QUINCY — For those who like to challenge their taste buds, Wednesday most certainly qualified as a culinary heaven on earth — the ultimate entree of eats.
Or a World Series of food, if you will.
The annual Kohl’s Wholesale fall food show, which dates back to 1989, transformed the Oakley-Lindsay Center into its traditional commonwealth of cuisine, a virtual monarchy of munchies.
The OLC was filled with 155 vendors, plus about 2,000 customers and clients from hotels, restaurants, schools and other businesses from across Illinois, Missouri, Iowa and a few other states. Attendees and guests were all there to sample the latest offerings from the food industry.
The day-long fall food show is traditionally the largest marketing event of the year for Kohl’s, the local food supplier whose business dates to 1873. Being offered at the show were samples of meats, cheeses, breads, pastries and just about everything in between. From mini tacos to mouth-watering turkey breast, from cola to coffee, very few preferences of the palate went unsatisfied.
“The best part of a show like this is being able to interact with customers, plus seeing new ideas and new trends,” said Gary Ortmann of Lakeland Marketing in St. Louis. “I’ve been doing this show for nine years. It’s one of the biggest I attend.”
Andrew Romano, now in his sixth year as director of marketing for Kohl’s, says the show holds a special place in his epicurean heart.
“This is always a great event for Quincy,” Romano said. “(It helps) the hotels, restaurants and bars, and for us it brings together suppliers and customers. I love the set-up and preparation, the theme(s), the decorations … it’s a fun atmosphere.”
The Kohl’s shows always provides an entertaining backdrop to the culinary offerings, such as this year’s “BotaniKOHL” theme, highlighting flowers and plants. Other recent themes have included a “MagiKOHL” show spotlighting wizards and mirrors and a train-themed “LoKOHLmotion” show.
Romano’s favorite part of the annual food show, however, has nothing to do with the actual subject matter.
“My favorite part is always at the beginning when we sing the national anthem, because we appreciate our country,” he said.
Romano is not alone in his sentiments.
“This is the only show like this I go to that starts with the national anthem, and I love that,” said Connie McGowin of the Burke Corporation in Nevada, Iowa.
Throughout the day, there is a back-and-forth between potential clients and suppliers.
“Seeing that interaction is my favorite part of the show,” said Kristi Beck, marketing manager for Kohl’s.
Brittany Frame, a communications specialist for Kohl’s, always enjoys the show for another reason.
“It allows the opportunity to meet a lot of our customers in person,” she said.
Kelsey Smith, a graphics designed for Kohl’s, agrees with Frame, saying how important the “face-to-face” part of the show has become for developing relationships.
Wendell Nuckolls of food broker Wayment, which has offices in Quincy, St. Louis, Kansas City and numerous other sites across the country, says shows like what Kohl’s offers allows representatives like himself to make better contact with those he serves.
“Shows like this make it easier to develop more of a personal relationship with those parties,” he said.
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