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The Board Chronicles: Montrose Arts & Crafts Festival 2019   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.

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A note about my absence. After a few months of getting more and more behind … I still haven’t caught up.

I will, just not today. In the interim, here’s the latest installment of The Board Chronicles for all of you that have been missing my missives.

Enjoy, and thank you for your patience!

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This event is one of those that every serious Southern California makers should do. That’s what we were told, anyway.

The event is held on the main street of nearby Montrose (near Pasadena, about 27 miles away from home). We’ve done it the 3 previous years; read about it here: 2016, 2017 and 2018. The event is always the first weekend in June; so this year it was June 1 & 2, 2019.

You’ll see that I have a love/hate relationship with the event. It’s an easy, sleep-in-my-own-bed kind of event. We’re in a good spot, we have great neighbors, and sales have been dependable in spite of the sometimes oppressive heat in June. We have lot of legacy customers that come to see us at this event. That’s a very good thing. On the other hand, results have not been stellar, though they have grown in each of the last 2 years.

What’s not to like?

New Ideas

  • No new ideas; we’ve been there & done, uh, this. Predictability can be a good thing, yes? Much nicer than driving into a strange town not knowing how to get to your booth. I share a 10×20 with Mrs M, so I only have a limited display.
  • There’s a new event organizer this year that promises stricter control of the offerings from the supposedly handmade vendors. We’ll see.


  • I had one of “those” people in the booth, who asked, “Can I get a custom sign in 2 days?”
  • Uh, no. Sorry.
  • Some people just don’t get me. That should be no surprise, I would guess.
  • This should be a good weekend: moderate temperatures. Legacy customers.
  • Except it wasn’t. Mrs M did fine, but my sales were the worst in 4 years. On Sunday, I (incredibly) only sold one board. Predicting the marketplace is always a dicey proposition. For some reason, the customers just didn’t find me this year.
  • It’s true that there are several competitors at this event, but that’s not new. There were no changes from last year, in fact. I think this was just not my year.
  • To make matters worse, we had our bag of mesh walls (that I hang my signs on) walk away from the event … and not in our trailer. The bag must have been stolen during our takedown; both Mrs M and I inspected our area after our booth was struck to ensure nothing was left behind … such as a 5′ long, bright white vinyl duffle.
  • Requests were for a backgammon board (still no) and a pizza server … which I’ve made before, but haven’t had for years. Hmmmm.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 112
  • Booth cost: $650
  • Food cost: $54
  • Total sales: $1,540
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there’s a bunch
  • # woodworking vendors: Several, including at least 4 other makers of cutting boards & such
  • Returning next year? Yes

Boards sold: 5

  • Cutting Boards: 2
  • Signs: 2
  • Heart: 1

The Board Chronicles: Montrose Arts & Craft Festival 2018   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.

How do people measure success?

My experience is that success is often a product of your own state of mind. If you thing that “X” is being a success, and you do “X,” then you think you are a success. In your mind. If you only do “X-1,” though, then you may feel that you failed.

It’s about what you think.

We had been highly recommended to do the Montrose Arts & Crafts Festival for 2 years before we finally got there. We’ve done the event twice now (2016, 2017), and it has proved to be a consistent event that’s slightly better than average for us.

Slightly better than average. That sounds marginal, doesn’t it? Who wants something “slightly” better than average?

However, average events are a good thing … it’s the below average events you want to avoid. This event has averaged over $2,100 in sales for us for the last 2 years, so we should be happy with that.

*Should be.*

Getting ready for the event this week, it was hard to work up much enthusiasm. I felt like I knew what we were doing, and it would be average. Hard to get excited about that, I found.

Success, you see, is all about what’s in your head. Could I fix that and enjoy Montrose?

New Ideas

  • This year’s event had rather temperate weather forecast, with Saturday in the 70s and Sunday in the mid-80s. That’s a refreshing change from the last 2 years which were both in the 90s – and 2 years ago visited triple digits. In spite of that, both years delivered … uh … slightly above average sales. Maybe we have an upside this year.


