Archive for the ‘Craft Fairs’ Category

The Board Chronicles: Prescott Faire On the Square 2020   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.

An event! I have an event!

That’s about all I could think about in August, as I finally, FINALLY prepared to do an event that had been on my schedule for months. This Labor Day weekend event in Prescott, AZ has proven to be a solid one for me; this was my third year there. You can read about my previous efforts in 2019 and 2018.

This time, I had picked the spot I wanted facing Montezuma Avenue, AKA Whiskey Row, across from the legendary Palace Restaurant & Saloon. The Palace, the oldest business operating in Arizona, was once frequented by Doc Holliday and his buddies, Virgil & Wyatt Earp.

Whiskey Row? I’m your huckleberry.

Gotta do the easy ones. C’mon.

But, this is 2020. Nothing will be easy during this pandemic. I’ll get transported back to the wild west for a bit. But, at least the whiskey was good….

New Ideas

  • Vendors must wear masks. Vendors must certify they are healthy. Vendors must sign a hold harmless with the Chamber of Commerce that means no one gets sued if they get sick.
  • I left the chess boards, card boxes and other lesser products at home this trip. I have so many cutting boards & serving pieces, I only brought those, plus the cribbage boards & signs. I only had a 10×20 (!), and I had to fill it with the right stuff.
  • I arrived at the booth shortly after 6am on Saturday with only minimal setup still required. I got the last 2 details done: set up the cribbage boards, and price all of the signs. Once that was done, the walls were rolled up and securely stored, the banner went up … and I took pictures of the booth. This was all done by 8:30am. That was almost unprecedented!

Observations

  • Mrs M packs the food when I go a-vendoring. Food’s her thing. When I was already at our friend’s home in Prescott, my BnB for the weekend, Mrs M announced that she forgot to pack the Everything Sprinkles for my daily breakfast: bagels & cream cheese.
  • I had no sprinkles. I was deprived.
  • I pack my clothing when I go a-vendoring. When I got dressed on Friday … I found that I had forgotten to pack socks. Ooops.
  • Note: I could not go buy bagel sprinkles in an unfamiliar city. I could go buy socks. My feet were not deprived; only my stomach.
  • We got advance warning that there was a BLM protest at 3pm on Friday … and our setup was 6pm on Friday. Vendors were told not to park on the Courthouse Square during the protest, as we might get towed. We were directed to meet at the off-site vendor parking lot, and hope that all remained calm.
  • Prescott is a remote area, and traditional values run deep here. That indicates a conservative viewpoint, of course. The stage was set.
  • I got to the area early so I could get to the correct parking spot before any craziness could affect traffic patterns. I planned on grabbing lunch at The Palace, visiting an ATM so I could pay my helpers after the 6pm setup, and relaxing a bit before the work started.
  • The Courthouse Square was packed. Packed. When I arrived at 2:30 or so, the sidewalks were teeming with locals that were openly carrying long guns and pistols. They were there to protect the area businesses from the protesters in case things got wonky.
  • I talked to one of those business owners … he has 3 large sheets of glass in his front windows, and he was very nervous that those windows would be broken if the protest took a wrong turn.
  • The protesters arrived at around 3p, and numbered about 100. College kids, perhaps. Out-of-towners, probably. They were there to exercise their first amendment rights.
  • I’m a fan of those rights. Peaceful protest? Fabulous.
  • Meanwhile, the locals were there to exercise THEIR constitutional rights, which includes the right to bear arms. Remember, I’m in an Old West town. By an Old West Saloon. I’m going to estimate there were 400 locals carrying guns.
  • Yes, that’s a lot of guns at a peaceful protest.
  • There were also lots of police … 50? 100? Not sure. They were pretty mobile, and I saw at least 3 kinds of uniforms. In the end, thank goodness, peace prevailed.
  • BLM protestors marched. They shouted slogans. They marched. Then, they went home.
  • The typical protester was 20-something, white, female, and carrying a sign. The typical counter-protestor was 60-something, white, male, and carrying a gun. There were also a bunch of younger guys driving Bro trucks with American flags flying that were circling the area during the event. Lots of activity. Lots of noise. Lots of people. Lots.
  • The counter protestors, the locals exercising their 2nd amendment rights, basically watched.
  • One final note on Friday’s prologue to my event: as the protestors were marching near my (future) booth location, one young lady was screaming “Black Lives Matter.” A 65 year old white guy sort of leaned towards her and screamed back, “All Lives Matter.” She, of course, screamed back “Black Lives Matter,” and that circle continued for about 45 seconds. Finally, her friends rescued her, yelled some more, and led her away from the conflict.
  • The old white guy, meanwhile, had done it all for sport. He laughed. He enjoyed taunting a young girl and her values. That moment of derision from the old white guy was the hardest moment for me to swallow, frankly. And, remember, it was all free speech. Protected free speech.
  • What does all of this have to do with going a-vendoring? Simple:
    • I was supposed to set up at 6pm. Would it be safe? I didn’t know until after the protest was over and all of the protestors and counter-protestors went home. In the end, it truly was a peaceful protest. Thankfully.
    • When conflict erupts in the street, no one wants to walk through the event to do shopping. I had an immigration protest ruin an event in 2018. I support peaceful protests … but when I pay money to be at an event that is ruined by other people protesting, it gets harder to swallow.
    • That, of course, is especially true now. This is only my third event this year. If a protest had ruined/canceled it, that would have hurt me.
  • “All’s well that ends well,” Shakespeare said.
  • And I had not yet begun to set up.
  • My crew arrived at 5:30, and we waited for the clock to tick for setup to officially begin at 6pm. I parked the trailer on Montezuma, and we got to it. We worked past dark, and got 90% set up before we buttoned up.
  • I posted my booth pictures on Facebook Saturday morning, and they got a huge number of likes and comments. It’s good to have support! And, finally, I was open for business.
  • I saw a truck circling the square each day. It was owned by a flat earther; it was painted with something about “NASA IS A HOAX.” It’s a big world out there.
  • Suggested sign: “CAUTION! Dog cannot hold his liquor.” Nope.
  • Suggested sign: “Absolutely no working during drinking hours.” Nope.
  • Saturday was an odd day of transactions. Business was good. Very good. But I had 4 different non-chip cards presented for payment. That’s odd these days. I haven’t had 4 non-chip cards at an event for a couple of years, much less on a single day.
  • One of the first Presidential wearables I saw on Saturday was a Biden facemask. I thought that was odd, so I decided to do a tally of all of the Presidential wearables I saw throughout the weekend. As I observed above, the locals are largely conservative. The tourist trade is from Phoenix & Las Vegas, though, and is much more progressive. It’ll be interesting to see where that ends up.
  • One serving piece I didn’t put out this time was an Ampersand board. I only had one (still on my worklist!) … so I thought it should stay under the table. I was wrong. It was requested by name, and sold early.
  • She said: “My husband isn’t with me this year, so I’m going to buy it. He told me I shouldn’t last year … but he’s not here now.”
  • The clown show came out Saturday morning. Two 20-something men, somewhat unkempt, walked the Courthouse Square with signs worthy of a homeless person yelling, “We are transexual bi-polar prostitutes for Trump! Let’s send our boys back to Iraq!” No clue what that was about, but they did seem to be having a good time. They definitely confused a lot of people.
  • One vendor did not comply with the mask mandate – that was announced well in advance of the event. That vendor refused to sign the paperwork, and was asked to leave. Police eventually evicted him from his rental property (the booths are on county property, the Courthouse Square). This blew up on social media in the vendor community. Bottom line for me: idiots are everywhere. The rules were announced in advance. Follow them … or stay home.
  • I was ‘whelmed at 2pm. People were literally waving money at me to get my attention. That got me to thinking … in how many professions do people literally wave money at you? And do I like it?
  • Things you don’t hear at most events:
    • Guy # 1: Are you left-handed?
    • Guy # 2: Uh … no. But why do you ask?
    • Guy # 1: Well, your holster is crooked, and I wondered why.
    • Guy # 2: Yeah, it keeps moving around. I just adjust it when I need to.
    • Note: yes, of course, Arizona is an open carry state. And this weekend, it was.
  • Suggested Sign: “Eating’s Cheating.” No, no it’s not. And no thank you.
  • Favorite t-shirt of the weekend looked like this:

