Local business owners, city leaders shocked by California Food Expo dissolve

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's the most popular event for foodies in the Central Valley, and many business owners, like Michael Cruz, attribute a lot of their success to the California Food Expo.

"You get to meet buyers from big national chains all over the world, and one of our first experiences was being the buyer from save mart," says Michael Cruz, Owner of Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co.

Cruz says they've been participating in the expo throughout its entire nine-year run, as it brought thousands of foodies to Fresno.

That's why it came as a surprise to both Cruz and city leaders when organizers of the well-known event announced they were calling it quits.

"By no means does it mean we didn't want to do it anymore, it was just economically not making sense anymore," says Amy Fuentes, the Director of the California Food Expo.

The event, which was formerly known as the Fresno Food Expo, started back in 2011.

Just last year, the event expanded to be the California Food Expo, attracting hundreds of buyers and even more food and drink businesses to the area.

Fuentes, however, says financially, they can't keep the event going.

"There are other organizations that have 20-30 member staffs, so we operated with 3 to 4 staff full time," Fuentes said. "So it was a year-round marketing effort."

Cruz says it helped his business grow and helped put many small business owners on the map.

"I think the food expo was to get face time with the manufacture and meet the buyers," Cruz said. "We're going to lose that."

Miguel Arias is a Fresno City Councilmember and says the city puts aside money for the Expo. He plans to speak with organizers to get a better understanding of the cost gap.

"We've already gotten interest from business leaders in Fresno, and we should figure out a partnership to continue the event," Arias said.

And for that, Cruz is hopeful.

"If it can find a way to come back, it's something I'd be happy about," Cruz said.

The city says they plan to discuss those cost issues with the organization Thursday. When asked if the city could take over the event, Arias says that could be an option.
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