At an event for the host committee to choose preferred businesses, owners say they’re seeking opportunity, want to make up for COVID-19 losses.
About 77 business owners gathered at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center on July 9 to showcase their products in hopes of being selected as vendors for the Republican National Convention.
The RNC is planned for Aug. 24-27 Downtown at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
Vendors at the showcase said they did not know what the planned marketplace would look like, where it would be, or how many businesses would participate, but welcomed the opportunity for a boost in revenue.
“I look at it as tourism coming to the city,” said Lee Livingston, owner of The 3 G’s Grilled & Soul Food Catering in Jacksonville. “If they need our services, we want to be available to them. I just look at it as a great opportunity for our company.”
The RNC Host Committee invited some businesses that applied to be vendors at the convention to the showcase.
The first 75 or so businesses that responded to the invitation could attend the showcase.
Convention planners invited those that fit the needs they said they would have. The showcase featured caterers, bakeries, florists, event planners and breweries, among others.
Members of the host committee and delegations walked through the showcase to select the vendors.
Businesses not invited to the showcase still can be chosen as a vendor, and businesses can continue to apply.
The host committee does not have a deadline for applications and will be signing contracts up until the week of the convention.
Businesses selected from the showcase will participate in a marketplace during the week of the convention. They must meet deadlines, provide a certain amount of products, and their products must be made in the U.S.
They also will be placed on a preferred vendor list that delegations and other organizations involved with the convention can use for their own events.
Booths in the marketplace are $500 and vendors keep the profits.
Amy Hales, owner of Rummies & Yummies, said she was not sure what criteria would be used to select vendors. The Jacksonville-based bakery sells rum cakes online.
After seeing revenue decline because of COVID-19, she was hoping to use the convention as an opportunity to make up for some of the losses.
She said she had concerns about safety if she were selected as a vendor, but is doing what she can to lessen the risk.
She kept her rum cakes in sealed containers, wore a mask and planned on wiping down her vendor table as people passed through.
“Obviously, there’s additional risk because you’re around more people, but you have to take the precautions,” she said.
Anita Comisky, owner of Amelia Toffee Company, said she hopes to be part of the marketplace and be a vendor for the convention’s welcome gift bags.
With many attendees planning on staying in Amelia Island the week of the convention, Comisky said she hopes it will bring additional revenue with the increase of tourism in the area.
Amelia Toffee is based in Fernandina Beach.
“The small business community, not only in Jacksonville but in Amelia, could use a little boost,” she said.