The Board Chronicles: Thousand Oaks Street Fair   2 comments

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

Thousand Oaks Street FairThis annual event is one of the largest fall festivals in the LA area. It’s a fundraiser for the Thousand Oaks Rotary Club, who have turned this monster of an event into a well-oiled machine.

370 vendors for a one day event. It’s no wonder that the Rotary actually enforce their rules about how and when you set up and tear down. However, they also supply volunteer labor to help you get everything done quickly. Importantly, the help is actually helpful. This is a well-run event.

Last year, we had lackluster results. Our products felt crowded in our single booth; our neighbors put up walls on their booths (as is their right), so there was limited visibility of our products for the thronging masses. I wasn’t happy with our booth location, nor our crowded presentation. Sales were $675. I thought we could do better.

Also, the elder Mrs M had to work last year (you know, at her “job”), but she still showed up late in the day to supervise what was only our 10th event ever. The result was that all three of us drove separately to be at an event 52 miles from home … and this was when gas was at about its highest price. Profits were rare that day, to say the least.

Coincidentally, Mrs M again had to work at her “job” this weekend, so I again had the pleasure of the company of the pregnancy-impaired younger Mrs M. And that was a wonderful thing … but could we sell more stuff?

New Ideas

  • A double booth, with a “corner” (which they define as an open second side). We moved from the D section (sort of center) up to booths B 13 & 14. I hoped that would be a better location; it’s nearer to an end, and since many people want to come back to get their heavy boards, I hoped that would be more convenient.

Observations

  • Being rushed to set up + it’s still dark + black cash box + black truck interior = having to walk back to the truck to get the cash box when you realize it’s not there to be set up. It’s more work when you start before the sun rises, clearly.
  • 50 miles from home isn’t necessarily local in LA. We were often asked “are you local?” and my answer was yes, and told them where we are from. Santa Clarita wasn’t always local enough; I definitely felt some push back from a couple of customers that advocated for closer-to-home vendors.
  • Great weather … cloudy most of the day. So cloudy, I had trouble finding sunshine sometimes to show how the bloodwood and yellowheart can fluoresce. Oh, the challenges we must overcome.
  • Uncle Chris’ Italian Ice was directly across from us, and they often had a kid in front of their booth offering free samples. In the afternoon, they often had two samplers working the crowd. That frustrated me: stay in your booth. Like I do.
  • Met a direct competitor at this event! Woodworkers are a relatively rare breed, and I’ve only met one other serious cutting board maker in the 20 months we’ve been doing these events. This guy makes some very similar pieces to mine (and some not so similar) … and uses a totally different finish to get very different results. He’s a professional finish carpenter – that has chosen to not make end grain boards because they aren’t attractive enough. Au contraire, mon ami!
  • Met a student that’s taking her first woodshop class in junior high, and was excited to see my booth. Loved talking to her! Her family even brought her back to the booth so she could ask me a question (!) about “cannery wood.” It took me a moment to understand she meant canarywood, and I proceeded to talk to her about that exotic that I seldom get to use. Thanks to the online expertise of Mrs M, I even got to show the young woodworker how beautiful canarywood can be.
  • We were actually overwhelmed a couple of times with customers stacked up. Mrs M was wrapping board sales (6 boards sold to 4 people at almost exactly the same time) during one rush, and I’m pretty sure I missed helping her with lotion sales at that point of the chaos. A year ago, the three of us were working a single booth (and we barely fit!). Now, we only take two to an event, and it’s the right solution about 99% of the time. We do occasionally get overwhelmed by a rush of customers; at that time we can only ask for patience, which sometimes is in short supply.
  • It’s a relief to be past the last 2 weekends, which both featured two different one day events. Since I have the pleasure of doing the heavy lifting, that’s a real challenge. Maybe I should stop playing with my hobby and start working weekends at my “job” like the elder Mrs M. As we all know, work is easy. Having fun is hard.

The Food

Sunday Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese

Sunday Lunch: Jack in the Box # 9. While I was wrapping a board, the wind blew over my crispy curly fries, though, so they were a loss. The dog visiting the booth a few minutes later did enjoy the crumbs, though.

Sunday Snack: Blue Raspberry Italian Ice, but it was not nearly as good as yesterday’s.

Sunday Dinner: Leftover meatloaf. And bourbon.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 108 miles
  • Booth cost: $370
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0 (though I did have some nice conversations with a couple of the Rotary volunteers)
  • Total sales: $1,072
  • # containers of product taken: 24
  • # boards available: 110
  • Sunday alarm: 4:40am
  • # transactions: 24
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue … at least one other
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue … at least three others
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 13:1

Boards sold: 14

Cheese Boards: 6

Small Boards: 2

Cutting Board: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Large Surfboard: 1

Large Sous Chef Board: 1

Small Sous Chef Board: 1

 

2 responses to “The Board Chronicles: Thousand Oaks Street Fair

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  1. I’m glad the event went well for you! The weather was very nice for this event.

    • I just looked at the pictures of the board sold … it’s ironic that I had one customer that definitely stated “no yellow in the board!” and the last customer, who bought 2 boards because the yellow was so pretty. Good thing I can make boards both ways.

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