The Board Chronicles: Santa’s Art Shop   3 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.

santasartshopHere’s the intro to this event from their website:

Located in Ridgecrest, California, Santa’s Art Shop is now in it’s 35th year. Over 5,000 holiday shoppers come together with more than 200 art and craft vendors for this two day event. The Desert Empire Fairgrounds provides over 33,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space for this show.

Ridgecrest is about 120 miles north and east, located on the edge of the Mojave. Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS, or China Lake) is nearby, and this community of 27,000 is a military town. As the residents will tell you, there aren’t many opportunities for shopping nearby, so the community saves for this annual event and really turn out to support it and complete some unique holiday shopping.

We did this event in 2014, and we had our best event of the year. Loved it. Handmade goods, nice people, nice community, holiday spirit … what’s not to love?

But, we agreed, we did it wrong. We did not take advantage of the opportunity that this event provided us. We were in a crowded, single booth with all 3 of us working it. The lighting in this government-owned fairgrounds building was horrible (and I am SO focused on lighting!). We had the best holiday decorations money could buy from Walmart the night before with no planning, no electricity, and no way to hang anything.

We had a lot of work to do.

So, we spent all year talking about how we could bring our “A” game to Ridgecrest. We wanted to make sure that our presentation was perfect, and our product offering was as good and complete as we could make it.

We went all in. My secret goal was to have our best event ever, of course, and have sales over $3,000. We had only barely gone over $2,500 once, mind you, so I had a lofty, secret goal, indeed.

New Ideas

  • Double booth, of course, with holiday lights, garland, and Christmas tree tablecloth runners.
  • We had spent weeks preparing for this event. Velda, Alley and I had all made an incredible amount of product. We needed to buy new containers just to hold it. We had a LOT of new product. The ladies weren’t making batches of lotion … they were making quadruple batches. I finished 70 new boards (42 cheese boards, 13 Lazy Susans, 6 large cutting boards, 4 pizza servers, 1 cutting board, 1 small board & 3 bears) just in time for this event, in addition to my current inventory.
  • I asked Velda what product we were taking. The answer, “All of it.”
  • We rented a 5’x8′ trailer, hitched it to the Jeep, and prepared to head north. We filled the trailer with our pop-up shade structures, lights, product & decorations.
  • Christopher & Alley drove separately with Payton, and the 5 of us set up the booth. It was great having Christopher there, using our new industrial strength rolling cart to empty the trailer while the rest of us got busy setting up.
  • Remember those new containers needed to hold all of the new product? We had no room to store them in the booth, so they had to be returned to the empty trailer for the duration of the event so we could conveniently access our overstock (this year, we had overstock!) during the event.
  • The trailer was dropped in a parking lot on the fairgrounds for the duration, and we had the Jeep to drive around town without the trailer. Thank goodness. I may get used to driving a trailer someday, but I’ll always remember pulling a hay trailer with a tractor while Dad loaded the hay. I was not good at pulling a trailer then, and I haven’t practiced much since.


  • The pitcher may throw you a ball that is just begging to be smacked out of the park … but you still have to hit it. Could we?
  • Here’s a hard rule: never, never, never talk to a woman about being pregnant until she actually says she’s pregnant.

    A lady with a pronounced bump in her middle loved one of my large cutting boards. She couldn’t stop touching it. She was shopping with her Mom, and it became a joke about how she kept touching the board.

    That’s when I did it.

    I said it was OK: she was touching for 2 now.

    She said, “Oh, I’m carrying twins.” My immediate and obvious reply, “Congratulations!”

    Her response, “Oh, they’re not mine. I’m just the surrogate.”

    OK, you’re so smart, what do you say now?

