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..
You know I love local. Quartz Hill is a community in the Antelope Valley, about 45 minutes north of us.
When we do this event, we stay with our two granddaughters, so this event has about the best side benefits I can imagine.
In 2015, we had a 10×10 booth and sales of $1,291. Last year, it rained. Nothing to be done about that, and sales dropped to $879, in spite of our 10×20 booth and expanded product selection. This year, we have Mrs M’s purpose-built display. My inventory isn’t perfect (no chess boards!), but I have as good an array as I’ve ever had. We’re ready for Quartz Hill.
- Mrs M’s soap will be at this event for the first time – hardly a new idea, really, but it should help us increase sales this year.
- Every year, there is confusion with load-in and booth placement. This year, I was on an end … then I wasn’t. There was plenty of room in the park, though (fewer vendors this year, for some reason), so it was a non-issue. There was plenty of room, and the atmosphere was very casual during set-up. Very casual.
- This is a community event in a county park. Local dance studios perform. Local bands perform. It’s all sponsored by the Quartz Hill Chamber of Commerce, so local businesses have booths, too. It’s all about the community.
- When the Quartz Hill queens & princesses came around handing out candy to the vendors as a thank you for supporting Quartz Hill, I was amazed. Can’t remember the last time a pre-teen gave me candy.
- And, of course, it’s cute when a little girl strolls through a park & gives me candy. Me strolling through a park & giving a little girl candy … not so much.
- Wine Bottle Holders were prominently displayed for the 2nd time, and for the 2nd time I had a senior citizen ask me if they are door stops.
- They are not.
- An artist’s work is so seldom understood.
- The fire marshal closed the vendor section early on Saturday, the last day of standard time. It was scheduled to be open until 7pm (which was way too late). As darkness descended, the fire marshal said to close the vendor area at 6:15pm so no one would be hurt in the darkness.
- Every vendor was complaining about the low traffic this year. The weather was glorious: over 80* each day. This was our first weekend this year with great SoCal weather, in fact … maybe the weather was too good? In any event, there were slow sales for everyone, it seemed.
- There is live music playing throughout the event, and 2 bands were noteworthy. Big Coyote sounded great this year, and happens to include one of our next door neighbor musicians as a guitarist & vocalist. Also sounding great was The Fulcos, a family act based in the AV. Both bands had excellent presentations, and even this critic enjoyed them. Good thing, as there wasn’t enough traffic to hold my attention.
- Requests from this event were for a kitchen island top (2x), a hope chest and, once again as the # 1 request … chess boards (of course).
- This is our 2nd event in a row where Sunday sales exceeded Saturday sales. No complaints … but has the world gone crazy?
- In the end, sales were a disappointment. We did not equal our 2015 sales – where we had much less product, and only a 10×10 booth. Our booth expenses have more than doubled, and sales did not increase. Perhaps we have saturated this event, and should give it a break next year? There aren’t that many good March events, however, and none allow us to spend time with the granddaughters except for this one. Much to think about before we schedule 2018.
Saturday Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese, brought from home.
Saturday Lunch: “Half a Polish,” he said. Of course, I’m not half Polish … I’m not half anything. I’m a mutt. “English, Irish, German, Dutch….”
Saturday Snack: A Twisted Spud. They look better than they taste, every time. Maybe I’ll learn someday.
Saturday Dinner: “Deconstructed cabbage rolls,” she said. Well, OK then. Tasted great.
Sunday Breakfast: See above.
Sunday Lunch: See above. I’m consistent.
Sunday Snack: Nope. I learn, too.
Sunday Dinner: A carnitas burrito from the local Mexican restaurant, La Cocina. And guacamole. And a Cadillac Margarita.
- Total miles driven: 226
- Booth cost: $255
- Food cost: $81
- Travel cost: $121
- Total sales: $1,264
- Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $807
- # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
- Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: Several, including 3 visits from 3 different people explaining to us the load-out procedure. I thought that was overkill. Been there, done that, and didn’t learn a thing.
- Saturday alarm: 6:15am
- Sunday alarm: nope
- # transactions: 70
- # soap & lotion vendors: Incredibly, just Mrs M. Maybe the soap fad is over?
- # woodworking vendors: Just me. No fad here.
- Edge grain vs. end grain: 10:1
- Returning next year? Maybe.
Boards sold: 11
Small Boards: 3
Magic Bottle Openers: 3
Cheese Boards: 2
Wine Bottle Holder: 1
Lazy Susan: 1
Cutting Board: 1
I am surprised, though, that many people see these bottle openers at an event, and don’t immediately appreciate the magic. I mean, I always display the MBOs with a vertical sample that has bottle caps stuck on it magically – held in mid-air against the forces of gravity.
I guess people might think those caps are glued in place, but that’s why I move them when I demonstrate the magic in the MBOs. At that point, I generally get a comment about how the MBO has an m-word in it … and I always correct the customer. Every customer.
They are MAGIC, thank you very much.
These 12x MBOs are double magic, in fact: not only will they catch your bottle caps, but they will also stick to your refrigerator, if it’s attractive. If your refrigerator isn’t attractive, though….
MBOs are approximately 5″ x 11″ x 3/4″. I use 5 different colors/styles of bottle openers, and all MBOs, even these “fridge mount” versions, are pre-drilled for wall mounting, if that’s your preference. I’ll even give you the longer screws needed to wall mount the MBO; you just remove the short screws that hold on the bottle opener, and replace them with the long screws to attach to your mounting surface.
Then you’re ready for the magic.
I now stock as many sizes as possible at each event. In my lexicon, cutting boards are:
- At least 12″ x 12″ x 7/8″
- Made with suitable hardwoods: “hard maple or its equivalent,” as the FDA regulations for commercial applications say. That’s the same regulation that most states copy into their regulations for commercial kitchens. Every cutting board that I make fulfills those requirements.
- Either edge grain or end grain
- Almost every cutting board has non-skid rubber feet, held on with stainless steel screws. I do make some 2-sided boards that don’t have feet, but those are generally smaller than my “cutting board minimum size,” above.
- Almost every cutting board has routed handholds for easy handling of the board. There are some exceptions, but those are generally special orders.
One of my challenges is to create an event display with enough cutting boards to show the breadth of my work, while still making it pretty. I struggle with those two conflicting goals … and there’s a new display and all new look for the booth just around the corner.
Meanwhile, here are the latest 7 boards to make it out of the shop.
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