The Board Chronicles: Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival 2017   1 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.

Just last week, we went to the California Strawberry Festival … this week, we’re moving up the coast & going to perhaps an even bigger celebration of my favorite fruit.

The timing seems right for this event. After all, I spent many Memorial Day weekends when we lived on the farm, helping the family harvest our strawberries from Grandma Mowry’s incredibly large strawberry patch from hell.

But, oh, those strawberries.

There were 6 of us working the patch for hours to do one picking (and I’m certain I did the least of all), and 2 pickings over the holiday weekend were normal.

I did learn an important lesson picking those strawberries all those years ago: Never look back. Because, if I did, I always saw strawberries that were hidden from me when I looked at the vines from a different perspective. So, never look back … unless you want to see what a bad picker you really are.

Flash forward, uh, 50 years, and let’s see what the pickings are like in Arroyo Grande at their 34th Annual Strawberry Festival.

New Ideas

  • We’re situated at the end of the T-shaped vendor area. We’re told we’re near a fire lane so we can’t use our awning for this event. That means our big banners go inside the canopy against the mesh walls … hardly ideal, but the first time we’ve done our signage like that.
  • Our booth was on a sidewalk, which means you had to step up onto the curb to enter the booth. That meant we were not handicap accessible, and that was an issue for two customers in wheelchairs. Luckily, they both had attendants that assisted them (in both cases, before I could get there to assist). First time we’ve ever had this as an issue.
  • This is a big event with 400 vendors. The wacky thing is that the majority of those vendors are located on Branch Street (and I do mean ON Branch Street), and all of those booths must tear down each night so the street can be open, 6p – 6a. Tear downs had to be accomplished in 1 hour, and the motorcycle cops were not shy about telling you how much time you had left to strike your gear … in 5 minute increments. Many booths are on Bridge Street, and a few are on sidewalks (like us) … those booths can stay up overnight. Thank goodness.
  • This is a buy & sell vendor event. If you need cellphone accessories, or a back pillow, or a EuroWhip (whatever that is), these vendors had you covered. For the first time this year, the organizers put together a handmade section and put us there. Thank goodness.

Observations

  • Yes, I’m just about all flung out. This is our 6th event in 6 weeks. After this event, next weekend will complete our 3rd Spring Fling.
  • Arroyo Grande is a 3 hour drive up the coast from us. We took days off and took advantage of the holiday weekend so that we could enjoy the trip. A few years ago we always went camping in the Sequoias on this weekend; will this be our new Memorial Day tradition?
  • Before the event got going, I had a volunteer in my booth telling me they had 1s & 5s they could sell us if we ran short on change. Great … but vendors traditionally do that???
  • We do not.
  • Mrs M successfully added shelf tags to her display with pricing. First time! Her conclusion: when prices were well displayed, people made their selection and handed her money. Putting prices up cut down on customer confusion. Go figure.
  • We are getting better at what we do, at every event!
  • A stranger walked into the booth, told us that we had a really nice display, and walked out. Didn’t buy anything. That’s really OK … if random passers-by are so struck by our display that they have to tell us “good job,” then we’re doing it right.
  • Heard it before: “You’re not Mrs M.” At almost every event, some old wise guy (OWG) looks at the tag on all of my boards, looks at me and says, “You’re not Mrs M.” The OWG then gets to hear my explanation that Mrs M is standing over there, the company started with her and our daughter-in-law, and, finally, that Mr M’s Woodshop is officially a subsidiary of Mrs M’s Handmade. Not sure why the OWGs want to point out that I’m not woman enough to be a Mrs, but, uh, I’m not.
  • A guy saw my Magic Bottle Openers, and saw my demo of the MBO. His comment, “Why can’t my kids ever get me something like this? I have more socks than I’ll ever need.”
  • I could not help him. Unless his kids are reading this….
  • This event promises attendance of 150,000. That is a fantasy, in my estimation. I don’t have a good way to estimate total event attendance based on me being anchored to our booth for the majority of the event, but I believe the number that passed by our booth was a small fraction of the projected attendance. 20,000? I believe that. 50,000? Perhaps. 150,000? Not buying it … nor were our sales commensurate with that kind of exposure. In my opinion.
  • Requests were for a small charcuterie board for two, a wine bottle opener, wine bottle stoppers, a pillbox, a smaller cutting board with a juice groove (2x), a cribbage board, and notepad clipboards (2x).

The Golden Strawberry

I blame Velda. Of course.

Velda took this nicely composed picture of me with the Golden Strawberry, and posted it to the event’s Facebook page as well as on Instagram. I posted it on Facebook – made it my profile picture – and our friend, the Happy Texan, captioned it with “And the Golden Strawberry award goes to … Henry Mowry!”

It was a great caption, but it was not true. The ‘net was not to be denied, however, and the congratulations and likes of the photo began flowing in while we were at the event. We were busy vendoring … but the internet was blowing up with well wishes from friends who thought it was great that someone had finally given me inedible fruit.

In reality, the event had decided to create some social media. The organizers got a golden strawberry and asked their fans to take a selfie with it, post it to the event’s Facebook page … and whoever got the most likes would get a free t-shirt. We saw selfies being taken throughout the day. I pointed out to Mrs M that her submission was not a selfie … but she was not to be denied, either.

And I didn’t get the t-shirt. All of my likes & congrats were on my page, not the event’s page.

Velda blames me.

Of course.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Something from Burger King. It was on the way.

Saturday Lunch: Chicken on a stick. It was the daily special, I was told.

Saturday Snack: Strawberry Parfait … not as good as last week’s shortcake, and more expensive @ $7 each.

Saturday Dinner: We ordered BBQ for in-room delivery. This was not a wise decision, but it was easy.

Sunday Breakfast: Holiday Inn Express biscuits & gravy. Yum.

Sunday Lunch: I asked for a hot dog, but got a Navajo Taco. Communication is the hardest thing we humans do.

Sunday Snack: Nope. Too busy.

Sunday Dinner: We walked to the Rooster Creek Tavern for the nicest meal of the trip.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 332
  • Booth cost: $800
  • Food cost: $198
  • Travel cost: $729
  • Total sales: $2,374
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $474
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 5:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:15a
  • # transactions: 88
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There were a few. One soapmaker was in our immediate area. There was at least one corporate type selling lotions; one company with organic in their name was making illegal medical claims for their products. The usual, in other words.
  • # woodworking vendors: Several, including one direct competitor offering cutting boards & Lazy Susans.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 25:2
  • Returning next year? Maybe

Boards sold: 27

Magic Bottle Openers: 7

Custom Orders: 4

Cutting Boards: 3

Cheese Boards: 3

Large Cheese & Cracker Servers: 2

Lazy Susans: 2

Bread Boards: 2

Small Board: 1

Medium Surfboard: 1

Domed Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Chess Board: 1

One response to “The Board Chronicles: Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival 2017

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  1. I think you deserve the Golden Strawberry award! Wonderful display!

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