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The Board Chronicles: Hillside Farm’s Holiday Craft Fair 2017   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.

This spring, we had a good outing at the Hillside Farm Arts & Crafts Show. We were pleasantly surprised, and their holiday craft fair would be even better, we were told.

We like even better.

Their bigger event is the Holiday Craft Fair, and this year they are hosting their 33rd Annual.

There’s a downside, though: the event takes place over Thanksgiving Weekend, Friday – Sunday. There’s a 2nd weekend as well, but we’ll miss that to do Santa’s Art Shop the following weekend. Week 1 is supposed to be the best of the 2 weekends, we’re told.

And I get to spend another weekend in Norco. What’s not to like?

New Ideas

  • Mrs M had to work at her “job.” She said. So, I’m soloing with our normal double booth set-up. Me. Solo. At a big deal Holiday Craft Fair with lofty expectations. What could go wrong?
  • Since I’m solo, I have to set up both sides of the booth. Luckily, Hillside Farm will open their gates at 6am on Black Friday for me to setup for their event which starts at 10am.

Observations

  • Event # 9 of 15 in our 4th quarter.
  • I’m a lonely, lonely man.
  • I left shortly after 4am to arrive at the venue at about 5:40am. I backed the trailer into the best spot to unload from, and got to work.
  • I was still setting up at 9:30am, and realized that the trailer had to be moved to remote parking. I must have had a crazed look on my face. When I passed the booth for Sweet Spot Home Decor, Dalinda flagged me down and offered me water. “What’s wrong,” she asked? I explained I was on the hustle to move the trailer, and she kindly volunteered her husband to do the deed. I gave him the keys, and all was well. Thank you, Danny!
  • Vendors help each other, but this was above and beyond. Dalinda gets a gold star. One more thing I have to make….
  • Set up was over 4 hours. I’m pretty sure me doing a solo setup of our complete display is not a good idea.
  • I was very worried coming into this event about me handling all of the transactions solo. After all, we were expecting a holiday-crazed event. I strategized on how to do packaging quickly so I could keep up.
  • The event started well: a cutting board was my first sale. That’s usually an auspicious beginning. Unfortunately, that one board was the only sale on Friday from my side of the booth. Total sales on Friday disappointed.
  • As they did on Saturday.
  • As they did on Sunday.
  • A lady was talking to her friend in my booth. She said, “I just read an article about the 3 dirtiest things in your house. # 1 was your wooden cutting board. # 2 was a dog toy.” I never learned what # 3 was, as I interrupted her, told her that wooden cutting boards should be very clean if you washed them, and that wood was, in fact, naturally anti-bacterial.
  • People in my booth must not insult my work, or I will be aggressive and interrupt them. Every time.
  • Requests were for a tongue drum (another woodworker had them), a cribbage board with a holder for the pegs (sigh) and a large cutting board with a hole in it for hanging (nope).
  • Load out was more difficult than load in, as many vendors that were returning for the event the following weekend just left that canopies in place. That meant my 50′ trip to the trailer became 150′. That’s not too big of an inconvenience, though … booth tear down took 2 hours 20 minutes, but loading only took 40 minutes. I was on the road at 7:10pm. Luckily, I had no holiday traffic getting home, which was the best part of the weekend.
  • I know a couple of vendors left after Saturday due to poor sales. Not sure why this event didn’t work this year, but it did not live up to its reputation. Every vendor I talked to – and many vendors do this event every year – said their sales were significantly down this year. Maybe it’s no fun to do Christmas shopping at an outdoor holiday boutique in 90* temperatures. Ya think?

The Food: the worst

When I solo out of town, I seldom invest any effort in good food. To my detriment. The hotel in Corona was next to a restaurant called “Good Fellas,” and they had a great breakfast. Other than that … I didn’t have much good food. I even skipped a meal, which I never do.

When I returned home Sunday evening, I had Thanksgiving leftovers. And bourbon. All was well. Again.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 236
  • Booth cost: $330
  • Food cost: $100
  • Travel cost: $318
  • Total sales: $1,222
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $474
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: many
  • Saturday alarm: nope
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 38. Let’s me be very clear: I could keep up with that level of business, even solo. I was never close to being ‘whelmed. Unfortunately.
  • # soap & lotion vendors: several. Though none offered the complete line that we have, there were easily 6 other vendors that offered part of what we did. That’s too many for an event of this size, IMHO.
  • # woodworking vendors: several. There were 4 woodworkers that sold cutting boards at this event, though each had different offerings, of course. 3 different woodworkers had Lazy Susans. It was unusually crowded in my category.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 8:1
  • Returning next year? Nope.

Boards sold: 9

Lazy Susans: 3

Magic Bottle Openers: 3

Cutting Board: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Trivet: 1

The Board Chronicles: Hillside Farm Arts & Crafts Show 2017   1 comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

We found this event the best way: networking. My good vendor pal Dalinda told me this was one of her favorite events, so we signed up.

If she’s wrong, I will have to extract my revenge. After all, this is our first foray into Riverside County to do an event … who’s actually been to Norco, anyway? I’ve only been there once, to help Christopher buy a truck. Other than that … nope.

Google tells me this is an 87 mile drive, and I’m going to be doing it 4 times. Lovely.

New Ideas

  • Mrs M had been off playing at the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild annual convention in Las Vegas earlier this week, so she has to work Friday. That means I’m driving to the event, setting up solo, and then driving back home on Friday evening through the Friday commuter chaos. Saturday, we’ll get up at O dark :30 to go set up for the event’s 9am start.

