PORTLAND – As New England businesses gear up for the busy summer months, they are looking for new, unique, and — most importantly — locally made products to sell.

With 200 exhibitors showing off a variety of gifts, home furnishing and specialty food at the 27th annual New England Products Trade Show throughout the weekend, it was the place for retailers to be.

“All retailers, from 20 different states, are here looking for locally made, looking for quality made. This is what tourists will be seeing in shops,” said Stefa Normantas, principal of Giraffe Events.

The New England Products Trade Show, produced by Giraffe Events, is the only wholesale buyers-juried trade show in the country dedicated to hand-crafted items from New England.

The three-day event, which is not open to the public, is expected to draw at least 1,500 buyers. Last year, the show generated more than $3 million in sales, which resulted in more than $4.5 million in retail sales and $225,000 in sales tax for Maine, according to Giraffe Events.

Throughout the day Saturday, buyers went booth to booth looking for that perfect something to add to their business. Many were expected to return today to make their purchase decisions.

Shirley Walton, owner of Pizzazz in Southwest Harbor, stopped to sample food in the Vermont Roots booth.

“I’m trying to see what sells, but I also want something that somebody else in town doesn’t have,” Walton said.

Fresh ideas were what the trade show was all about.

Many buyers stopped by to check out the recycled products of York Harbor-based Jack and Mary Handbags, a new exhibit at the trade show featuring handbags and mittens made by Marilyn Robertson.

“It’s going great,” Robertson said, adding buyers were really receptive to her recycled concept.

Paul and Julie Roberts, owners of Coastal Maine Popcorn Co. with retail stores in Boothbay and Portland, were handing out samples of their popcorn in a variety of flavors, including Key lime pie and New England berries. Paul Roberts said having a unique product was important to the success of their business.

“You’re not only competing with brick-and-mortar stores, but with online business. New and unique products are really important,” he said.

Jean McCarthy, owner of North Woods Animal Treats, based in Keene, N.H., had a display of dog biscuits, cat toys and gift packages on display that are all handmade from materials sourced in the United States. Her business has increased from this time last year, and she said buyers are keyed into local, quality products.

“The local market is growing because we’re supporting each other and the community,” she said.

James and Susan Reynolds were browsing exhibits to diversify their family business, H.D. Reynolds, a general store in Cheshire, Mass. After a few years of seeing business decline, James Reynolds said there has been a resurgence.

“People are getting tired of Walmart and cookie-cutter things,” he said. “People are also aware that $1 spent locally turns over more times before the money leaves the area.”

Alexis Souders and Audrey Keller, co-owners of Prospect Harbor Soap Co., asked buyers to test their salt scrubs and lotions Saturday. The business partners were participating in the trade show for the ninth year and were pleased with the turnout.

“People are starting to be more optimistic,” about the economy, Souders said. “Two years ago, it was a grumbling buyers crowd. Today, it’s a happy crowd.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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