CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When employees of Corporate Identity showed up at Pipestem State Park's first trade show 12 years ago, they didn't even take along an order pad. They thought the event was more of an "informational thing," sales manager Tim Beavers said.
But the Summers County annual marketplace, which brings wholesale vendors and buyers together for a three-day event, now "sets the tone" for the Cross Lanes business, Beavers said.
Vendors from around the state and surrounding states meet at the annual trade show to make some of their biggest sales of the year. Wholesale buyers -- mostly state park gift shops and businesses -- put in large orders for West Virginia-themed apparel, jewelry and souvenirs.
The trade show, which is free to attend, runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday.
"This show is an annual kickoff for the year for us," Beavers said, standing in the company's showroom and surrounded by merchandise. Corporate Identity is a logo company that specializes in corporate apparel and promotional products.
"We pick up phenomenal customers from that show," he said.
Some trade shows "involve trick-or-treaters" who walk around more to look than to shop.
"We didn't realize it really is a buying show," Beavers said.
Teresa Mansfield, who organizes the show, said the buyers are typically other state park gift shops, hospital state parks, rafting retailers, and West Virginia businesses. While the public is welcome to attend, most shoppers buy wholesale, she said.
More than 50 vendors pay $175 for a registration fee and to rent a booth for the three-day event, Mansfield said.
The vendors are primarily from West Virginia, but some travel from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, she said.
They line tables in Pipestem's McKeever Lodge conference room with handcrafted jewelry, homemade jams, and shirts splashed with "Wild and Wonderful West Virginia." The vendors sit down one-on-one with each customer to discuss big orders or they may schedule future appointments, Mansfield said.
Chip Turner has sold his handcrafted and mouth-blown glassware at the trade show for at least eight years.
Turner said the show is a good event for Appalachian Glass, his family-owned business based in Weston. By the end of the trade show, the glassblower said he meets with up to 100 buyers.
His glass ornaments and ring holders are sold in small stores throughout 37 states. Tamarack - which sells a lot of Corporate Identity merchandise -- carries Appalachian Glass products, too.
Turner said the marketplace is successful because the customers are people who still want to shop American-made.