JOLIET – The Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry business expo at the mall was an unexpected extra for Melissa Morris and her four children Friday.
“I’m celebrating my daughter’s second birthday,” said Morris while at the Louis Joliet Mall. “We were going to the jumpy houses. This is the perfect day.”
The Channahon mother was getting child identification cards for her children at the Joliet Police Department exhibit. It was one of a number of booths the family visited at the annual expo.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “It creates an awareness of what the community offers. And what better place to do it than the mall?”
The expo ran Friday and Saturday during business hours at the mall.
It was the 17th year the Chamber has held its annual expo at Louis Joliet Mall. More than 80 exhibitors had booths.
The setting gives people such as Morris a chance to learn more about businesses, social agencies and nonprofits in the area. In turn, businesses and organizations get to introduce themselves to people they might not otherwise see.
“Some people come up and say, ‘Yeah, yeah, we know you.’ And others say, ‘We don’t even know where you are,’ ” said Christine Vanderbilt, owner of the Firehouse Subs franchise on Route 59.
Firehouse Subs opened in Joliet in December 2014, and Vanderbilt said she has been to the two expos since then. The mall setting offered unique exposure to her business when Vanderbilt was setting up her booth about an hour before stores opened.
“We got here about a quarter after nine, and all the mall walkers were here,” she said. “They came by and asked questions. That was cool.”
Longtime businesses also found value being at the expo.
“It’s good to see new faces,” said Alissa Johnson, a veterinary nurse at Crest Hill Animal Hospital.
Johnson said she helped staff the booth at the expo last year, too, and was able to generate new clients talking with pet owners at the mall.
The Joliet Police Department, in addition to processing child identification cards, also had a recruitment table at the expo.
Crime Prevention Officer Ed Johnson said the expo is the type of venue that is good for finding future police officers.
“We try to do this at a lot of our large events where we’re going to get a good cross section of people coming through,” Johnson said.