Susan Jones

Susan Jones, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association executive director, gets a bird's eye view of last year's expo held in the 40th Street Ocean City convention center. 

(March 6, 2020) The annual Ocean City Spring Trade Expo will take place Sunday, March 8, and Monday, March 9, at the 40th Street convention center, featuring hundreds of businesses offering the latest products and services. 

“Our expo is designed to bring together hospitality buyers and sellers for two days of non-stop networking and product sampling,” said Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association. 

This will be the organization’s 46th expo, and Jones said she expects roughly 5,000 people to attend, with over 4,800 pre-registered as of earlier this week. 

Jones said 339 companies will occupy 410 booths, which is the maximum number that can fit in the convention center space. 

Participants must be 21 years old, a buyer or a guest of buyer and a member of the hospitality industry to attend. 

Every year, new vendors join the event’s impressive lineup, and for 2020 participants may expect products such as Comcast’s Connection Pro, Corona’s hard seltzer, H&M Wagner and Sons’ CBD-infused drinks, Hoop Tea’s spiked iced tea, Smokin Mary Bloody Mary Mix and Smokin Green Tomato Mary Mix, and a space virtual reality headset. 

In addition to the vendors, there will be culinary demos on the showcase stage.

Sunday’s schedule begins with Maryland World Food Championship finalist Jonathan Hicks of Cosima taking the stage at noon, a mixology session at 2:30 p.m., and a Rational USA CombiOven demonstration with chef Pete Schellenbach at 4 p.m. 

Monday will feature a performance from father and daughter chef team, Bill and Jess Wallen, from Grain Craft Kitchen OMG Hospitality at 12:30 p.m., and Schellenbach will return at 2 p.m. for another presentation. 

The expo will also offer a keynote address by Ryan Estis, Monday at 9:30 a.m. 

Estis was the former chief strategy officer for the McCann Worldgroup advertising agency NAS, and has 20-plus years of experience as a sales professional and leader. 

Educational sessions planned during the expo include Driving Demand through Digital Tactics, ID Class 101, Safeguarding Your Identity, and Reach the Beach with Mobile Device Targeting.

The trade expo came to life in the 1970s, during the association’s infancy. 

Paul Wall of Phillips Seafood suggested organizing a local trade show in the image of one held by then-Baltimore Restaurant Association now-Restaurant Association of Maryland, of which he served as president. 

With the help of friend, Tish Carter, who was the executive secretary of the Baltimore show, her husband, Jack, and the rest of the trade show committee, the group worked diligently to produce the resort’s first trade expo, which has now become a major resource for the Mid-Atlantic’s hospitality industry. 

“Our expo began as a way for our group to meet with all the suppliers to garner special pricing for the coming season, [and] it has grown into the Mid-Atlantic’s largest hospitality trade expo,” Jones said. “[The expo is a] great way to do one-stop shopping in two days, [and buyers] can compare products and receive special show-only pricing.”

Expo hours are Sunday, March 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday, March 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.   

After March 6, on-site registration is $25, with proof of being in the industry; a business card, business license, or letter from employer on company letterhead; paystubs not accepted. 

For complete expo information, visit www.oceancitytradeexpo.com or call 410-289-6733. 

Although pre-registration for next year’s expo is not yet available for vendors, the 2021 event will be held on March 7-8. 

“Vendors should sign up early because we have a waiting list currently, [and] can only fit so many booths,” Jones said.    

Josh covers everything Ocean City government and crime. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 2019 with a B.A. in French and Journalism.

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