  • She bought the board. And I’ll never violate the rule again.
  • I only had 2 medium surfboards left, and I almost left them at home. I’m going to the desert: no surfers there. I sold both boards on Saturday. Lesson: stop thinking, and bring the product. All of it.
  • Saturday night, my Facebook news feed had a meme with a picture of Sam Elliott saying that you’re not a man if you can’t back up a trailer. Now, how in the HELL did that arrive in my news feed just after I had driven a trailer over a hundred miles for the first time in years?
  • And I had backed it up. Just sayin’.
  • Board sales on day one totaled 31: an all-time record for any event … on day one! I checked my overstock Sunday morning, and with my 3 tables full of 80 boards, I still had an overstock of 31 for the second day. We. Were. Prepared.
  • # 1 comment at this show: “Oh, these are too pretty to use!” Is that code for too expensive to buy? Perhaps that is sometimes the case, but with sales so good, I’m not going to worry about it.
  • Remember how I sold the last chess board last week? Yup, I was asked the question. Again.
  • # 1 request at this show was for cribbage boards. Nope, not going to do it. Still.
  • Y’know, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked to make a cribbage board, I still could not buy the template and drill bit I need. Just sayin’. And, I don’t wanna. The end.
  • Saturday was a blur. We were so busy. That’s a fabulous thing, because….

Best. Day. Ever.

  • I love it when the event organizers buy stuff from us. We generally sell some boards, and especially some lotion products, to the other vendors, but we don’t always sell to the event producers. Cool when it happens!
  • Sunday was much slower. That was OK … because it was still 40% of the incredible day we had on Saturday.

Best. Event. Ever.

Best. Weekend. Ever.

  • After the frenetic pace of the day before, I caught myself yawning a couple of times. Then, it happened. In the last hour, I sold a large cutting board … checked the total … and we were ever so close to reaching a very big number. Velda had 2 more lotion sales, and we made it on the final sale.
  • I talked to several vendors that had their best year at this event, or simply, like us, their best event ever. This is a GREAT event for vendors of their own handmade goods.
  • Coming back next year? You bet.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Just like last year. Free breakfast at the Clarion Inn. 2 eggs, over easy. Yum.

Saturday Lunch: Food vendors were overwhelmed. We had orange chicken over rice … luckily. They had run out of rice, it seems, and a few patrons ahead of Velda in line got their orange chicken served over french fries. Velda got the rice, and that’s about the only good thing I can say about the lunch.

Saturday Snack: Peanut butter toffee from another vendor. Yum.

Saturday Dinner: We went to dinner with our good friends, Barry & Wendy, our vendor neighbors. We tried to find dinner … and our first 3 Italian restaurant choices were all closed (note to self: Ridgecrest doesn’t support Italian restaurants. Apparently.). The 4th restaurant was a Mexican restaurant, and the line was out the door, so we passed. We ended up back at the Clarion Inn’s restaurant for dinner. I had beef medallions … and I should have had the pasta like everyone else. In this not-an-Italian-restaurant restaurant in Ridgecrest. Go figure.

Sunday Breakfast: Free breakfast at the Clarion Inn. Their omelet was a mistake. But it was free.

Sunday Lunch: Tortas. A mess, but good food.

Sunday Snack: nope.

Sunday Dinner: Cashews on the road, and then an egg sandwich when we got home. At 9:30p.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 590 miles
  • Booth cost: $407
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Total sales: $4,012
  • # containers of product taken: All of them
  • # boards available: 142
  • Saturday alarm: 6:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:15a
  • # transactions: 90
  • # soap & lotion vendors: at least 3
  • # woodworking vendors: at least 9. There was a scroll saw expert making wonderful nightlights. A spoon maker. A turner that made pens, and another that made bowls. A model maker. Toy maker. Jewelry box maker. Sort of a general woodworker with a few items including hat racks … and a few cutting boards. And me. I don’t count the buy & sell importer with wooden boxes & dust catchers that were NOT handmade. Or, at least not handmade by the vendor, as the rules require.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 38:7

Boards sold: 45

Cheese Boards: 21

Lazy Susans: 7

Cutting Boards: 4

Large Cutting Boards: 2

Small Boards: 2

Large Surfboards: 2

Medium Surfboards: 2

Large Sous Chef Boards: 2

Clipboard: 1

Blocks: 1

Small Sous Chef Board: 1

3 responses to “The Board Chronicles: Santa’s Art Shop

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  1. Congratulations! And the booth looks fabulous!!!!

  2. Pingback: My Favorite Posts From 2015 |

  3. Pingback: The Board Chronicles: Santa’s Art Shop 2017 |

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