Drs. Emily and Alejandro Elías are springboarding the marketing of their new chiropractic office, Victory Spinal Care, at Wednesday’s Business Expo.  

They saw the annual Abilene Chamber of Commerce event as a “great idea to get our name out there, but also to meet other local businesses and to connect with them,” she said.

C.M. Company Auction, on the other hand, will be there to remind attendees about the 21-year-old business’s services, said owner Gregory Chittum. 

“We have participated in it before, but we’ve been away from it because we’ve been kind of working all over the state of Texas. We’re trying to bring more influence back to the Big Country area,” Chittum said.

These two new and established businesses will be among the about 160 vendors who will fill the Abilene Convention Center’s Exhibit Hall and Conference Center.

More: Elbow bumps replace handshakes at 2020 Business Expo in Abilene

Making connections

Laurin Kocurek, chamber vice president for operations and communications, said she describes the Business Expo to newcomers as “the largest business-to-business networking event in West Texas.” 

“And, I’m not just saying that because I’m partial to Abilene,” Kocurek said. “I’ve been to others, and it really is the largest, and it’s a great opportunity to gain new leads.”

Following a 10 a.m. ribbon cutting, the show runs from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Admission is free for chamber members, $5 for the public with advance ticket purchase at the chamber and $10 at the door. 

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s theme is “Back in the Saddle Again.” The event previously has been held in the spring.

“Our task force that helps us plan the event was ready to get back to business, get back in the saddle, get back to doing things the way that we were prepandemic,” Kocurek said.

At the Expo, business owners and operators set aside time to make connections, she said.

“I tell this story quite a bit lately where a business was just starting up a few years ago, and they had tried and tried and tried to make appointments with different business owners in the community, and they just weren’t really getting anywhere,” Kocurek said. 

“They came to Expo, they had a booth, and they had more business connections at that one event than they had the entire year.”

Marketing the new

The Eliases moved to Abilene in June to start their practice. Interior finish work on their new office space at 5849 Buffalo Gap Road, Suite A, should be completed in September, Emily Elias said.

She is from Raleigh, N.C., and he from Bayamón, Puerto Rico. They are graduates of Sherman College of Chiropractic in Spartanburg, S.C.

“We knew we always wanted to come to Texas, and we explored some other towns and cities, and nothing really felt right until we came to Abilene,” Emily Elias said. “We just felt like the people were so nice and welcoming and genuine. It just felt like home, and we want to start a family here.”

The chiropractors specialize in the upper cervical area, or the top part of the neck where the brainstem sits, she said.

“When there’s a misalignment of the upper cervical area, it puts pressure on the brainstem. This could cause a bunch of dysfunctions and problems in the body, so what we do is we correct the misalignment, so that your body can heal itself naturally,” Emily Elias said. 

Shorting after coming to Abilene, the couple joined the chamber and learned of the Expo. At their booth, they will offer free health screenings to assess the stress levels of the nervous system, she said.

And, in keeping with the fun factor at the Expo, where pens, keyrings and other giveaways are a staple, the couple will pass out mints called “adjust-mints,” she said. 

Promoting the familiar

Chittum and his team will use the Expo to promote the auction company’s many services related to liquidations and the selling of municipal equipment and forfeited and seized assets.   

Clients include “people that are buying equipment, use it for a period of time and need to remarket that equipment to help their cash flow, or get their profit out of a job,” Chittum said. “Nearly everybody in every business needs our services. We just need to make them aware.”

Business-to-business events are one of the “best” ways to increase that brand awareness, Chittum said, especially after closing in 2016 his equipment yard for in-person auctions at South Treadaway Boulevard and Butternut Street. 

“That yard was our brand,” Chittum said about the high-traffic intersection. 

A switch to Internet auctions prompted the yard closing, and offices now are located on the first floor of the Enterprise Building, 500 Chestnut St.

“A lot of people like to go to those sales. It’s kind of like a social event, but then it just turned into too much,” Chittum said.

The challenges of in-person auctions included finding people willing to work once a month or a few hours during the week, Chittum said. Inclement weather also could have a negative impact. 

Digital auctions sidestep those challenges with the added convenience of buyers being able to bid from anywhere using a computer or cellphone, he said.

Expo adapts to COVID-19

The Expo usually is in March, but the start of the pandemic in early 2020 prompted moving the event to August last year. 

The 2022 Business Expo is slated to return to its original spring month. 

“We hope to get back on our regularly scheduled events, fingers crossed,” Kocurek said.

Historically, the event features about 220 vendors, Kocurek said.

“Obviously our business community is still recovering” from the pandemic’s disruptions to business operations, she said. 

Exhibitors are encouraged to let this year’s theme inspire their booth decorations. Booth awards will be presented for best overall, theme and first-time exhibitor. 

 About 3,000 to 5,000 people usually attend, but “this year we really don’t have a great way to gauge that because of the current spike we’re going through,” Kocurek said about the jump in new COVID-19 cases locally and across the state. 

During the Expo, the Hendrick Regional Blood Center mobile donation vehicle will be in the parking lot for donations. And, the Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District will be onsite to give COVID-19 vaccines.

Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News.  If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com. 

If You Go

What: Abilene Chamber of Commerce Business Expo

When: Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

Where: Abilene Convention Center, 1100 North Sixth St., entrance closest to the Conference Center

Cost: Admission is free for chamber members, $5 for the public with advance ticket purchase at the chamber and $10 at the door. 

Information: Abilene Chamber of Commerce,  174 Cypress Street, Suite 200, 325-677-7241, abilenechamber.com 

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