  • This is event # 9 of 10 in our 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • Drove right to the booth, and unloaded the trailer by 6:45a. The event starts at 10a, but you have walkers long before that, of course. We were ready.
  • Mrs M had a good day on Saturday. Consistent sales – much more than me. It’s a good thing someone had a good day … and the sales kept going. I finally had a multiple board purchase in the final hour (of course) that made my numbers more respectable. We ended up with our best 1 day total at this event in 3 years of experience.
  • “Slightly above average.” Humans plan, God laughs.
  • Due to the odd curation of this event, my booth is right across the street – perhaps 25′ away – from another woodworker that does similar pieces in a different style. We each have unique products, but we have many similar ones. He sent people to me for larger Lazy Susans; I sent people to him for smaller coasters. I don’t think either of us contributed sales to the other, but we are very collegial and friendly. Good people, but it’s still odd to be neighbors. Both of our customers commented on that odd placement all weekend long.
  • As they do each year.
  • We both like our locations, though – he’s at the end of a block in a highly visible “middle of the street” kind of location, and we’re under a giant tree that keeps our booth 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding booths. I’m also on a corner, next to a walkway that’s the best access to the neighborhood ice cream store. Win, win.
  • I am concerned about this event. It’s a nice community get together, but promotes itself as all handmade. There seems to be fewer handmade vendors each year. My neighbor sold clothing (the rack next to my booth had a sign: “Sale! Everything Under $10.”  There was also a dump bin selling flip flops. Handmade? Not so much.
  • A legacy customer from 2 years ago came by to pick up a board care kit. Back in the day, I made an end grain Bloodwood board they purchased, and they LOVE it. Those conversations are the best! Paradoxically, they only cut vegetables on their Bloodwood board, but they are adults. They get to choose.

Cutting Board 16 – End 004. A spectacular board in daylight when the wood flouresces. Jarrah & Bloodwood. End grain. 16″ x 21″ x 1-1/2″.

  • Sunday started slow, but did pick up right at the end, of course. Today it was 2 multiple board purchases at the end of the day, so my numbers ended OK. Mrs M had a good day, as well, with lots of legacy customers talking about how they came to the event just to find her. Sunday ended not better than Saturday, but we were both happy with the weekend in the end.
  • We were up 15% from prior year, with our best results ever for this event. So, our slightly above average event became … a little better.
  • Requests were for a tofu press, a backgammon board, a gravity-based locking towel holder, a stove-top board and … wait for it … chess pieces (on order).
  • We were packed & I was in the Jeep in 1 hour 49 minutes. It’s been a while since we were that quick; the Spring Fling has made us get better at what we do. I think. After all, what’s the alternative?
  • I sold 11 different items at this event, and 6 of those items were touched by the CNC. I’m going to call that a win for technology.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Dinner at the Grand Panda after a surprisingly good Saturday. This is the best Chinese restaurant in Santa Clarita, IMHO.
  • Worst Meal: We wanted a breakfast burrito from Jimmy Dean’s Sunday morning, but, alas, they don’t open until 7:30a and we had to be on the road. We had to settle, and it was disappointing.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 138
  • Booth cost: $650
  • Food cost: $118
  • Travel cost: $72
  • Total sales: $2,589
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,749
  • # 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: 6:00a
  • # transactions: 104
  • # soap & lotion vendors: at least 4
  • # woodworking vendors: 4 cutting board makers sellers, including 3 makers, I believe. Many other sellers of wood products.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain:  24:2
  • Returning next year? Almost certainly. We like above average events.

Boards sold: 26

Coaster: 10

CNC Plaques: 3

Hearts: 2

Medium Surfboards: 2

Small Board: 2

Cheese Board: 2

Trivet: 1

Cutting Board: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Clipboard: 1

Wine Bottle Coaster: 1


The Board Chronicles: Montrose Arts & Crafts Festival 2017   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.

45,000 people come to the Montrose Arts & Crafts Festival.

They say.

Last year may not have been a good representation, though, with temperatures soaring over 100*. We still had an OK outing, though (read about our 2016 event, here). And this year, the forecast is better, with the high on both days projected at 83. In addition, we have the coolest booth on the street, with a giant shade tree.

Maybe our patrons will linger in the coolness that is our booth.

Last year, this was one of our most expensive events ever. This year, that’s no longer the case. The vendor fees aren’t cheap ($650 for a double booth with an open aisle on one side), but we’ve definitely paid more. We’ve also had much better sales at other events. This year, we’re hoping to do better than last year – and if we do, it’ll be the first event this year at which we’ve done better than in 2016.

It’s the end of the Spring Fling … think we can gather some momentum and have a very nice event?