Observations

  • This is our Spring Fling’s event # 3 of 7. Miles to go before we sleep. 87 miles one way, this weekend … and Memorial Day Weekend will be farther. Miles to go before we sleep.
  • It’s always an adventure when you pull into a new event site and know nothin’ ’bout nothin’. All was good; these are good people. Many of the vendors have been doing this twice yearly event (the weekend before Mother’s Day in the spring, and Thanksgiving weekend and the first weekend of December for the holidays) for a long time.
  • Set-up was uneventful, once I got the trailer backed in. I didn’t do it well, and the men that live in this horsey community definitely noticed. And commented. One said, “You never owned a boat, huh?”
  • Nope.
  • Lots of woodworkers here, though none are as single-minded as I am. I’m very comfortable being “the cutting board guy.” Another vendor commented that he had more than just bread boards.
  • And he did. As Hamm said in Beckett’s Endgame (say it with me), “Each to their own speciality.”
  • Many customers assumed that I was the guy they bought a board from last year at this event (I’m not). One couple came to me, upset that their board had warped. I gave them the “some other guy did it” explanation, and then told them why their board did what it did. I showed them my thinnest cutting board with bread board ends to ensure it didn’t warp. They left frustrated they bought a board from some other guy.
  • Things you don’t see every day: a lady walked by the booth, and kissed the chicken she was carrying. Live chicken. Kissed.
  • Lots of vendors at this community event – 74, to be exact. That’s too many for this event’s traffic, IMHO. We did OK, but not great on Saturday.
  • We had time to go walk about on Sunday, and we always introduce ourselves to vendors that do what we do. I met all of the woodworkers, and they were a nice bunch. We all do something different, and I enjoy encouraging my peers by recognizing their good work. I will note that I try to visit their booths, and only 1 visited my booth.
  • Mrs M did the same thing, and had a rather unpleasant conversation with a long-time soaper at this event. This other soaper was, uh, marking her territory when she talked to Mrs M. This other vendor lied about the science involved and was rather imperial in her attitude as an obviously accomplished soaper. In her mind.
  • Good thing Mrs M hadn’t visited her website yet to see the medical claims and outright falsehoods that are included there. Best practices of soap making were clearly being ignored in addition to the flouting of the FDA regulations. We’ll always have snake oil salespeople, it seems. It’s a pity they have to act like the snakes that they are.
  • I think I was madder about it than Mrs M.
  • Sunday, there was a forecast for thunderstorms throughout the day (yikes!). Luckily, that did not happen, but the downpour did arrive shortly after the event closed at 4pm Sunday. We got drenched for about an hour, and then the sky cleared and we were able to quickly load the trailer. We don’t think that we lost any product to the wet … well, except for one monkey that escaped from the zoo and was later found, face down in a puddle, drowned.

  • Requests were for a cribbage board, a top for an island, and a surfboard-shaped MBO.
  • Chess board sales: $0.

The Food: The Lost Weekend

Saturday Breakfast: Bagel & cream cheese at home. Yum.

Saturday Lunch: A hot dog, which came from a high school group that was doing a fundraiser selling lunch. Somehow, they managed to get the hot dog bun both soggy and crunchy. Not recommended.

Saturday Snack: Some fabulous soft molasses, ginger bread cookies. Warm from the oven. Fabulous.

Saturday Dinner: We went to Con Amore Ristorante in Corona, which had absolutely rave reviews on Yelp and Google. Many, many reviews with an average of 4-1/2 stars. We were seated quickly, and that’s the only good thing that happened. Velda wrote a Yelp review giving it one star (only because they require one star. You can’t give a review zero stars). She had a pesto gnocchi, and it was truly tasteless. She swears that the warm bread (or was it stale?) was served with a canola/olive oil blend, not true EVOO. And when her flavor analyzer says it, I trust it. Interestingly, the owner of Con Amore messaged her within 3 hours of her review posting, citing a personnel problem resulting in him being alone in the kitchen on a Saturday night (!) and offering a free meal for us to go back … not going to happen.

Sunday Breakfast: We stayed at Corona’s Holiday Inn Express, and Sunday’s breakfast was the dreaded plastic cheese omelette. Velda intervened: an English muffin, pork sausage, an omelette and mayo made a much better sandwich. It was like I was on a Cub Scout campout again. It was definitely good for the pork and mayo to hide the taste of plastic. Almost.

Sunday Lunch: We switched to burgers from the Chuck Wagon fundraiser, and they were better … though Velda fetched the meal this day, and didn’t remember that burgers taste better with ketchup and mustard. Oh well…. At least they were better than the hot dogs.

Sunday Snack: More cookies, saved from yesterday. Still fabulous.

Sunday Dinner: We went to Wolf Creek – that is open until 9:30p on Sundays! That’s an important find for us. I had the sun-dried tomato pasta with chicken, whatever they call it. Best meal of the weekend, and it wasn’t close.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 342
  • Booth cost: $220
  • Food cost: $123
  • Travel cost: $179
  • Total sales: $1,452
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $930
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 4:30a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 28
  • # soap & lotion vendors: several – 5 soapers; a couple of people with other skin care products. Please note that if medical treatments for acne or eczema are offered, don’t buy their soap!
  • # woodworking vendors: 5 or so. 3 turners, a scroll saw artist; a couple that made toys. Several sign makers, of course. One guy made cheese boards and handled cutting boards with juice grooves (that’s a thing?).
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 6:3
  • Returning next year? For the holiday event, it’s our plan. For next spring … we’ll see, but probably. We think it’ll take a while to become part of the in-crowd of vendors here.

Boards sold: 9

Magic Bottle Openers: 3

Large Cutting Boards: 2

Cutting Boards: 1

Letter-sized Clip Board: 1

Large Sous Chef Board: 1

Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

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