Alexandra Koch photos.

The Business Lexpo, an annual trade show hosted by the Lexington Chamber and Visitors Center, brings a wide variety of businesses and vendors together to connect and network. This year’s event was held Thursday at River Bluff High School, and was a little bit different than previous years. Koozies were replaced with masks and keychains with hand sanitizer.

Chris Taylor, a Gilbert local who attends the event every year, said she didn’t notice much of a difference in turnout. “There’s really not much less people, but there’s some businesses missing,” said Taylor. Pointing down the hallway of the high school, Taylor added, “[the booths] used to go down a little bit further on that side.”

Taylor touched on the reasons she returns to Lexpo every year, “We just enjoy it because my husband and I are both retired and we like to come over and look at everything and see all of the businesses that are in town. Well, and the free stuff. We enjoy it," she said.

Shannon Hinshaw, owner of Mad Batter Cupcakery, is new to South Carolina and said she came to get the word out about her dessert delivery business.

“I came to meet other locals that I haven’t had a chance to meet before and see some friends that I do have here... Business went down as soon as COVID kicked in, but lately it’s been going up a lot more. The whole time the community has still been supporting me,” said Hinshaw.

Salsarita’s, a locally owned restaurant franchise, is one of the many businesses that tables at the event every year. “We are always here every year, but this is my first year coming out. I talk to these people over the phone or through email, but I never actually get to speak to them one on one. So, I wanted to take this opportunity and just go out and say hey. I think it's really nice to have,” said Priti Patel, an owner of the restaurant.

The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department was another group at Lexpo, but one came on a unique mission. Sergeant Dean Rusinyak came to the event to recruit new potential officers.

“[Recruiting] is one of the main ways that we can actually have some kind of foothold in the community by trying to recruit those that are local and near to the agency,” Rusinyak said. “We’ve seen a smaller crowd than years before… With law enforcement and the climate now, it just makes it very daunting. Last year’s application numbers were up and we actually had a record-breaking year. We screened and processed over 1,100 applications. The year before we brought in a little over 500.” Rusinyak was accompanied by another officer at the table, conversing with guests as they came to hear more about the department’s efforts.

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