6

4

+ 3

2

  • Can’t figure it out? I needed a hint. The shirt was worn by a baseball mom … and 6-4-3 is how you would fill out a scorecard for a typical double play: shortstop to 2nd base to 1st base. Had a fun conversation with the family, and they ended up buying a few pieces.
  • Suggested sign: “We Love Vegetarians. We Have One For Dinner Every Night.” Uh … nope. But I did laugh.
  • She read my sign, saying I’m from Valencia, CA:
    • She said: “You’re from California?”
    • I said: “Yes, Ma’am.”
    • She said: “I’m sorry!”
  • The next day, another She read my sign, and said, “You drove in from Cali?” When did “Cali” become a thing?
  • Another favorite t-shirt: “Surround Yourself With Positivity & Tacos.”
  • Requests were for an Ulu Board (a style of cutting board used by native Alaskans), a backgammon board (nope) and wooden spoons (hmmmmm).
  • Final tally on Presidential wearables: 53 for Trump, 2 for Biden. And no, that’s not a scientific survey.
  • Masks were everywhere at the event. There were many people, certainly, that did not wear a mask. I believe most did, however. For over a simple majority. 75%? Something like that. Mrs M’s Waterless Hand Spray sampler was very well received. And emptied. Sales of the Hand Spray, though were negligible. That’s OK: I’ll take clean hands for the win.
  • This became a great event for me. This is my 6th event in Arizona, and there will be a 7th and 8th in 2021!

The Food

  • Best Meal: I stayed with friends in Prescott who graciously opened their home to me … and cooked every night. Velda better mind her Ps & Qs … I found a home away from home that comes with chefs. Grilled Rib Eye for the win. A good day of sales should always be followed by Beef & Bourbon.
  • Honorable Mention: Pork Loin with yams is yummy after the conclusion of an event. The trailer was packed, I was relaxed. And hungry.
  • Worst Meal: I blame the pandemic. Honestly. I was headed out of town & wanted to visit my old friend, the Sausage Egg McMuffin. But, McD’s doors were locked & only the drive thru was open. I drove through with the trailer, and didn’t swing wide enough through the drive thru curve. I crunched my trailer fender on a post. My fault … because the pandemic made me do it. After that … breakfast was awful. And, it cost $200.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 1,016
  • Booth cost: $550
  • Food cost: $29
  • Travel cost:
  • Total sales: $
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost):
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 3
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 2
  • Saturday alarm: 5am
  • Sunday alarm: 6am
  • Monday alarm: nope
  • # transactions:
  • # woodworking vendors: There were several, including 3 direct competitors. None of the those 3 had the range or depth of inventory that I carry; I have no clue how successful they were. Just goes to show that more competition does not necessarily indicate less success.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain:
  • Returning next year? Absolutely

Boards sold: 59

The Board Chronicles: Prescott Rodeo Days Arts & Crafts Fair 2020   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.

