RENO, Nev. —“I think the secret to getting people to come to your stand is offering free treats,” Garrett Crosby, owner/operator of Rita's Italian Ice and Frozen Custard in northwest Reno, says with a smile.
With Rita's — a national franchise with a locally-owned shop in northwest Reno — opening last June, Crosby wasn't going to miss a chance to showcase his business at the third annual Alliance business expo, held Feb. 12 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
The expo is a collaboration among the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, and Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority.
“This event is everything,” said Crosby, who along with his colleague Patrick Croarkin had perhaps the most popular booth Wednesday, as they served up free samples of Italian ice to hundreds of people. “Rita's is something that's really big on the East Coast, but over here on the West Coast, nobody really knows who we are. So these events that get us out to the public gives us the opportunity to bring the product to them so that they can learn a little bit about us.”
One might say Rita's popularity at Alliance is a microcosm of what the annual business expo is all about: giving Northern Nevadans a giant platform to showcase their businesses, big and small, old and new.
On Wednesday, more than 200 businesses were on hand and more than 900 people in total were expected to attend the Alliance event, said Ann Silver, CEO of the Reno-Sparks Chamber.
“I think people want to connect with each other,” Silver said. “And I think it says that we're a stronger economy. People want to celebrate the fact that they're a part of it. Whatever they're doing in their little corner of the world, whether they're a drycleaner or selling pizza or doing organic marijuana.”
To that end, Ed Alexander, master grower and owner of SoL Cannabis in Washoe Valley, said the decision to take part in the Alliance event was a “no-brainer.”
“I think as a small business owner we all have to stick together,” Alexander said. “Because if we cooperatively help each other spread the message about what we're doing, we're far better together than we are apart. I think it's beautiful that a bunch of us are coming together and putting aside that we may be competitors or we may be vying for market share. We're coming together to build business and community in Northern Nevada.”