New Ideas

  • Back to our pop-up canopies this week; the early Saturday morning set-up has dissuaded us from doing the 10×20 Trimline canopy. It adds 30+ minutes to both the set up and the take down. It’s worth it … but when time is of the essence, we need to use the pop-ups.
  • I don’t like leaving the trailer parked on public streets, and this event does not provide any off-street parking. At all. So, I drove the empty trailer home Saturday night and then back to the event Sunday morning. Velda especially loves the rattling & bouncing of the empty trailer.


  • Spring Fling event # 7 of 7.
  • 7 events, 7 weeks.
  • Done.
  • Just like last year, I’m across the aisle – about 10′ away – from a direct competitor. Exotic Chopping Blocks is the company name, and the woodworker is Glenn. His style is very different from mine, though we do make some similar boards (cheese boards, especially). We’re really OK being in close proximity – we both like our current booth locations, so we’re not moving. Not ideal, but we’re both OK. We enjoy the camaraderie, for sure.
  • We both get comments, though: “Don’t you hate being right by that guy?” “Are you in business together?”
  • This event is in downtown Montrose, and there’s a lot of early/late walkthru traffic with people going to get a coffee, going out to eat, or going to the farmer’s market. That business outside of the published hours of the event is significant … I sold the last chess board before we “opened” at 10am Saturday.
  • Why do people touch a board, and then do a double tap on the surface with a finger? Are they verifying that the wood is an unyielding surface to a fingertip? I’ve seen so many people do this; it’s an odd human habit.
  • A mother and daughter were having fun looking at boards, choosing which big board they wanted. Eventually, the daughter said, “we’ll do this next year.” The healthy-looking mother said, “I might be dead next year.” The daughter walked away. The mom did return to the booth later, but didn’t buy. No clue what that human drama meant!
  • Saturday was down 20% from prior year. Not looking good….
  • Overheard: “I pocket dialed you? I don’t know how to do that. I’ve heard about it, but I don’t know how to do it.”
  • Standing in the booth, we heard a pop and then a loud “SSSSSS.” We looked at each other … what was that? Someone passing by the booth told us: a branch had broken off the tree, landed on the canopy above our heads, and then slid down the canopy roof into the gutter between the canopy where it stopped. Odd sound for a random occurrence!
  • Sunday picked up, thankfully, but still was short of last year’s “heat impacted” results. Is this just not that good of an event?
  • Tear down was at 5pm, and we started promptly.
  • A mom & 2 teenagers wandered by at 5:25pm:
    • She said: “I really like this board.”
    • Son said: “You should get it.”
    • I said: “I like your kids.”
    • She said: “Do you have anything in Walnut?”
    • I said: “I do. Here’s a Cheese & Cracker Server in pure Black Walnut.”
    • Daughter said: “You should get it.”
    • I said: “I really like your kids.”
    • Everyone smiled.
  • She bought the Black Walnut Cheese & Cracker Server, plus a couple of soaps for the kids. That $92 walk-up transaction with a lady that had no idea the event was happening, over 30 minutes after the event “closed,” put us over the top. For the first time this year at a repeated event, we beat last year’s number! But, even better, by an eyelash ….

Best. Spring. Fling. Ever.

  • Requests were for a fleur de lis-shaped board, a board with plastic cutting board inserts, a cheese & cracker server with a larger glass dome, a board for cutting turkey (massive juice groove), a board with a meat hook to easily flip meat over (huh?), a big lazy Susan/compartmentalized serving piece and another request for a board with an over-sized juice groove. Oh, and the # 1 requested item? Yup. Chess boards.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Jack In The Box # 23. I’m moving JITB off of my approved list for breakfast.

Saturday Lunch: Velda’s cheese & cracker plate, with a fruity assist from our friend, Jan.

Saturday Snack: Nope

Saturday Dinner: A chicken burrito at Margaritas, still our go to for Mexican food in SCV

Sunday Breakfast: Hello, old friend.

Sunday Lunch: Soupy pizza from the joint down the street … easy, but very disappointing.

Sunday Snack: Paradis ice cream. Yum. There’s another reason why we like this booth location!

Sunday Dinner: Chicken Parm at the best Italian restaurant in the SCV: Bella Cucina.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 140
  • Booth cost: $650
  • Food cost: $227
  • Travel cost: $73
  • Total sales: $2,150
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $ 1,127
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1
  • Saturday alarm: 4:30a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 35+
  • # soap & lotion vendors: Several, though none had the range of products that Mrs M offers. Together, though, there were many competitors
  • # woodworking vendors: Several, including 1 cutting board maker … and, I believe, 1 cutting board importer at this “exclusively” handmade event
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 9:0
  • Returning next year? Probably.