The long darkness lifted a bit.

I went to an event. I sold stuff. It was almost normal. Except, you know, for the masks & health checks & threats & such.

This was my 4th trip to Prescott, AZ, and I was going for their big 4th of July celebration that centers around the World’s Oldest Rodeo. The Rodeo happened … limited to 25% capacity. The Arts & Crafts Fair happened … with all of the booths socially distanced. The very popular parade … canceled.

But I was back in business, if only for a moment. I had to leave California & drive 400+ miles each way, but I had an event!

New Ideas

  • Geez, it was all new. I hadn’t had an event in 5 months. I hadn’t set up this canopy in 6 months.
  • New products, made during the pandemic:
    • 2x sizes of Dip Servers
    • Magic Bottle Openers returned from a 2 year hiatus, both wall & fridge mount
    • Cutting Board selection was deep, with highlights to include several charcuterie boards like a live edge Black Walnut board (sold), a Dough Board with Hooks, and many traditional boards.
    • Also returning from being sold out previously: Hearts, Coasters, Ampersand Boards, Cracker Things, California Bears, 5 Section Servers & a wide array of Handled Boards on a new display stand.
  • The Mowry Cookbook made a rare appearance for sale, as I had the space.
  • Mrs M stepped up and made “Keep ‘Em Clean,” a Waterless Hand Cleanser. This new alcohol-based product was offered for free so everyone could clean their hands before/after entering the booth, or even just as they wandered by. Everyone appreciated that.

Observations

  • I have no expectations for this weekend. None. I mean, how can you? Who knows who will show up, or if they will have money in their pocket?
  • I found this event because my original event for this weekend in Morro Bay, CA was canceled on June 1. I scrambled & followed my friend Delinda back to Prescott because Arizona is open. Delinda had been there for Memorial Day; I stayed home then. But, no more.
  • I was very fortunate that some good friends had recently moved to Prescott, and invited me into their home for the weekend. Not only was the lodging free, but they cooked for me, too. This was not only incredibly kind, but allowed me to do this event with much less financial risk.
  • Vendors were required to wear masks. Vendors had to pass a health check at set-up on Thursday, and had temps taken daily. We were warned that if we were non-compliant with the masks, we would be required to close our booth. We were told that if the event was found to be non-compliant, it would be closed by the county. We live in an era of threats.
  • My local friends connected me to a recent high school graduate to help with set up. He had a buddy … so I had a crew to set up. I love it when that happens.
  • In spite of the help, we didn’t get set up done on Thursday evening. A quirk of events on the courthouse square in Prescott (which is *lovely*) is that you can’t begin set up until the last judge leaves the courthouse. That was after 6p … we worked until dark, and then buttoned up. I had an early morning on Friday.
  • Friday, I couldn’t sleep so I got to the booth at 6a. Set up continued, with a brief pause at 7a for a mandatory vendor meeting where the threats were repeated. I continued with set up and was ready for customers at 9a.
  • Here’s a truth: dog walkers aren’t buyers of my product. They are out to get exercise, see the sights, and share with other dog owners. They never buy cutting boards (Oh, ok, there was this one lady … in six years.). Not my people.
  • One dog walker met another dog walker in front of my booth. The dogs were the same species. Or something. They chatted. They talked. One of the dogs pissed on my table cloth.
  • The dog owner, deep in conversation, barely turned her head for a pro forma “sorry” and kept talking. My table cloth now serving as a territorial marker for the rest of the weekend was unimportant to her.
  • Not. My. People.
  • It began to sprinkle about midday on Friday, and it eventually worked itself up to raining for 30 minutes. I had to tarp over my exterior displays and wait for the blue skies to return at 2p or so.
  • My biggest sale of the weekend was during the rain. I feel sorry for the vendors that close up when it gets wet outside. They just don’t get it.
  • Saturday was the 4th, and Prescott traditionally has a parade that’s a little slice of Americana in this rural town of 40,000+. The parade was canceled this year due to the virus, though, so no one knew how large crowds might be on this holiday weekend. They were good, but perhaps not great. There was a steady flow past my booth all weekend which had both locals and tourists.
  • The morning of the 4th saw some convoys of vehicles cruising through town with many American flags & much honking. The town leaders might have canceled the parade … but there was still a parade.
  • People carried flags around the square as well. It was very red, white & blue on the 4th. I appreciated that very much.
  • Masks are hot when you wear them for hours.
  • The vast majority of shoppers were masked. Some were not, certainly, but most people were following the directives that the governor of Arizona had given.
  • Did I mention masks are hot? I took to alternating between my various masks: I brought 5x styles with me. I preferred the gaiters, though the paper masks were good. I did discover that if I was setting up – working – I felt the mask limited my oxygen. I didn’t wear a mask when I was doing the physical labor required to do what I do.
  • New at this event were the Dip Servers, which were prominently displayed, front & center. I heard the Dad joke twice and was embarrassed I hadn’t thought of it myself. “Dip Servers … oh, this is for me?”
  • I did see a lot of hats & shirts promoting President Trump. Through the whole weekend, I only saw one Democratic sign. Truly, 99+% were pro-Trump. This is a conservative area, but I was still struck by the absence of visual Biden support.
  • Two ladies were wearing Q t-shirts, which caused a bit of a stir. People were asking to take pictures with them!
  • I can’t believe I saw more Q than Biden.
  • Please note: my selling of cutting boards is 100% non-political. So is this blog. I am reporting on what I saw, nothing more.
  • My handled cutting boards were again compared to paddles (sigh). I was asked if I had one engraved, “Make Kids Great Again.”
  • I do not.
  • I will not.
  • Definitely saw some price resistance this weekend, but, honestly, no more than I typically do. I wondered if there would be more due to the large unemployment numbers, virus damage to the economy, etc. Things seemed pretty OK for those that were shopping. And, I did sell the most expensive board in the booth, so there is that.
  • Saturday afternoon, I was processing a credit card transaction when out of NOWHERE, water started running down the roof onto my front table. Did somebody launch a water bottle onto my roof? Squirt gun war. HUH??? My table was soaked.
  • Come to find out, there was a pool of water trapped on the roof from yesterday’s rain. 24 hours later, the wind must have caught it just right, and I suddenly had an ill-positioned cascade. No boards were damaged, but it was freaky to have water just appear.
  • My worst day of the weekend was … Saturday, July 4th. That wasn’t typical of most other vendors according to my informal survey. My best day was Sunday. Weird.
  • But what would you expect from 2020?
  • Taking everything down was speedy, as I had 2 helpers + my hosts help me. I was more manager than worker, and we got everything back into the trailer well before dark.
  • On the drive home, I thought I would stop in Barstow at the Black Bear Diner … closed. Back to the reality of living in California.
  • In the end, I broke even on the weekend. The booth cost was relatively expensive. Event promoters are not giving a Covid-19 discount. The attendance was clearly lighter than prior years, I was told by many. There were fewer vendors, too … but sales didn’t rise as a result. But, I got out of the house, remembered how to set up the Trimline again, and went a-vendoring. I’ll take that as a win.
  • Request included a larger Cracker Thing, a Cheese Board/Cracker Thing combination, and a Cutting Board display stand (sigh). Maybe someday.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Pot Roast. Home cooking for the win.
  • Honorable Mention: Creamy Shrimpy stuff.
  • Worst Meal: Friday bagels that tried to get eaten after set up. They didn’t age well in my gear bag.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 882
  • Booth cost: $950
  • Total sales: $2,695
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 4
  • Friday alarm: 5:15a
  • # transactions: 35
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue, but I know at least 2 others were selling similar things. The guy selling cheap, shaped boards made from Corian was there, too.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 36:3
  • Returning next year? probably not, if California is open

