Expo market provides 'Taste of Georgia' [The Moultrie Observer, Ga.]
(Moultrie Observer (GA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 16--MOULTRIE -- A new addition to this year's Sunbelt Expo is the Taste of Georgia Marketplace, which is a partnership between the Expo and local business, Packer Produce.
"We have so many good community partners here," said Gina McDonald, director of marketing and public affairs.
The idea for the marketplace, which is located in the Family Living Building, was first presented last October, she said. Board members at an executive board meeting said the show needed an area that was just Georgia items.
"It was David Bridges and Ron Carroll. They through it out on the table. It was so timely, especially with the Georgia Grown initiative" she added.
McDonald said that she and Wendell Brown, exhibitor coordinator, put their heads together and reached out to Tommie Beth Willis, store manager of Packer Produce.
"It was just a natural fit. They took it on and went from there," she said.
The Marketplace is decorated like an old-timey general store complete with a tin-roofed front porch and shelves set on barrels and there are samples of all the products for customers to try.
"All products are Georgia-made products," said Willis.
The booth has everything from barbecue sauces and beef jerky to artisan cheeses and gourmet cookies. And, of course, candied Georgia pecans, said Willis, which, by-the-way, are a new product that Packer Produce debuted at the Expo. For pecan connoisseurs, there are four flavors available: roasted and salted, white honey, black pepper and cinnamon.
"The candied pecans have been a huge hit, too," she said.
Ten of the items in the booth are from Colquitt County producers.
"It's Packer Produce's first year out here. We celebrated our two-year anniversary of being open last Friday," she said.
Willis said that they have had lots of traffic through the marketplace and people who bought asked them if they could purchase items online or over the phone.
"Stripling's beef jerky has been a favorite and the fresh fruit has also been selling well," she said.
Willis said that Packer Produce was launching its website (www.packerproduce.com) by the end of the week and a majority of the products that they have in the Taste of Georgia Marketplace will be available for purchase online, including the gift baskets.
"We can ship those giftbaskets anywhere," she added.
She said what she really liked about the marketplace was that when customers came in and asked about the products, she could tell them about the company that produced them and give the customer the background of where the products came from.
"We know the people so we can talk about their products. It's good to be able to say we know where it came from. It gives it a personal touch," Willis said.
She said the John McFarland's construction class at Colquitt County High School built the booth for them.
"They just jumped right in. We're just so proud of John and his students. They did an awesome job," she said.
She said, next year, they want to gather even more Georgia vendors for the Marketplace.
"We want to start at tradition of this and expand our marketplace," she said.
"It's a great opportunity to market these products. I can't wait to see the expansion for next year," said McDonald.
"People are going home with some good Georgia-made products," Willis said.
(c)2013 The Moultrie Observer (Moultrie, Ga.)
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