Archive for the ‘Big Hat Days’ Tag

The Board Chronicles: Big Hat Days 2018   3 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.

April is a big month for our family: 2 birthdays for the granddaughters are in April. That means events take 2nd place to them.

As they should.

We did Big Hat Days when we were babies, way back in 2015. We had a single booth and no clue. At the time, that event was our Best. Event. Ever. It wore that crown proudly for all of 7 days, until it was surpassed by our first time at the California Poppy Festival – another April event that we don’t get to do very often.

This year, we carefully planned with the other Mrs Mowry, and decided to do Big Hat Days on the weekend between the 2 girls’ birthdays.

When a birthday party eventually got scheduled.

I’m not bitter. But I was in Fresno to try and recreate our early success.

New Ideas

  • The most different thing about this event was that the Lady & I obsessed over checking the weather. We were both checking the weather multiple times a day leading up to our trek north. Rain was forecast for Friday & Saturday. It was pretty clear we were in for it.

Observations

  • Event # 2 of 10 of the 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • Our 6th event of the year … and 5 of those have been wet. I’m done with rain. Please.
  • This large vendor event (500 vendors!) takes place on a main street in “Old Downtown Clovis.” It’s full of what we, in a nice moment, call buy & sell vendors that are re-selling imported items for a few dollars. In the vernacular, we call it Chinese S***.
  • It is. When an event gets to where almost every booth seems like it’s offering imported goods for less than $10, then the event is probably not a good one for us. On the other hand, there is SO much traffic at this event (30,000+ I am sure), you’d think success would be there, even for vendors of handmade luxury items.
  • And then rain happened.
  • Load-in was at 5:30am. We just about got both canopies up when the rain started. I was wet until the rain stopped 7 hours later.
  • Wet & miserable.
  • We bought a new canopy to replace them one crushed by the Flying Dry Soup Canopy, but we decided to use the old top to see if we could get some use out of it. We could … and learned the difference between waterproof and water resistant. Both canopy tops are about 7 months old, and they did repel water. Unfortunately, there was enough falling from the sky that the fabric saturated and we had drips just about everywhere.
  • As we were setting up, I looked across the street to the vendor setting up his booth of wind spinners – made in China, naturally. He had a canopy of sorts, but all of his product was getting wet. He didn’t care. Made me think I was in the wrong business. Thankfully, sanity returned quickly.
  • There was really nothing to do but close the walls in a bit, move everything away from the walls as much as possible and just endure. Mrs M’s front corner, with the samples, was soaked. My back table with my biggest boards was soaked, too. Good thing I put rubber feet on them; they were up away from the table cloths.
  • We were on a city street, remember, so water ran from the crown down to the side of the street all day long. Everything on the ground was wet – all of the tablecloths were wicking up moisture. It. Was. Wet. Thankfully, we could set up away from the gutter.
  • Mrs M didn’t put out ZooSoapia because of the, uh, advanced humidity. I cut down on my display, too. In the end, I have a few boards that want to be resurfaced (really not a big thing), and Mrs M will have to launder all of the table cloths. But, honestly, we endured.
  • First sale of the event was from a guy I met at the Home & Garden Show a month ago; he came looking for me to buy his cutting board. In the rain.
  • There was still business to be had, thankfully, and even in the rain there were customers walking down the street eating ice cream. But, of course, the day was impacted by the rain and many, many people stayed home. We were far below our expectations. Far below our results from 2015.
  • Sometimes, it rains.
  • The rain stopped about 1p, and the crowd did grow until the end of the day. Sunday, the forecast was for clouds – but no rain – and we hoped for much bigger results.
  • Nope. We ended the event lower than we did in 2015. When we were babies in a single booth. This year, as drenched veterans in a double booth (twice as expensive) with some pride in our accomplishments, we were quite disappointed in the event. But, there’s nothing we can do about the rain, so all we can do is pack up, drive south … and prepare for our next event, which just happens to be in 2 weeks, right back in Fresno.
  • Sold the chaos board recently chronicled as the 300th Cutting Board, 2nd Time ‘Round. It sold on the 2nd day I showed it, and it had already been touched by oh so many people that walked by and had to feel it. Thank goodness I have a 4 more boards with a similar design on the way….
  • Requests were for an ocean-themed cutting board (you know, like a starfish. HUH?), a grill cleaner (that’s a first), knife blocks (2x, but no) and a backgammon set (nope).

