana purchased the Valley’s only bowling alley about two and a half years ago. Thursday was their third showcase.
“We see a lot of customers here and hopefully meet new ones,” he said.
Shaffer described the “local first” campaign as imperative to the community.
“We are all doing business with each other,” he said. “We hire locals, locals come into our business, and in return we give back to the local community. We can’t get anymore grass-roots than this.”
Dr. Young, who resides in Reno, opened his Carson Valley practice along Highway 395 in Gardnerville in 2000 and has since treated numerous residents.
“Obviously we are community-based,” he said. “It’s a give-and-take to help each other in these tough times.”
With the disclaimer that he’s a medical doctor and not an economist, Young said the economy seems to be healing.
“My indicators say things are heading in the right direction,” he said.
“We’re growing, and that’s all we can ask for.”