“Happy Days” was the theme this year for the Lipari Food Show, held April 9 in Novi, Mich. To set the Happy Days mood, shiny, new-looking 1950s-era cars were rolled into the Suburban Collection Showplace.
The theme appeared to energize people, said Don Symonds, director of events and trade relations at Lipari Foods.
“Every year we seem to come up with greater themes and things that really get people involved in the show,” he told The Shelby Report’s VP-Midwest Geoff Welch. “The Happy Days, the 50s theme—I have never seen as many vendors dressed for the theme, this year with poodle skirts and Elvis hair. It’s been quite fun seeing all of that, and what’s appearing to happen now is really quickly people are in a buying mood.”
Thom Lipari, president of the company, agreed.
“It just kind of sets the tone for the whole day,” he said. “It’s fun and everybody’s having a good time, and when they’re having a lot of fun, they order a lot of product. That’s what we’re here for, is to move product and to show our customers a lot of the new stuff that’s coming out in the market.”
Symonds said 5,500 customers registered for the show, which had 425 booths. There were about 780 vendors in attendance along with 60 different brokers representing them. In total, the show had 8,600 items available, all on deal, he said.
“Customers can get some fantastic pricing for products that will ship between Memorial Day and the 4th of July, which is the hottest selling season for our bakery and deli industry,” Symonds said.
Customers must be at the show in order to get the deals.
“The only reason we do that is because we have an obligation to our vendor network to put the customer in front of the vendor,” Symonds said. “We’ve got some fabulous salespeople, but these vendors have the ability here to take a 5-case order and turn it into 10-case order, a 10-case into a 50-case, and that’s some of our success is putting the customers in front of the professionals with the products. It seems to be working really well.”
Lipari said the company charters planes from Milwaukee to fly people to the show. The company will bus them in, too.
“Whatever it takes to get them here,” Lipari said. “A lot of people don’t really understand what Lipari’s all about. Once they get to the show, once they see what we’re all about, they really get a feel for what the company has to offer.”
The show also offers an opportunity to get a sneak peek at what’s ahead.
“We really give the vendors a chance to show the new things that they’ve got that they want to bring to market, and the customer a chance in one day to see what’s going on in the industry,” Lipari said. “Our job is to bring those new items, new concepts to the store owners. This gives them a day when they can take some time, look at the products and see what’s happening.”
The early part of the year is the slower part of the year, and the food show is a kickoff of sorts.
“Winter’s over. It’s spring. People are feeling good,” Lipari said. “You’ve got the Lipari Show. People are moving around and it really gets the whole thing going for the year for us. This really starts it off and we go from now all the way to right through to Christmas.”
Now work will begin on the next show, which will be held April 22, 2015, right back at the same venue, the Suburban Collections Showplace.
“We’re already thinking about themes and what we’re going to do to energize people again next year,” Symonds said. “Every year our shows continue to grow by leaps and bounds and all indications are that we’re going to continue that trend.”
In the feature photo at top: Thom Lipari and Tony Franchi, Lipari Foods.