The Board Chronicles: Bakersfield Home & Garden Show   Leave a comment

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.

Bakersfield Home & Garden Show logoHome & Garden shows have a mixed reputation with makers of handmade goods, I find. They are generally relatively expensive. The main purpose of these shows isn’t to sell handmade goods … it’s to improve where you live, or want to live.

Of course, a good cutting board would go a long way towards doing that. Happy cooks tend to, uh, produce more good meals. And who doesn’t want that?

To date, we’ve only done the Santa Clarita Home & Garden Show, at which we had a good (though not spectacular) hometown response. Other vendors have given me mixed reviews for the Bakersfield show … but it fit into our rather tight calendar. We’re in.

New Ideas

  • The show is at the Kern County Fairgrounds in 4 separate buildings, but they will look much like a convention center with pipe & drape backdrops & side rails for every booth.

Observations

  • Trailer rental #2 was done for this show, 90 miles north of Santa Clarita. It certainly makes load-in and load-out much easier. A trailer purchase is in Mrs M’s future.
  • First show I’ve done where I received a direct solicitation to buy radio advertising, from KUZZ-FM/Bakersfield. It was only one phone call, but it was a sales effort from my favorite medium.
  • Check-in was made more difficult because the promoters moved the Show Office Check-in location after they sent the Exhibitor Final Instructions. Actually, it appeared that they moved the office months – perhaps even shows ago – and never noticed that their maps were wrong. Or their instructions. They. Just. Didn’t. Notice.
  • Those final instructions also were *very* specific about how booths could be constructed, with no permanent display items over 36″ tall in the front 5′ of your booth: you couldn’t block your neighbor’s booth in any way. The instructions were very clear … and the rules were not enforced. At all.
  • I paid an extra $50 for a corner, which in the end meant that I was next to an emergency exit. About half of our booth was accessible from the 2nd open side … the rest was behind a trash can, fire extinguisher & wall. It wasn’t even close to a full corner.
  • We were told we must have our parking pass to park, and our exhibitor badge to enter the grounds. Guess what? Nope. We drove in, walked in, and parked where we pleased. No one cared.
  • Do you see a pattern here? The guidance from the promoter was 1) wrong or 2)not enforced. Makes one pause before following any other instructions, y’know?
  • Set-up was Thursday afternoon (or it could have been early Friday, but pass!). I like leisurely, day before set-ups which are then followed by no alarm to wake up on the day of the event!
  • Things I was asked to make at this show:
    • Cutting board with paw print inlays
    • Cat cutting board (I just don’t get why someone wants to cut on a cat)
    • Tic Tac Toe game (I didn’t recommend the lady buy the kids 2 crayons & a piece of paper, but I wanted to)
    • Fish fillet board (hmmmmmm)
    • Cribbage board (stop!)
    • Tortilla maker (double hmmmmmmmmmmm)
    • Backgammon board (nope)
    • Counter tops (4x times)
    • Chess board (6x times)
  • I’m still sold out of chess boards. Wonder when I’ll be able to make more (sigh)?
  • Overheard:
    • Little girl: “I want a cat.”
    • Mom: “No, Daddy wants a dog.”
  • We were across the aisle from a greyhound adoption group. They place greyhounds that are no longer wanted by their owners that run them in dog races. Greyhound trivia for you:
    • They sprint up to 45mph
    • Greyhounds are indoor dogs, because they don’t deal well with heat. Or cold. Or sun. And they place them in Bakersfield?
    • The greyhound is the only dog breed mentioned in the Bible (it’s in Proverbs 30)
  • So, yes, the promoters of the show put us next to a bunch of dogs. Think about it. They weren’t bad neighbors generally … but when the owners started not cleaning up after the dogs’ accidents, I was done. So done.
  • Back in the day, I loved DC Comics, and one of the realities that Superman explored occasionally was Bizarro world, AKA htraE, where everything was backwards. That’s how this weekend felt. Velda had very poor sales and a very small number of transactions. I had a larger number of transactions, which just never happens. My traditional best-seller is cheese boards, which are my lowest priced item. This weekend, I sold only 1 cheese board, but I sold 3 large cutting boards priced at $250 & more. There was just no understanding this weekend.
  • With an event that was 23 hours long, spread over 3 days, the time passed excrutiatingly slowly with, on average, a transaction every 42 minutes. I did get to read several chapters in my book, though – something I never do at normally-paced shows. This one was  s  l  o  w  .
  • Sales by day: Friday 7%. Saturday 60%. Sunday 33%.
  • However, with the sale of the 3 big boards, plus several other nice boards, the sales numbers did just keep growing. Bottom line: of the 66 events we have now completed, this was our 4th best sales event EVER. But, man, did it move slowly.

The Food

Friday Lunch: Jalapeno BBQ pizza. It was a fair food kind of day … and I won’t do that again.

Friday Snack: Fried Mozarella sticks with ranch dressing … and I won’t do that again.

Friday Dinner: We thought we’d be safe & went to a well-reviewed Mexican restaurant. It was OK, but only that. I had a Chimichanga that was soggy. Or undercooked, I’m not sure which. And we didn’t like the salsa. Oh well….

Saturday Breakfast: I was promised biscuits & gravy “in 5 minutes” at the Quality Inn. Twenty minutes later….

Saturday Lunch: Velda’s cheese & crackers. Simple. Good … but I was busy with customers. Wish I had time to enjoy lunch!

Saturday Snack: nope.

Saturday Dinner: Cashew Chicken at a Chinese restaurant that is in a “white castle” concrete block building. Why are they in a white castle? No clue. Truly, no clue. Another OK meal, but only that.

Sunday Breakfast: Carl’s Jr. No way was I waiting for the free breakfast at the hotel again!

Sunday Lunch: Cheese & crackers again. More time to enjoy them today … and then I gut busy talking to people again. There were so very many talkers at this show. Buyers, too, in the end. Traffic was really fine … but so few buyers for all of the talkers. Oh well.

Sunday Snack: a dozen donut holes. Nice & hot. Sugary. Cinnamony. Yum.

Sunday Dinner: Black Bear Restaurant on the way home. Comfort food is always good after an event (chicken fried steak, of course!).

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 193
  • Booth cost: $250
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • Total sales: $1,991. We hoped to hit $2k, and we were oh so close, but ’twas not to be. Surprisingly strong number, though, given the slow pace of the entire show. We were very fortunate; I didn’t hear good things from many vendors who complained of a slowing local economy and poor sales at this event; often a small fraction of last year’s sales.
  • # containers of product taken: 26
  • # boards available: 95
  • Saturday alarm: none needed
  • Sunday alarm: none needed
  • # transactions:  33
  • # soap & lotion vendors: 2. Both had lotions; only one had soap.
  • # woodworking vendors: a routed sign maker & a scroll saw artist. And many, many printed sign makers.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 10:7
  • Returning next year? Maybe

Boards sold: 17

Lazy Susan: 4

Large Cutting Board: 3

Cutting Board: 3

Small Board: 3

Small Sous Chef Board: 2

Cheese Board: 1

Magic Bottle Opener: 1

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