Boards sold: 39

  • Signs: 8
  • Cutting Boards: 4
  • Trivets: 4
  • Charcuterie Boards: 4
  • Dip Servers: 3
  • Cracker Thing: 3
  • Handled Boards: 3
  • Magic Bottle Openers: 2
  • Bread Saws: 2
  • Lazy Susans: 2
  • Garlic Dipping Board: 1
  • Surfboard: 1
  • Cheese Board: 1
  • Special Order: 1

An Upgraded Display: Mr M’s Got It Handled   Leave a comment

I’m now going a-vendoring solo more often than I’m out with Mrs M. I normally double my booth to a 10×20 now. And with more space in the booth … that means I need to up my creativity to maximize each opportunity.

After all, I can’t just show up.

I have no clue what this year will turn out to be – for any of us. But I do know, when craft fairs, art shows, street festivals & such are once again happening, I better bring my best ideas to market, because I expect customers will be very choosy. Resources will be precious. I need to respect that.

When I set up my “standard” double booth these days, I put a 6′ table front & center, and then a taller 4′ table behind it. That results in good things for the look of the display.

That configuration, though, creates a 2’x2′ space behind the 6′ table that is wasteful. After all, I pay a lot of money to rent that space. How to fill it?

This is a common problem for vendors: how to fill the booth with a pleasing display. I’ve gone through several iterations for Mrs & me. Want to see our incredibly humble beginnings? Here’s booth # 1, from March 2014:

Mrs. M and Mrs. M, before they opened on their first day. Smiles on faces, and that is a very good thing!

Only one direction to go from there!

But, on to the task at hand … how to fill that 2′ x 2′ space in 2020.

After a lot of thinking, I had the idea. For me, that usually results in a high-faluting, incredibly complex plan on paper, and here was this one.

That’s 4 pages of planning! No wonder it took me months to get this built.

Note that I custom build all of my display pieces. I believe that reinforces what I do as a craftsman: customers appreciate that I make everything they see. It’s how I get the best possible display for the boards & games & such that I make. Your mileage may vary.

The final result is that I took those 4 square feet of booth space, and will now effectively display 36 handled boards! That’s far, far better than my old display for handled boards, when I just put them in a crate on a table, or hung them from the rafters so people bumped their heads on them.