The Food

  • Best Meal: We stayed in an AirBnB cottage behind the owner’s home that was really quite lovely. Mrs M planned our meals so we could eat in and save money, thankfully. Meals came from the fridge & freezer, so you ask me to choose between Velda’s Chicken Piccata (leftovers) and Velda’s Spaghetti (from the freezer). Not going to happen. Both were excellent, as always.
  • Worst Meal: It’s sacrilege, I know, but lunch on the road at the Arvin Black Bear Diner was not satisfying. Too much steam table, not enough comfort food. Should’ve had the omelette.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 412
  • Booth cost: $750
  • Food cost: $76 (we don’t count food brought from home)
  • Travel cost: $414
  • Total sales: $1,561
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $321
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: none
  • Saturday alarm: 4:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 6a
  • # transactions: Not nearly enough.
  • # soap & lotion vendors: No clue.
  • # woodworking vendors: No clue.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 17:1
  • Returning next year? Maybe

Boards sold: 18

Coasters: 4

Trivets: 4

Magic Bottle Openers: 3

Cutting Boards: 2

Small Board: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

CNC Engraved Board: 1

Custom Order: 1

Soap Deck: 1

The Board Chronicles: Big Hat Days   7 comments

The Board Chronicles is a new 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.

big-hat-bannerThe Clovis, CA Chamber of Commerce sponsors Big Hat Days every April, and they claim attendance of over 100,000. There’s no doubt that the street was filled with people strolling through the 300+ booths offering everything from custom pocketknives to parasols to gourmet balsamic vinegar (guess which Velda bought?).

Big Hat DaysThe event is laid out in “Old Town” with most vendors lined up along several blocks that run north & south (so vendors either face west or east). We got an east-facing booth, which was good to keep the lotions out of the sun most of the day. In addition to the vendors, there were some carnival rides, a stage & adjacent beer garden I regret to have missed, a pony ride, petting zoo, pet adoption center….

This is a very big community event. Clovis must have decided that it needs to act like a big community, because it had an incredibly long list of people that Mrs M’s certificate of insurance had to name as additionally insured. I actually had to produce 3 different certificates, as their laundry list of names wouldn’t fit on a single form.

The vendor packet we received about 3 weeks in front of the event was large and full of rules. There were assigned set-up times, along with very specific routes for you to get in and get out of the event area. They used lots of capital letters and red ink. It was professionally done … and insistent that You. Will. Follow. The. Rules. They were very concerned that no vendor exceed their allotted space (our booth was a 10′ x 12′). I called to check, and was told I couldn’t bring our awning to provide shade if it stuck out beyond our 10×12.

Imagine my thoughts when I went walkabout on Sunday morning, and saw 3 vendors with awnings up.

Logo-300xMrs M and I went to the event with very high expectations: this was the farthest we had ever traveled to an event, and it was the highest booth fee we have ever paid.

What were we thinking?

We spent most of Saturday thinking “what have we done?!?” Sales were definitely below expectations, and FAR below our hopes. We weren’t over our booth cost until much, much later in the day than it should have been, we felt. Sunday turned out to be better, thankfully. By the time it was all over, this was our highest sales weekend ever: # 1 in our vast experience of 13 months as a vendor.

Note that this was not our highest profit event. Far from it, in fact, given the high booth cost, hotel and travel expense. We felt good that we were opening a new market, but there was definitely some sweat equity involved getting here. It was odd to be asked, “Are you local?” Our normal answer, “YES!”, had to change to “We’re from Santa Clarita, down by Magic Mountain. Just a couple of hours down the road.”

OK, three hours.

Good people in Clovis. We definitely enjoyed this event, and will consider returning in 2016. I doubt that we’ll increase the size of our booth, given the very high value that the Clovis Chamber of Commerce places on their space. We might opt to apply for section I, which is designated the Arts & Crafts area of the event. Unfortunately, that designation is only on the Chamber’s vendor map, as near as I can tell, and some of the vendors in that area were definitely not handmade.

New Products

  • Lip Scrub. Velda’s tried some recipes, and has settled on the one she likes. She thinks. Only problem is that her formula seems to gush oil that must arrive constantly through a warp from a parallel universe. In any event, more oil was weeping out of the containers than she ever put into them. The lip scrub containers wept all weekend, and every purchaser (there were several!) was warned to keep their container out of their purse and upright. Many labels were ruined, so the bottom layer of jars in one container – about a third of the product – could not be sold. Mrs. M needs to find some little self-sealing jars….
  • Mr-Ms-Logo-RTPig cutting boards. This product introduction was explained in an earlier blog, here. Bottom line: in spite of my best efforts, I’m back in the pig business.
  • Juice grooves. For the first time, I showed boards with juice grooves. The hard maple end grain with a juice groove was the # 1 Most Commented-on board at this show. And it didn’t sell. However, I did sell a custom, engraved board with juice groove based on that design.

