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.
Ridgecrest, CA is the home of Santa’s Art Shop. Ridgecrest is just down the road from Inyokern, and that town announces on the sign at the edge of town that they are “100 miles from everywhere.” Ridgecrest is near the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake in the western Mojave Desert. There aren’t a lot of people near there outside of the military facility … which is a largely undeveloped 1.1 million acres, making it larger than the state of Rhode Island.
Lots of open spaces here.
The people may be few, but those people need to do Christmas shopping. Santa’s Art Shop sets up on the Desert Empire Fairgrounds, and thousands from the region show up, every year.
- After 2 years in the Joshua Hall, we were moved to the Mesquite Hall. Joshua was unavailable this year … resulting in a cascade of booth movement throughout the event. Practically everyone was in a new space. There were more vendors outside this year, and fewer vendors over all.
- Little Girl joined us, so we had 3 Mowrys go a-vending. We used to have 3 people at every show in our ignorant, early days … now, it’s a special occasion!
- Event # 9 of the 11 events we’re doing in the 4th quarter. The end is oh so solidly in sight.
- Expectations. We had them. And expectations can kill you.
- We arrived Friday afternoon for the big set up. We do Christmas decorations for this event, and take our time getting the display just right. This is an important event: our best event for each of the last 2 years. It demands our best effort.
- Broke a piece on one canopy that resulted in one leg not locking into place when extended. Only one fix would work: duct tape. Of course.
- A guy IM’d me through Facebook before the event, and wanted to make sure I was bringing (wait for it) … chess boards. He could not wait to see me this year! It’s not unusual for customers to make soft appointments to see me at an event, but this is the first time that’s happened for my # 1 most requested item.
- We woke Saturday morning to get ready for our big event, and Little Girl was sick. Food poisoning? She was a gamer, and tried … but she couldn’t. Back to the hotel for her, and she had to wait until the event was over for us to bring her ginger ale and Saltines.
- Meanwhile, back at the Art Shop, we got ‘whelmed pretty quickly. You couldn’t walk through the aisles Saturday morning. It was busy, busy … and stayed that way until about 2pm. Even as it slowed down, there were still shoppers doing what they do. Great day … but not our best. Lotion & soap sales weren’t as good as at the record-setting California Strawberry Festival. For me, the day was not as good as last year; I was a bit under prior year. That’s how we ended day 1: down to prior year by $60. (sigh)
- Down is never good.
- We ended Saturday disappointed, of course. Down is down. We were so looking forward to this event, and we were very slightly down – from 2015’s best event. It’s amazing how expectations can drive you to distraction when you are having one of your best events ever, but it feels like you aren’t achieving your goals.
- With Sunday’s dawning, Little Girl was back. She had beaten the 24 hour bug. Come to find out, many of her friends she’d just gone camping with were also suffering from that same awful bug.
- Sunday was a slow day, as is normal. Sundays typically have late crowds, and there’s a lot more strolling and chatting than you have on a Saturday that’s chock full of ASB (Aggressive Shopping Behavior).
- But the shoppers did keep coming.
- The event is in a metal building, and the cell service is horrible. The only way to do credit card transactions was to go outside. Every time. This was so annoying. Luckily, however, we were right by the door. Run the card. Through the door, 10 steps, and then back to get a signature. Through the door, 10 steps, and the transaction went through. Usually. Such a pain!
- We expect (that word!) Sundays to be 40% of Saturday, which is exactly how this event played out last year. That would have been great, had it played out that way this year. We’d have been down, of course, but only by a very small percentage.
- ’twas not to be.
- Expectations can kill you.
- After 2 years at this event, I definitely have customers coming back to tell me about the board they bought & use, or perhaps gave to someone a year or 2 ago, and how much they love it. It’s really wonderful when people tell me stories. I like stories.
- For an engaged shopping crowd, we had a surprisingly small number of conversations about alternatives. People came in, saw what you had, and shopped accordingly. They didn’t stay to discuss it: they had a mission to accomplish. This is a Christmas season event, and it’s all about the shopping. I did discuss special orders to replace in-counter boards (which can only be made AFTER CHRISTMAS), but other than that, there were few meaningful conversations about what I didn’t have on display.
- I only got one other request at this event: display stands for my cutting boards. It’s not the first time someone has asked to buy one of my stands at an event … as Mrs M reminded me. Hmmmmm.
- Remember The Mistake? I had that end grain cutting board as overstock throughout this event. Never brought it out to display. Showed it to one lady … sold it. Perhaps I need to make more mistakes? No, actually the lesson here is that I need to make more end grain cutting boards using Hickory. Now, that is a plan.