Yes, it happened. More than once. And, I’m sorry.

Clearly, I needed an upgrade.

I actually have 5x different shapes that will hang from the display. For pictures of my current inventory, go to the links at the bottom of this page. For brevity, here’s a picture & description of each of the 5 boards that I have now produced for this display. Note that one shape comes either with or without juice groove … though in this shape, I view these groovy boards as having crumb catchers, not actually juice grooves. But that’s me.

OK, OK. I know. One of the designs just has a hole, not a handle … but work with me here.

So, now, to the design of the display. I had a few criteria:

  1. The display has to come apart for transport.
  2. Signage must be integrated.
  3. Flexibility is a must!

The display piece stands well over 6′ tall. The base is 22″ square and is on wheels. The tower rotates on a Lazy Susan bearing, and is built (probably over-built) to reliably hold more than 100 pounds of boards. Hangers are removable, of course, and secured to the tower with french cleats. 4 bolts attach the tower to the base, and 3 attach the sign on top.

3 boards are displayed on each of the 12 pegs. 4 boards will fit, but I’m keeping the display to 3 each for both brevity and to make sure nothing will fall while customers are fondling the boards.

These pictures were taken on a windy spring day (on the patio!), and the 36x boards cards were fluttering in the breeze. I’m going to tuck those cards behind the boards when I set up the display, just to improve the look. My customers appreciate the cards, the identification of the woods and the care instructions attached to the boards … but with a breeze, they proved to be a distraction.

Lessons Learned

  1. The tower, even with the holes cut into each side, is heavier than I had hoped. It’s primarily made from 3/4″ plywood … I should have used 1/2″, I think. Cutting the weight by 1/3 would have been good. I am debating whether to build a shelf in the trailer to transport this piece and other tall display pieces.
  2. The Lazy Susan bearing works, but the assembly is too heavy for people to turn it comfortably, I think. That’s OK. I’ll either assist the customers, or simply let them pull the “hidden” boards from the other side of the display to see them.
  3. Love the sign. Mrs M takes credit for the slogan. After 41 years of marriage … I let her take all of the credit she wants.

More

Getting It Handled

A Charcuterie Board

Handles Are A Good Thing

Mr M’s New Booth # 4 (Part 2): Going Vertical

Mr M’s New Booth # 4 (Part 1)

Mrs M’s New Booth: # 4

Mrs M’s Handmade: The Booth, 10×24 (# 3)

Mrs M’s Handmade: The Booth, 10×12 (# 3)

Mrs M’s New Booth (# 2)

Things I Learned At The Street Fair (# 1)

The Board Chronicles: Winterfest 2020   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.

I’ve got a history with this event, so I begin cautiously. After all, this is where the Flying Dry Soup Canopy took flight … and crushed Mrs M’s Handmade. That was in 2018.

But I came back in 2019. I note Mrs M declined the opportunity; I was solo.

So, this is year 3. Once again, Mrs M has declined the opportunity to join me in Arizona. Something about her “job.” As if that could be important.

So, what will Lake Havasu City have for me … and in my first event in 2020, our 7th year as vendors?

New Ideas

  • The weather forecast for this year is (at last) wonderful. Blue skies & highs in the 60s on Saturday, with more of the same on Sunday … until a storm blows in late in the day. About time we have good weather for this event!
  • I feel like everything is new at this event, since I haven’t done any event in 60 days. And, I haven’t done this physical setup with 2 pop-up canopies & me solo since … the Simi Valley Street Fair in 2019, and that was 8 months ago. I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing.
  • And, yes, that is new.

