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.
I’ve enjoyed 75 glorious days since my last event … but now it’s time for some vendoring.
The Fresno Home & Garden Show (“the 3rd largest in California!”) boasts 30,000 in attendance over its three days. The private producers have 3 shows each year at the Fresno fairgrounds, and this is the largest. The show isn’t inexpensive … and Mrs M has a bad taste in her mouth with central valley Home & Garden shows after only selling $150 at the Bakersfield H&G we did last year. So, she opted out as I opted in.
After all, it fit our calendar.
Time to shake off the cobwebs.
- It’s not a new idea for me to solo with just my booth, but it is new for me to drive the trailer to the event to carry just me & my stuff. I’m giving more meaning to the phrase “Go big or go home.”
- One of the vendor comments offered as testimonial on the producer’s website described the area as “a little rough.” This is the first venue we’ve had an event in that’s surrounded by concertina wire. The Fresno fairgrounds are located near the old downtown area, and the surrounding blocks are not picture postcard pretty. The fairgrounds are in good shape, however.
- Wine bottle holders made their debut at this event. Finally.
- Drove in to the fairgrounds, in search of the unfortunately named “More Exhibits” building that I was assigned to. The map actually called my building “More Exhibits.” Here’s the problem: every building on the fairgrounds had a big banner on it: “More Exhibits.” Luckily, my More Exhibits was the 2nd More Exhibits building I tried.
- My booth was between the Tupperware ladies and a fence builder. Problem was the fence builder had put up a 5′ spite fence blocking the view of my booth which was against the rules (vendors are limited to 3′ obstructions in the front half of their booths, which is standard for pipe & drape environments like this one). I complained … and the builder moved the fence. Wow. Rules enforced by the producer. Maybe there’s hope here.
- “Park at the lot on the corner of Maple & Butler,” I was told. Free for vendors. I drove there … and on the 4 corner lots there were 2 fair or city developments with fencing, a park with fencing, and a liquor store. No parking lot entrance near the intersection, except for the liquor store. No signage for the fair, for parking, or for vendors. NO signage. Come to find out, the “park” was a grass lot behind a fence, and that was the parking lot. Not the other corners with asphalt. But since I couldn’t find any cars, nor an open entrance anyway….
- Forgotten, Day 1: Left my Bubba Keg in the Jeep, so I had to survive over 10 hours without a Bubba filled with Diet Coke within 5′ of my hand. The horrors of vending.
- We use Paypal, which pushed a mandatory software update the weekend prior to the event. I dutifully installed it. All was well until I tried to use the app for our first transaction, and the keyboard was screwy. Push 4, and it said 4. Push 5, and it said 8. Push 7, and it said 1. The numbers were randomly generated, it seemed, and I could not figure out how to get it to work. Luckily that first customer had cash … and then I found that the software update had changed my default to include sale tax in the transaction, so every time I pushed a number, the app added 8.5%. Automatically.
- Shut that off.
- I hear it all of the time: customers come into the booth, like my stuff, and promise to come back later. Generally, those people get lost on the way to their car, or something. All I know is they usually don’t come back. Friday, the majority of those people did come back. Friday had surprisingly good results, and I was off to a great start.
- Forgotten, Day 2: Discovered I had left my cooler at the venue the night before, so I had to deal with getting ice & soda to the venue without a cooler. Not as bad as being without my Bubba, but still. Also forgotten was the Paypal e-chip reader, left at the hotel on Saturday. Why am I forgetting things???
- Expectations can kill you. Saturday was totally underwhelming – barely better than Friday, in fact. My expectation for Friday was almost no sales, and I did 5 transactions, including a big board. All good! Saturday, I did 9 transactions, but they were all small. And it was forecast to rain on Sunday … hope wasn’t fleeting; it fled. Saturday had huge traffic … and few buyers in my booth. Other vendors had very good days with the traffic surge.
- Overheard: “I can not WAIT to get tickets to go see Neil Young … I mean Neil Diamond.” I understood her excitement, since one Neil is so much like the other.
