Kohl Wholesale Food Show draws crowds to Quincy

With her 4-month-old daughter Gracie in tow, Renate Garner of Wyaconda, Mo., shops at Kohl Wholesale’s annual Spring Food Show at the Oakley-Lindsay Center in Quincy. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Mar. 27, 2013 9:42 am Updated: Apr. 10, 2013 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

A food lover's dream came to town Tuesday as Kohl Wholesale's Spring Food Show drew an estimated 1,500 people to the Oakley-Lindsay Center.

Restaurateurs and other potential buyers walked down aisles of tempting items and talked with companies that sell food or other specialty items.

A White Castle vendor stood near a warming tray with belly bombers and cheeseburgers cut in half, ready for the taking.

Just a few steps away a man representing Upstate Farms handed out little samples of vanilla yogurt "with a 90-day shelf life and no aftertaste."

Charlie Farha with Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream was fixing little root beer and cream soda floats with the ice cream from Le Mars, Iowa, known as the ice cream capital of the world.

"I've been coming to these shows for nine years," Farha said.

He noted that the Wells brothers launched their ice cream empire 100 years ago and Blue Bunny is still a family-owned business.

Ted Meyer, sales director for Kohl Wholesale, was talking about an even bigger milestone for the Quincy company.

"Kohl Wholesale is in its 140th year, and that's a big deal when you think about family-owned businesses," Meyer said.

That's part of the tradition Kohl depends on to bring crowds to its spring food shows, which cater to restaurants and the food service industry. The company also holds fall shows that focus more on institutional buyers, such as schools and other bulk food buyers.

Meyer knew of some customers attending Tuesday's show who traveled about four hours to reach the event.

Caryl Bigadza of Richfield, Ohio, traveled even farther to work in the Whitey's Chili booth.

"Whitey was my father-in-law. This is his recipe," Bigadza said pointing to a pot of light, sweet chili.

Whitey's is sold in 44 states, often in 5-pound bags. It was such a hit in her father-in-law's restaurant that the family has been mass marketing the chili for the past 28 years.

Greg and Lorie Graham of Graham's Lemonade in Liberty liked the taste of the Whitey's Chili as they looked for new products to offer at their lemonade stand they set up at the Adams County Fair, at Quincy's Boots Bush Park or the mobile stand they take to other venues.

"We're looking at offering a chicken wrap or a pork wrap," Greg Graham said.

Thelma Saxton of Chariton, Iowa, came to the show to seek new items that might help her at Cater 2 U, the catering business she founded.

"I've been there three years. It's a good show," Saxton said.

Farha said Kohl Wholesale manages the show well.

"They're a very well-run, family-owned independent distributor," he said.

John King, working on behalf of OE Brokerage and McCain Foods USA, added that Quincy and Kohl Wholesale both do a good job of making vendors feel welcome at the spring shows.