Observations

  • Remember Magda in There’s Something About Mary? She was a senior citizen that was amazingly overtanned, and wore Barbie Doll pink lipstick, which glowed against her skin. Put that image together with the ‘fro’d out hair of Rosanne Rosannadanna, and you’ve got the vision I had walking down the street on Sunday. Obviously, Clovis can be a scary place.
  • Velda was frightened by the sizable man walking down the street in his white t-shirt … showing side boob through the arm hole. Vendors are people watchers; there’s a lot to see here. Sometimes, too much.
  • You can’t choose your neighbors, and ours were annoying. Again. On one side we had a long-time Clovis-based vendor that told us she didn’t have to follow the rules about staying inside the boundaries of her booth. And, she didn’t. On the other side, we had taser sales, so we heard “ZzzzzzT” every 30 seconds. All day long. The taser guy left after Saturday, and we had a guy hawking dried salsa spices on Sunday. He was a somewhat annoying hard sales type, but at least he didn’t make frightening noises every 30 seconds. All day long.
  • Here’s a note for all of the 19 year old young ladies that read the blog. When you go to Big Hat Days, don’t wear 4″ spike heels. Be kind to yourself. He’s really not worth it, trust me.
  • Variety is the spice of life … and proved to be important for board sales here. For the first time, I took 11 different styles or designs of boards to an event. That’s a good thing, because I sold at least one board from each of the 11 categories. I’ve already got the 12th and 13th styles in my head, thank goodness … and now I can’t stand to have them in my head another minute.
  • Strangest conversation of the weekend: discussing doing a deer’s head-shaped cutting board with a backwoods lady that whipped out her knife to show me the shape she would want. This conversation was prompted by the shapely pig cutting board … I hate being in the pig business.
  • I often say that if you sell the most expensive board on display, then it’s a good day. I did that – twice. It was a good weekend.
  • Three people asked to negotiate price on my boards. I declined the opportunity each time. Only one made the purchase anyway, and I’m totally fine with that.
  • The jerk of the weekend told me he knew about wood because he worked for some kind of landscaping company (you can’t make this stuff up). He told me that pine was the same as maple, that he knew the board I had marked for $35 wasn’t worth that, and he’d give me $20. Surprisingly, this young man didn’t buy anything from us. Oh, and Velda almost threw him out of the booth.

The Food

  • Friday Dinner: Carl’s Jr. on the road. I got the cod sandwich, which I won’t be doing again.
  • Saturday Breakfast: McDonald’s. I had # 4. I mean, wouldn’t you?
  • Saturday Lunch: Velda decided to go get lunch during the crush of food gathering by the tens of thousands of Big Hat people. She said she barely escaped with her life, and brought me fried fish and fried cheese. Our booth was busy with customers, thankfully, but I did manage to eat some fried stuff. After it got cold. Yuck.
  • Saturday Snack: Strawberries & Desert Topping. $7. Fabulous.
  • Saturday Dinner: El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant, Clovis. We followed their 4 star reviews on Yelp … to find very Americanized Mexican food. It was OK for tired vendors. But noteworthy? No chance.
  • Sunday Breakfast: Best meal of the trip. Holiday Inn Express Biscuits & Gravy. Mmmmm. Just us, the U16 girls traveling volleyball team, and some National Guard soldiers.
  • Sunday Lunch: Meat on a stick with garlic fries. Thank goodness it came with peppermints. Yes, we were immersed in the festival experience.
  • Sunday Snack: Gorilla Gurt … froyo, don’cha know. Served under a giant inflatable purple gorilla. (Marketing note: brand awareness is important.) They were out of chocolate, so I got strawberry/vanilla with blackberries, almonds & chocolate. Later, the truck’s mother bought lotion from Velda since we bought desert from her child. Serendipity.
  • Sunday Dinner: At home. 9:45pm. Cheese & stale crackers. Velda didn’t even use a cheese board. Sad times … but I did fix myself a bourbon on the rocks. So, good times. She also let me throw away the stale crackers we didn’t eat, so better times are ahead.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven, between our 2 cars: 803
  • Booth cost, 10×12 w/adjacent walkway (so, 2 sides open): $405
  • # of people we met from the producer, the Clovis Chamber of Commerce: 0
  • Total sales: $1,797
  • # containers of all products taken: 18 (the reason for 2 cars)
  • # boards available: 103
  • Saturday alarm: 5am
  • Sunday alarm: 6am
  • # transactions: 67 … 49 selling lotion
  • # soap vendors: 5
  • # lotion vendors: 4
  • # woodwork vendors: 4. There was a routed sign guy who couldn’t get out of bed to open on time Sunday morning (just sayin’). A very nice man named Grandpa Bob sold his unpainted wooden toys for $8 and up … and he far outsold my higher cost boards, he said. Highlight of his booth: a very large & prominent sign, saying: “I make these toys in my garage in Clovis, CA.” There was another guy (missed his name) selling custom baseball bats he made. I didn’t talk to him, because I think turners are crazy.
  • Edge grain v. end grain = 16:3

Here are some of my favorites that sold this week:

Boards sold: 19

  • Cheese Board: 4 *
  • Lazy Susan: 3 *
  • Surfboard: 2 *
  • Large Sous Chef: 2 *
  • Pig Board: 2 *
  • Small Sous Chef: 1
  • Large Cutting Board: 1
  • Small Board: 1
  • Custom Design: 1
  • Engraved Board: 1
  • Bread Board: 1 *

* sold my favorite piece in this category this weekend

Here's the Mrs M booth for 2015. Ready for business!

Here’s the Mrs M booth for 2015. Ready for business!

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