Boards sold: 20

Magic Bottle Openers: 6

Lazy Susans: 3

Cheese Boards: 3

Cheese & Cracker Servers: 2

Cutting Board: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Small Surfboard: 1

Medium Surfboard: 1

Wine Bottle Holder: 1

Chess Board: 1

The Board Chronicles: Montrose Arts & Crafts Festival 2016   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.

Montrose Arts & Crafts Festival“You’re not doing Montrose?” “Oh, you should do Montrose.” “You’d like Montrose.” “You’d do great at Montrose.”

We started hearing about the event almost 2 years ago, when we missed it in our first year. When we announced we weren’t doing it last year, we heard the above comments from many, many vendors.

Apparently, the Montrose Arts & Crafts Festival is a big deal, and we need to be there. We would do very well there, we were told. Very. Well.

And thus, our expectations were set high for this all-handmade craft event. We’ve had a very successful Spring Fling, though, so I worked very hard to have extremely reasonable expectations for this event. But, you know the story … expectations can kill you.

And we had them.

300 vendors are promised over 25,000 in attendance to support one of the largest pop-up craft fairs for handmade goods in Southern California. It’s the 33rd annual this year, and Mrs M and I were working well into the night for many nights to get our inventory back in shape for these teeming masses that would, apparently, be clamoring for our handmade goods.

Never one to miss a good clamor, we were all in.

New Ideas

  • Little Girl joined Mr & Mrs M for the event. We rarely take 3 people to events anymore, but we re-arranged schedules to have Little Girl with us. We needed the help. We hoped.
  • Mrs M has a new logo prominently displayed! This board was engraved by Teri at Lavene & Company, as all of my boards are. Funny story: I had asked for the piece to be hand painted so it would match the logo exactly, and Teri agreed. Her youngest heard about the project, and insisted that she be the one to paint it. She didn’t trust Mom to do it right. Ah, youth. The results, however, were perfect.

Booth 4 - Mrs M Logo Sign

  • Mrs M also has a new engraved price list. Parenthetically, after this piece was engraved, it only took Mrs M 2 days to begin discussing a price increase. She may not be understanding the whole “engraved in wood” concept.

Booth 4 - Mrs M Price List

  • Chess boards are back!
  • Small & medium-sized surfboards are back!


  • Spring Fling #8 of 8. Thank goodness it’s over. I’m all flung out.
  • Picked up the rental trailer on Friday only to discover that I had done the reservation wrong. I had reserved an open trailer, not a cargo trailer … and they didn’t have any 5×8 cargo trailers for me. Yikes! So, I had to rent a 6×12 cargo trailer, which in the end, was a $50 mistake. And, no, I didn’t like pulling this larger, dual axle trailer. I don’t enjoy pulling the 5×8, so I certainly didn’t like pulling its big brother!
  • After working far too many hours on too few days preparing inventory for this event, I was exhausted Saturday morning as we set up the booth. But then, this event requires a Saturday morning set-up, followed by the event that goes until 6pm. So, yes, we were exhausted.
  • Good news, though: I had a lot to set up. I took my inventory from 85 boards at the end of our very successful Strawberry Festival to a new total of 160 boards at this event. I understand why I was tired … but I was prepared for the clamor.
  • Between our booth and the sidewalk behind us, there was a planting bed filled with 5′ high Hula Girl Hibiscus! You can see the flowers in the background of the pictures of Mrs M’s booth, below. Love that plant, just wish mine could grow that tall and bloom that well before it froze. Again.
  • Little Girl proved that today’s smartphone is many things beyond a cellphone … like a video mirror to help her complete necessary show prep:

