With only 11 vendor booths available in the Rhode Island Building at the Big E in West Springfield, Mass., it took one store owner years to get a spot, but he’s capitalizing on it now.
Duke Marcoccio, owner of the Cranston-based collectibles shop My Little Town, this year ran out of 10,000 glossy brochures touting his holiday ornaments and iconic state landmarks, and had to order more. Not sure of his total investment in the popular New England fair, he said expenses include the cost of the booth, plus costs to rent a truck and pay for food, help and a hotel stay.
“I don’t want to give you a total because it might scare me, too,” Marcoccio joked, referring to his investment. “But I’m picking up residual business. … even it’s just giving [customers] a business card.”
Booths in the Rhode Island state building at the Eastern States Exposition, which ran from Sept. 13-29, are leased by the business owner for $25 a square foot, or about $4,000 and up, said Jane Panarello, the Rhode Island building manager. She is also international marketing manager for the R.I. Economic Development Corporation.
Started in 1916, the Big E features agricultural and retail goods and exhibitions from the six New England states. Each state has a permanent building and designated day when it is featured at the fair.
Marcoccio actually picked up a surprise order. Big E President Eugene J. Cassidy stopped by his booth and commissioned a 2016 ornament to mark the 100th anniversary of the Big E, according to Marcoccio and Catherine Pappas, the fair’s communications manager.
Attracting repeat business beyond fair borders is an aspiration of many of the retailers here.
“It’s a big money maker for us at Del’s,” said Joe Padula, executive vice president of the Del’s Lemonade Corp. in Cranston, which has 21 franchises nationwide. “Other than making money, we get a lot of new customers. And whenever they see a Del’s [while] traveling, they stop and buy it because they’ve seen it at the Big E, so product recognition is a big thing.”