- Had a couple of women in the booth, buying a board for the man of the home. They described him as a destructive force in the kitchen that destroys cutting boards. What did they buy? The unique, pretty board that I had hoped might end up as a serving piece – or even, shockingly for me, as a display piece due to its one-of-a-kind beauty. I sold it with a smile on my face and a cringe in my heart.
- I need to make more pretty things that I don’t sell.
- A vendor ran into the booth, said, “I have to buy a cutting board on the sly!” and ran out. I looked at the ladies in the booth: “What was that?” Eventually, the vendor came back; she was buying an anniversary gift for her husband, and didn’t want him to see it while he was sitting at their booth just down from ours. She sent her proxy to buy the board, and all ended well. Husband even smiled when he opened the board!
- We passed last year’s Sunday sales at 2pm, with 2 hours still to go. That’s great, but the pace was slow. The event seemed to (sadly) be winding down.
- Sold my last chess board. I finished 6 back in June, so now I see that I’m selling about one every month. I am now out of the chess board business … until next year.
- Still in the pig business (sigh).
- We have a standing rule: we never, ever, take down our display before closing time. That’s a published rule for almost every event, of course, and we always follow the rules (!). Vendors around us often start moving boxes and breaking down displays 15 or even 30 minutes before closing time, but we don’t. We won’t. Experience has shown that my heavy cutting boards – my expensive cutting boards – are purchases that people often make last minute, after they’ve thought about the purchase and decided they really want to do it. We never close early.
- I sold 2 large, end grain cutting boards in the final hour of the event. My sales in the final hour were over 10% of our total sales for the weekend. And that, my friends, was a very good thing. I brought 211 boards to this event, but I only took home 168. I sold 20% of my inventory in one weekend.
Best. Mr. M’s. Event. Ever.
- The load-out was bigger than normal, since we had Christmas decorations to take down as well as a lot of vendors to dodge that were loading out through the narrow door directly adjacent to my display. We had 3 people attacking the problem, however, and we were loaded & ready to move the trailer down the road after only an hour and 39 minutes. We were home shortly after 8pm, and then turned immediately to go out to dinner.
- The next step, of course, was to begin analyzing the event and actually counting the money. And it was wrong.
- I keep a tally of the event, as you know, and the tally is sometimes off a bit. When we get ‘whelmed, I don’t always get to write down transactions. Sometimes, we just miss things. Humans. Mistakes. It happens. But our tally was not equaling our cash count. We were off. We weren’t short, luckily. We were long. Way long.
- Long is good. Way long is very good.
Best. Weekend. Ever.
Best. Event. Ever.
- Now, a new problem. How are we going to top this? Luckily, that’s a problem for next year!
Saturday Breakfast: Scrambled eggs & toast at Best Western.
Saturday Lunch: A Polish Dog. With ketchup & mustard.
Saturday Snack: nope.
Saturday Dinner: A delightful dinner at Charlie’s with our friends & fellow vendors that run Souper Dip.
Sunday Breakfast: Scrambled eggs … and biscuits & gravy at Best Western.
Sunday Lunch: Chicken fingers & fries. The food is not great at Santa’s Art Shop.
Sunday Snack: Cinnamon & sugar coated almonds & pecans. Yum.
Sunday Dinner: Chicken Marsala at Santa Clarita’s best Italian restaurant: Bella Cucina.
- Total miles driven: 279
- Booth cost: $407
- # of people we met during the event from the producer: 4
- Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
- Total sales: $4,833
- # boards available: all of them = 211
- Saturday alarm: 5:50am
- Sunday alarm: 5:50am
- # transactions: 130
- # soap & lotion vendors: there was another on our aisle, and a lotion guy (?) that was asking ladies as they passed, “Can I do your hands?” Mrs M politely declined that opportunity when asked.
- # woodworking vendors: 3 other vendors had cutting boards! One was really a furniture maker with a few cutting boards on display. Another was really a turner with a few cheese slicing boards on display. Finally, there was a coop venture between 3 woodworkers that had a very large, impressive double booth display. They had many cutting boards … but no end grain. And very few boards of size except for a curious design with a bread hook, a juice groove, and a back rail. Now, that was an unwieldy board! In my humble opinion. It even confused Mrs M, so I know it was an odd design.
- Edge grain vs. end grain: 40:4
- Returning next year? With bells on, if I can figure out how to wear them.
Boards sold: 44
Magic Bottle Openers: 10
Cheese Boards: 10
Small Boards: 4
Large Cutting Boards: 3
Chess Boards: 2
Cutting Boards: 2
Small Sous Chef Boards: 2
Large Surfboards: 2
Custom Order: 1
Small Surfboard: 1
Large Sous Chef Boards: 1
Lazy Susan: 1