The year was 1985. Ronald Reagan was president. Greed was good. ?The Cosby Show? and ?Family Ties? were on the air. Rational-thinking people all over the country felt strangely compelled to wear neon pink leg warmers.
And in Washington, D.C., the first Natural Products Expo East took place.
Held at the Washington Convention Center, the show attracted 5,126 industry members, including 1,724 retailers from 47 states, featured 334 exhibit booths, and hosted 24 educational seminars and 18 workshops.
A number of the show?s hot topics included how to incorporate newfangled ?microcomputers? into a retail business and how to position the macrobiotic diet as a growth category.
Some of the speakers at the first Expo East—featured on the cover of The Natural Foods Merchandiser—are still in the industry. Here?s what they were doing 20 years ago and what they are doing today:
- Michael Besancon worked at Follow Your Heart, Canoga Park, Calif., in 1985; currently president, Southern Pacific region, Whole Foods Market.
- Jeffrey Bland was with the Linus Pauling Institute, Palo Alto, Calif., cofounded Bastyr University and founded the Natural Product Quality Assurance Alliance; now president and chief science officer of Metagenics, Gig Harbor, Wash., and chairman of the board for the Institute for Functional Medicine, Gig Harbor, Wash.
- Terry Dalton was owner of Unicorn Village Natural Foods Market in Miami; now co-owner of Sublime, a vegan restaurant and lifestyle emporium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
- Doug Greene was publication director of NFM and Delicious magazines and founder and president of New Hope Communications and Natural Products Expos; currently a cofounding partner of Bio-Vitrina of Moscow and a consultant to New Hope. Plans to launch a media company in 2006.
- Chris Kilham was vice president of marketing with the Massachusetts-based chain Bread and Circus; currently a medicine hunter and author. Teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
- Melanie Melia owned Rising Tide Natural Market in Glen Cove, N.Y.; currently founder and president of Wildfire Sales Inc. brokerage in Glen Cove, N.Y.
- Mark Retzloff cofounded Alfalfa?s Market in Boulder, Colo., at the time. Also founded Eden Foods, Pearl Street Market, Horizon Organic Dairy and Rudi?s Organic Bakery; currently president and chief organic officer of Aurora Organic Dairy in Longmont, Colo.
- Walter Robb was founder and owner of Mountain Marketplace, Weaverville, Calif.; now president and chief operating officer of Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas.
- Peter Roy was president and chief executive officer of Whole Food Co. in New Orleans; now operating adviser to investment firm North Castle Partners and serves on the boards of Traditional Medicinals, Avalon Natural Products and Naked Food-Juice.
- Morris Shriftman headed Shriftman Associates, a natural products marketing agency in Jacksonville, Fla.; now senior vice president of Avalon Natural Products, Petaluma, Calif.
- Hugo Van Seenus owned Hugo?s Market, Washington, D.C., and previously was a partner at Bread and Circus; currently vice president of Lazy Acres Market, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Like the natural products industry itself, Expo East has come a long way in the last 20 years. More than 20,000 industry members are expected to attend the 2005 show from Sept. 15 to 18, held once again at the (new in 2003) Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Expo East 2005 boasts more than 1,100 exhibits and offers dozens of educational opportunities. The keynote address this year will be delivered by the internationally renowned, best-selling author Deepak Chopra.
The ?80s may be gone, but they won?t be forgotten this year. To commemorate Expo East?s 20th anniversary, a ?Back To The ?80s? party will be held Saturday night, highlighting the great and not-so-great music, trends and fashion of the era. Leg warmers are highly recommended.
—T.W. with additional reporting by Lauren Piscopo
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 9/p. 32