Montrose Beauty

  • As much as I’m happy to have chess boards & surfboards back on display, I am sad that I’m short on clipboards, sous chef boards and pigs. No bears at all at this point. (sigh)
  • Once we were well into the set up, we noticed that our across-the-street neighbor, located directly across from me … was the cutting board guy from nearby Glendale. I had expected him to be here … but not directly across the street.
  • However, we had a great location under one of the largest trees on the street. Our booth was 10* cooler than the surrounding area.
  • Because 2 cutting board displays were adjacent, both Glenn (the other woodworker) and I were asked by customers if we were connected … or just really angry that we were adjacent. The answer was always no. Glenn’s a good guy; his daughter was also helping him in his booth. We chatted back & forth, sharing tips and frustrations. Some of our items were similar (cheese boards, small cutting boards), but our styles are entirely different. We both had several items the other did not offer (he doesn’t make pig cutting boards. Can you believe it?) The close locations were not ideal, IMHO, but it happens sometimes. Mrs M was right next door to a lotion maker at an event last year. I believe it’s bad form for the organizers, but wha’chagonnado?
  • Hot weather was expected for Saturday, with a high in the 90s. When the thermometer is doing that, there’s not much to do except sit there and sweat. Which is what we did on Saturday, and the flow of customers largely disappeared by 3pm. There’s always Sunday. We hoped. We were here for the clamor.
  • Since there were few customers, I could go walkabout on Saturday to see the sights and visit friends. I was surprised how many booths were showing products that were not artist-made handmade goods. The rules for this event are very clear that the artist that signed the application had to make the products that would be offered for sale (pictures of the studio with the artist and products in process were required!), and that the artist would be on site at the event. Be clear, it was a small percentage of vendors that were non-compliant, probably under 10% … but it was still immediately noticeable to anyone that knows the difference. Which, apparently, does not include the event organizers.
  • I am not a fan of the curation of this event.
  • Great to have chess boards back … but now my # 1 request is for chess pieces. Dammit.
  • With business slow on Saturday, we let Little Girl have a life not in the heat with us on Sunday. It didn’t seem like we needed the extra help, unfortunately.
  • And, we didn’t.
  • Cooler temperatures were promised for Sunday, and we had cloudy skies through the morning, thank goodness. The temperature was much cooler all day – with a light breeze keeping everyone cool, as well. Sunday was a great day to be outside, and sales for us were better on Sunday.
  • Requests included animal shapes (“I have a pig. Don’t you have anything else?”), chess pieces, backgammon boards, a towel rack, a Chinese checker board and a cutting board with a movable edge to catch rolling veggies from rolling off.
  • Mrs M went walkabout a few times during the event as well. One time, while she was gone, a lady in front of Mrs M’s display looked over to me (standing about 4′ away) and said, “Do you work in this department?” Now, I knew that Mr M’s Woodshop was a subsidiary of Mrs M’s Handmade; I just didn’t know we had departments.
  • This is an expensive event – the second highest booth fee we’ve ever paid, in fact. The event was profitable, but with the hot weather on Saturday, the event never fully recovered.
  • Any day is a good day when you sell the most expensive board on the table, which I did. Sunday was a good day … but not a great day. The event was OK, but did not come close to our expectations – even those that I struggled to keep low.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: McDonald’s # 4. Options are limited at 5am.

Saturday Lunch: Mrs M’s sumptuous cheese & cracker platter

Montrose Lunch

Saturday Snack: Chocolate ice cream from the Paradis ice cream shop right behind our booth. Downtown locations do have advantages.

Saturday Dinner: Marston’s linguine. Cheesey, creamy goodness.

Sunday Breakfast: Jimmy Dean’s Junior breakfast burrito with a side of hash browns.

Sunday Lunch: Cheese & crackers, take 2, with our good friend & neighbor Jan supplying Ranier Cherries, to boot. Yum.

Sunday Snack: Chocolate ice cream, take 2. Of course.

Sunday Dinner: Leftovers … because by the time I had the trailer unloaded, it was 9pm and the limited options weren’t enticing enough to get Mrs M back out of the house.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 140
  • Booth cost: $650
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • Total sales: $2,143
  • # containers of product taken: all of them
  • # boards available: all of them … which translates to 160
  • Saturday alarm: 4:20am
  • Sunday alarm: 6:20am
  • # transactions: 65
  • # soap & lotion vendors: many of them, and several had most of the products that Mrs M offers. She did very well though … complete with customers returning on Sunday to buy more of what worked so well for them on Saturday.
  • # woodworking vendors: many of them, including 2 turners, a furniture maker and a couple of cutting board makers
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 12:3
  • Returning next year? Yes

Boards sold: 15

Magic Bottle Opener: 4

Small Surfboards: 3

Large Cutting Boards: 2

Cutting Boards: 1

Cheese Boards: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Large Sous Chef Board: 1

Small Sous Chef Board: 1

Medium Surfboards: 1


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