Observations

  • The load in at 6am on Saturday was just like last year: chaotic. I was yelled at for being in someone’s way by 6:10am. And … I was parked partially IN MY BOOTH. She just didn’t like that I narrowed her path to the width of a bit more than a parking spot – that was clearly marked, and unobstructed by me.
  • Such is the chaos that is Winterfest load in. I emptied the trailer ASAP, and moved my Jeep & trailer out of the line of fire.
  • Set up, unfortunately, takes as long as it takes. These days, my full set up in a double booth takes about 4 hours. I had walkers after about 2 hours. Fortunately, they were primarily dog walkers, and they are not my buyers.
  • The event started hot, and traffic was significant a bit before my set up was complete. When I was done at 10am, traffic was good. Very good.
  • This event has 2 kinds of people in attendance: snow birds that winter in Arizona, and residents of Lake Havasu City … which are definitely weighted towards retirement age. Both have issues with my offerings: snow birds often have a need for me to ship to their home, because they are limited by the airlines for suitcase weight. Local residents don’t have that issue, but older people that are downsizing are not my crowd. People that cook & people with families that cook … those are my people.
  • I nearly had a fight break out over a Garlic Dipping Board that 2 ladies had their eyes on at the same time. It got a bit confusing, but eventually lady # 1 decided on something else, so lady # 2 got the GDB that she wanted. Meanwhile, lady # 1 changed her mind 4 times before finally making her selection. Eventually, her buddy asked me a question mid-transaction, causing me to lose track of where I was … and lady # 2 left, with me still having her credit card in the machine.
  • Oops.
  • She came back on Sunday to retrieve the card. And bought something else.
  • Last year, I met Mesquite Mary. She was an LA resident that was in the process of retiring to Lake Havasu City, where she and her husband have a 2nd home. There was a wonderful mesquite tree that they had to cut down … and she offered me the wood if I could use it.
  • Of course I could. She only asked that she get something that I made from the wood.
  • Of course I would.
  • But, come to find out, I couldn’t. The wood had laid out in her backyard for 2 years, and was just too old for me to use. Too many cracks.
  • I did give the wood to my buddy Charlie, and he was able to use the wood for turning, with cracks adding to the character of the wood. Charlie gave me a bowl he turned … and a year after I met her, I returned to Lake Havasu City with the bowl for Mary.
  • She was on the moon! So happy. I got a hug, even. Saturday was a happy day.
  • A young lady saw my Cracker Things, and didn’t think they were cute. Or clever. No, she thought they were bad ass. That’s good … but she didn’t buy one. That’s bad.
  • I met Rob Cook, who published Popular Woodworking in the ’90s. We had a great chat, and he complimented me on my work. Much appreciated from a real pro!
  • I started Sunday going walk about, and saw about half of the vendors. This is a chamber of commerce street festival … and it is *very* buy & sell. There is some handmade merchandise there, but not much. That can be a bad thing … a very bad thing … but in this case, the attendance is high enough that the event still works for me.
  • Thank goodness.
  • A Cracker Thing went to a party, I’m told. Don’t know anything about the party … but I do know that 3 ladies came to the booth on Sunday wanting to buy a Cracker Thing. Unfortunately, I had none. Sold out.
  • Sorry.
  • A couple looked at my Lazy Susans. We had a long conversation about the event, what they wanted … and how the event ended at 4 o’clock. The lady asked what my 4 o’clock cash price was for the Susan she wanted. I told her the price doesn’t change … still $80. She walked away.
  • Buy bye. My prices don’t change.
  • A couple wanted a custom cutting board for a wedding in a month. I turned it down … I have no time. No. Time.
  • T-shirt of the weekend: “I may be old, but I saw the great bands.” Made me laugh.
  • The event ended at 4 o’clock … and the weather began to turn. Clouds rolled in. Temperature dropped. Winds picked up a bit … and I knew I was in a race to get everything into the trailer before the storm hit.
  • I didn’t make it.
  • I was close. I was doing well, but I got to the part when I take the signs down when the wind started gusting. Signs hang on the walls … part of the weight that holds the canopies down. Wind. Gusts. I’m in a race. It got exciting at 6pm.
  • I won’t say I lost.
  • I won’t say the canopy flew … but it did hop. At the time, I had the signs down, but the mesh walls were still up, so there was a bit of a sail making the booth catch the wind. Luckily, I had some nice neighbors that leapt in to help, and with them holding things together for me, I quickly – well, as quickly as possible – dropped the mesh walls & collapsed the canopies. No more incidents.
  • I ended with 3 helpers, 2 broken fingernails (how did that happen?), booth hardware in 3 pockets, and a trailer finally loaded at 6:55pm. Finally.
  • The weekend was a success. In 3 years, this was the best one yet. That’s a great way to start off 2020.
  • Requests were for a TV tray, a custom counter top, shoe horns, smaller Lazy Susans (2 of those), Pegs & Jokers (on my list, honest!), a stamp dispenser, an English pub game called Shut the Box (?), and a wine rack.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Saturday night pizza from Rosati’s. Recommended.
  • Worst Meal: Saturday breakfast was 2 hardboiled eggs. I don’t love eating immediately after I wake up … and once the set up started, that’s all I did.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 612
  • Booth cost: $350
  • Food cost: $95
  • Travel cost: $505
  • Total sales: $2,590
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • Saturday alarm: 5:00a
  • Sunday alarm: 7:00a
  • # transactions: 34
  • # soap & lotion vendors: none that I saw in the half of the event that I walked
  • # woodworking vendors: none that I saw (!) in the half of the event that I walked
  • Returning next year? Yes. I left my first deposit for 2021.

Boards sold: 48

  • Cutting Boards: 3
  • Garlic Dipping Boards: 4
  • Trivets: 7
  • Serving Pieces: 3
  • Signs: 8
  • Cracker Things: 7
  • Charcuterie Board: 1
  • Lazy Susans: 4
  • Cheese Slicers: 5
  • Cribbage Board: 1
  • Pizza Server: 1
  • Bread Saws: 2
  • Sous Chef Boards: 2

The Board Chronicles: Harvest Festival Sacramento 2019   2 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.

** ** **

A note about my absence. After a few months of getting more and more behind … I’ve been working on catching up.

Today, I have! Here’s the latest installment of The Board Chronicles. And, stay tuned, there are big plans for 2020!

Enjoy, and thank you for your patience!

** ** **

Harvest Festivals are very big events in our region. There are 9 of them in a year, spread between northern & southern California (and 1 in Las Vegas). This highly successful series of events features handmade goods only (well, almost), and are scheduled in the key 4th quarter.

The costs are high, but the rewards can be very high as well. After initially planning to do several HFs this year, I eventually settled on doing just one, as all of the others had a conflict of some sort. Plus, I was pretty busy …

I did 2 Harvest Festivals in 2018. However, both were impacted by the Camp Fire, so they probably weren’t a perfect indicator of what I can do at a Harvest Festival. Still, the Sacramento event was very, very good for me in 2018.

Time to see if I can up my game a bit more with my almost “complete” product line, as I now define it!