- This event was open for 25 hours. During that time, I had a total of 20 transactions. When Mrs M is there, we have a lot more transactions … but don’t think that more transactions always result in more profits. A big difference, though, is that I have to deal with boredom. I had hours go by with few quality conversations and no transactions, and that’s just not fun.
- During the slow times, I wasn’t even happy talking to DIYers and the ever-present shop teacher that trolled my booth to tell me of their accomplishments. Normally, those are very pleasant conversations, but here I could not avoid my frustrations that the event was not fulfilling my high expectations.
- Although, I did note on Saturday that it was great to hear my skills lauded by other woodworkers. Translation: I’m better at hiding my mistakes than they are.
- Thank goodness.
- Requests: a lamb-shaped cutting board (that’s new), business card holders, a pepper mill, rolling pin (2x – but I am NOT a turner!), decorative mason jar lid covers (You know you’re in an agricultural area when….), a cutting board with a built-in drawer, a pizza peel, a cutting board with bowls built in to collect your work, a 4’x6′ island, a cribbage board, a custom gunstock, and my # 1 request was (wait for it) … chess boards.
- Saturday was slow, but Sunday was my best day. In the rain. No other vendor I talked to did better on Sunday, but Sunday saw 2 of 3 large cutting boards sell. Sunday grew beyond expectations, and was 40% of my sales.
Best. Solo. Event. Ever.
- Every event has the same rule: no breaking down of your booth until the event closes. In this case, that was 6pm Sunday. The event started breaking down their gear at about 4pm. When vendors followed immediately, the producers did not stop them (though my neighbor was told not to break down by a temp employee).
- When a producer doesn’t follow their own rules, then there are no rules.
- Strike at 6, packed by 7, loaded & on the road at 7:47pm. Only 186 miles to home….
Friday Breakfast: Best Western Village Inn free breakfast. All good with biscuits & gravy.
Friday Lunch: Granola bars, trail mix, cashews. No fair food.
Friday Snack: See above.
Friday Dinner: My MOS (Mushroom, Onion, Sausage) from Mama Mia Pizza. Definitely a good pizza, just as Yelp predicted.
Saturday Breakfast: Back to the Village Inn for a disappointing choice between “cheese” omelets and pre-cooked egg slabs (they tried to look like a fried egg, but, yuck).
Saturday Lunch: Granola bars, trail mix, cashews and a banana. And Oreos. No fair food.
Saturday Snack: See above.
Saturday Dinner: I was desperate enough to drive to Olive Garden (!), but they had a line out the door. I ended up at Carrow’s, where I was not the youngest person there, but every single table had an older person at it than was sitting at my table. I felt young.
Sunday Breakfast: Back to biscuits & gravy. Thank goodness.
Sunday Lunch: Same as Saturday, but no Oreos. No fair food … but I would have had a cinnamon roll if someone would have been there to cover the booth while I stood in line.
Sunday Snack: See above.
Sunday Dinner: McDonald’s # 1 on the road. No time to eat; I had to drive.
- Total miles driven: 428
- Booth cost: $450
- # of people I met during the event from the producer: 0
- Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: Two: one when they showed me a potential leak in the roof above my booth, and one when they dropped off a solicitation for their next 2 shows. Pass.
- Total sales: $1,940
- Saturday alarm: nope
- Sunday alarm: nope
- # transactions: 20
- # soap & lotion vendors: a couple
- # woodworking vendors: I seemed to be the only cutting board maker; there were 4 guys there showing furniture & such made from wine barrels. Four!
- Edge grain vs. end grain: 18:4
- Returning next year? Yes
Boards sold: 22
Magic Bottle Openers: 8
Cheese Boards: 4
Large Cutting Boards: 3
Cutting Boards: 2
Pizza Server: 1
Large Sous Chef Board: 1
Wine Bottle Holder: 1
Lazy Susan: 1
Small Board: 1