New Ideas

  • My set-up is much like last year, with a double booth utilizing mesh walls hung from the Trimline frame without the canopy. No Mrs M: Harvest Festivals are 100% me.
  • New products this year include Cheese Slicers, Garlic Dipping Boards and Cracker Things.
  • Last year, the guidance for how to sell at this event from the promoter got me to thinking, and I tried – but failed – to produce engraved price signage for all products. This year, that is complete, with price signage for everything from Carnivore Boards to Bread Saws to Cribbage Boards. Look at the booth shots, below, and you’ll see the little wooden signs on every table I have.
  • Some larger display pieces now have signs integrated, such as the pieces for Surfboards and Large Serving Pieces. My signage is now better.

Observations

  • Big ideas require a time commitment. Set up is on Thursday, the event is Friday – Sunday (with tear down), and then I drive home on Monday. That’s 5 hotel nights, Wednesday – Monday. Some scrimp on the hotel cost by driving Sunday night after working a full day, or arriving later on set up day, but that’s not how I roll. Go big or stay home, if you will.
  • Several products are missing this year: Magic Bottle Openers, Serving Trays, Sous Chef boards and California Bears. Not having California Bears while in the state capitol … is a bad plan. I’ve been out of MBOs all year, and they used to be my #1 seller. Another bad plan.
  • I need more time in the shop.
  • Sold a charcuterie board to a guy that wants to mount a watchmaker’s lathe on it and hang it on the wall as a display piece. Well, OK, then.
  • Friday started hot and stayed hot. Lots of traffic on this work day in November. Sales were over $2,500 on this day, and that’s rare air for me. Rumor was that Friday attendance (you have to pay to get into a HF) set a new record.
  • Saturday got better, as you would expect. I got ‘whelmed several times. When people are 3 deep with product in their hands, waiting on me to wrap and do the transaction … life is good.
  • Sold 2 Foodie definition signs to one person. Don’t know them … but I bet they eat well.
CNC Sign 19 – 732 Foodie
  • Put up the unique In This House sign I made from Red Oak and Sapele, and it sold very quickly once it was out of the container. Hmmmmm.
CNC Sign 19 – 713 In This House
  • There was a lot more traffic on this day, but there were a lot of requests for discounts, too. I don’t get offended when people ask for a discount … but I don’t change my prices, either. It wouldn’t be fair to all of the people that pay the published price. Shows like this are not swap meets; people may expect to haggle, but I will not oblige them. My prices don’t change.
  • Cracker Things are the odd thing I’ve added this year, and they continue to surprise me with how popular they are. I hear the words over and over: CTs are “cute” and “clever.” I’ll take that for the win.
  • Now I have to come up with another cute & clever idea for 2020. No pressure.
  • Sunday sales fell precipitously, but this event delivered in a serious way. For the first time ever, I sold 100 pieces at a single event.
  • 100 pieces. I bring about 300 pieces to most events … so that means I sold about 30% of my total inventory in Sacramento.
  • Oh, and our biggest event of the year for each of the last 5 years is in 2 weeks! I have a LOT of product to make in that time.
  • But, that pressure was for another day. As I added up the results, there was a smile on my face. A big smile.

Best. Solo. Event. Ever.

  • And, as I write this in 2020, I know one more thing:

Best. Event. In. 2019.

  • I certainly plan to do more Harvest Festivals in 2020!

The Food

  • Best Meal: Nope. Given the other costs I had for this event, I did my best to stay in the hotel room and eat frozen food from the microwave.
  • Best Meal: After finding how bad traffic was to get to the grocery store from my hotel, though, I definitely tried Uber Eats delivery. It was easy. It had a convenience cost, but it was worth it. After a full day of fun in my booth, I was tired!

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 754
  • Booth cost: $1,590
  • Food cost: $182
  • Travel cost: $508
  • Total sales: $6,019
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1
  • # soap & lotion vendors: Several. This is a very competitive marketplace. Very competitive.
  • # woodworking vendors: See the above comment. Lots of woodworkers are here.
  • Returning next year? Absolutely, and I intend to be cute and clever, too.

Boards sold: 100

  • Cheese Boards: 11
  • Trivets: 19
  • Charcuterie Board: 1
  • Signs: 11
  • Cribbage Boards: 5
  • Cutting Boards: 5
  • Cheese Slicers: 9
  • Lazy Susans: 6
  • Coaster Sets: 2
  • Bread Saws: 3
  • Small Boards: 4
  • Hearts: 2
  • Cracker Things: 15
  • Surfboards: 2
  • Garlic Dipping Boards: 4
  • Serving Piece: 1

The Board Chronicles: Santa’s Art Shop 2019   2 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.

** ** **

A note about my absence. After a few months of getting more and more behind … I am ALMOST caught up. After this post … one more to go.

Thank you for your patience!

** ** **

Ridgecrest, CA. Santa’s Art Shop. Year 6.

For each of the last 5 years, this event was our biggest event of the year.

For each of the last 5 years, we set a sales record at this event.

Every year: Best. Event. Ever.

Every year.

Let that sink in for a moment.

It was time for year 6, 12/7 & 8/2019.

No pressure.

New Ideas

  • Nope, this was not new territory. After 5 years, we knew what we were doing. I did have several new products: Cheese Slicers. Cracker Things. Garlic Dipping Boards. But, we had legacy clients and they knew where to find us at Santa’s Art Shop.

Observations

  • This event began with me freaking out.
  • Thank GOODNESS I have friends.
  • A good friend.
  • You’ve heard the story of my Garlic Dipping Boards: how I collaborate with Nicole, who makes my Great Garlic Graters. We told Nicole about this event, and she decided that she wanted to play.
  • She told the promoter that she wanted to be next to Mrs M’s Handmade. The promoter – who was new this year – told Nicole that we weren’t signed up.
  • It was Black Friday, November 29. The promoter told our friend that we weren’t signed up FOR OUR BIGGEST EVENT OF EVERY YEAR.
  • EVERY. YEAR.
  • OK, go.
  • Freaking out.
  • Me.
  • What happened? I have no idea. How did the promoter not have our application? No idea.
  • No.
  • Idea.
  • Managing Mrs M’s Handmade – and Mr M’s Woodshop – is a big job. To keep track of the details, I keep a spreadsheet of every event on our radar.
  • Every event.
  • I have promoter contact information. Websites. Costs. Descriptions. Comments. Dates. And, I keep track of whether or not we’ve approved the event for this year’s calendar (Mrs M and I), if the application is in, and if we’ve received approval.
  • The spreadsheet said that the application was in.
  • Honest.
  • Unfortunately, the promoter didn’t have the application, and the NEW PROMOTER THIS YEAR did not reach out to us to ask why we were missing after 5 years of faithful vending.
  • What did happen, though, was that my friend Nicole’s application said she wanted to be next to our booth (bless her), so the promoter called Nicole … and told her we were not on the list.
  • Nicole did not accept that. Oh YES we were coming. YES we were a part of the event. And, YES, she wanted to be next to our booth.
  • Bless her.
  • And, in the end, it worked out just fine. I called the promoter at Nicole’s direction, the promoter accepted that we could be a part of the event if I would just submit (re-submit?) the application, and get the check in the mail.
  • Today.
  • I did. That day.
  • Now, in 20/20 hindsight … I don’t know what happened. Normally, I keep a copy of EVERY APPLICATION on file so I know what I’ve provided to each promoter. Every application. However, I know that when this application was due, my life was out of control and I remember not keeping a copy of a couple of applications. This one? No clue.
  • But, the spreadsheet said the application was in.
  • Unfortunately, the promoter gets a vote, too, and she said she never got it. I’m sure it’s my fault. Must be, right? But every event is different, and we do 25+ events every year. Some will talk to you, some don’t, some will NOT talk to you … and I’ve gotten into the habit of submitting my application and forgetting about it.
  • My mistake.
  • Thankfully, our 3 booths were still available (!), and we slid right back into that opening. After Thanksgiving. For an event on the first weekend in December.
  • Thank you, Nicole. Couldn’t have done it without you, obviously.
  • And, yes, paid for dinner at Mon Reve. It was wonderful, too.
  • This event is now about legacy, and we have many fans in Ridgecrest after 5 years. Thank goodness.
  • One customer did observe the sign above my head as I sat in the booth (“Meet The Maker”) and asked if I was the maker. Uh, yes. They wanted to make sure, as I might have been sitting in the wrong chair.
  • Uh, OK. Me = Maker. Be calm.
  • We were way, way down on Saturday. Almost 40% down. Was it the new promoter? No, I think not … perhaps it was the major earthquake that Ridgecrest had in 2019. People had to fix their homes, perhaps? In any event, we were down on Saturday. Way down.
  • This event finally – finally! – fixed it’s #1 problem. There was WiFi, which meant that PayPal transactions could be done in the metal building without me having to go outside to find a cell signal. It would have been great to get a heads up about this, but oh well. We had WiFi, and that made transactions SO much easier.
  • I have fans in Ridgecrest that buy something from me every year. That is so sweet, and so unexpected. Every time.
  • I have to work very hard to earn those accolades. Every time.
  • But, alas, we were down on Saturday. We were down on Sunday.
  • The streak is broken. This was not the best event of the year. This was not our best event ever. It was good, certainly, but not even in the Top 5 all time.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Mon Reve, a ridiculously good French restaurant on the edge of the Mojave desert.
  • Honorable Mention: Olvera’s, a traditional Mexican restaurant that is a good value for good food.
  • Honorable Mention 2: Kristi’s, a local “diner” that serves comfort food, every day. We had lunch on Friday and dinner on Sunday here; definitely good decisions.
  • Worst Meal: Fair food for our lunches was easy; we didn’t pack food for this trip. But to call the vendors at these events fair … well, that’s what they are. IMHO.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 270
  • Booth cost: $758
  • Food cost: $315
  • Travel cost: $368
  • Total sales: $4,439
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 3
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • # soap & lotion vendors: Several, as always
  • # woodworking vendors: Several, as always
  • Returning next year? Maybe. Probably. But, perhaps we should give it a rest….

Boards sold: 50

  • Cutting Boards: 5
  • Garlic Dipping Boards: 5
  • Surfboard: 1
  • Cheese Slicers: 8
  • Cracker Things: 7
  • Lazy Susans: 3
  • Trivets: 5
  • Cheese Boards: 5
  • Cribbage Boards: 2
  • Serving Pieces: 3
  • Bread Saws: 5
  • Card Box: 1