Archive for the ‘Oxnard’ Tag

The Board Chronicles: California Strawberry Festival 2018   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.

We look forward to the California Strawberry Festival all year long. This will be our 4th trip to Oxnard; read about our past successes & frustrations here: 2017, 2016, 2015.

This year, the event has moved the handmade vendor section to the other side of the event: instead of being on Rose Avenue, we’re now located on a soccer field.

More on that later.

This event has a “hard gate:” you have to pay to get in. Once in, you can sample all manner of strawberry delights, including Mrs M’s favorite, Strawberry beer.

Will we survive the change in vendor location? Will we recover from our off year in 2017 and beat our record performance from 2016?

New Ideas

  • Because we’re not on Rose Avenue, vendors can’t drive up to their spaces to unload. Rather, they must park outside of the soccer field fence and hand cart in their display. Oh, and….
  • All vendors are required to use carts with pneumatic tires only. I’ve never seen that requirement put on vendors before. Our cart doesn’t qualify – nor does my booth display cart or the shelf unit that we transport Mrs M’s display in. I asked for permission to use them, and that was denied. Only pneumatic tires were allowed.
  • I set up on Friday, so we used our Trimline with the mesh walls. Hung on those walls, for the first time, are pictures of my cutting boards & serving pieces in action. Mrs M & I staged most of the photos, but a few were contributed by happy customers.

Observations

  • This is event # 7 of 10 in our 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • I bought a new cart with pneumatic tires, so load in proceeded OK. 10 trips in, 140 steps each way … so load in was roughly 14 times as hard as last year.
  • Yes. I counted.
  • While I counted steps, I also observed the other vendors to see what their cart tires were like. Unfortunately, I estimate only 10-20% of vendors were using appropriate carts.
  • A few vendors also used rolling carts in their booth, and not one had the appropriate tires.
  • In addition to the cart requirement, vendors were to mitigate damage to the turf by putting squares of carpet or wood between the turf and every point of contact the vendors put in place in their booth, including the canopy legs, product containers, display pieces, etc. I cut 80 squares of plywood so we would have enough for our double booth. Nearly every vendor did similar mitigation; I only saw one that didn’t.
  • Did the promoter do anything about the vendors that didn’t comply? Not in my experience. Did I get an apology because I bought a special cart, and didn’t use my rolling display pieces like the other vendors did? Nope.
  • I know I have a problem: I’m a black & white guy. I follow the rules, every time. When other vendors cheat the rules (you know, like artists always do!), I don’t know how to cope. I am very frustrated, though.
  • A lady rolled up to the booth in a wheel chair, pushed by her son. She stood, took off the cannula that was supplying her with oxygen, and walked into the booth to choose her cutting board. Her husband and son stayed on the outside of the booth while she made her choice. First time that has happened.
  • Another lady walked into the booth with her young daughter. She was Asian American, I thought … but perhaps not. She could not speak English, and her daughter was her translator. They looked at cutting boards, asked questions, and then eventually transitioned over to looking at Magic Bottle Openers. The non-English speaker touched every MBO, and opened bottles with most of them to make sure they worked! She found one she liked before I was out of bottle caps, fortunately.
  • A family with a very young daughter (4? 5?) walked into Mrs M’s booth, and the mother informed Mrs M that her daughter had stolen an animal from ZooSoapia, and had returned it. She was in the booth to formally apologize to Mrs M. Her parents stood there and made her get the words out before they would let the daughter leave the booth. Aggressive parenting, on display. Kudos.
  • We went to load out … and I discovered this:

Yes, our brand new cart with blow up tires … didn’t hold air for 2 days. 3 tires were flat after 2 days, and I had to borrow a cart to load out.

  • Requests included a board shaped like California (2x!), a backgammon board, a spoon rest and a smaller heart (who would want that?).
  • In the end, the relocation of the handmade vendor area to the soccer field was an improvement, I felt. The shopping experience was an improvement. It was a stroll across the grass, rather than a walk down the hard pavement. So, the result was good … but our sales were essentially flat to last year, which was a down year. This year, we were down again … by $29. Down 0.9%. Hard to be upset about that. But pleased? Nope.

The Food

  • Best Meal: We went to El Pescadero in Fillmore on our way home Saturday night, and it was a fabulous meal. Officially, this is the best Mexican restaurant we have found in our neighborhood. It’s better than any Mexican restaurant in Santa Clarita, without question.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 315
  • Booth cost: $780
  • Food cost: $30
  • Travel cost: $164
  • Total sales: $3,588
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $2,614
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: Several
  • Saturday alarm: Nope
  • Sunday alarm: Nope
  • # transactions: 155
  • # soap & lotion vendors: At least 5
  • # woodworking vendors: Several, but each offering was unique
  • Edge grain vs. end grain:  27:2
  • Returning next year? Yes

Boards sold: 29

Trivets: 7

Cutting Board: 4

Coasters: 4

Pig Cutting Boards: 2

Magic Bottle Openers: 2

Cheese Boards: 2

Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Bear: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Small Boards: 1

Coaster Holder (with no Coasters): 1

Custom Order: 1

CNC Plaque: 1

 

My 15 Minutes Of Fame   4 comments

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been selected to appear on LA’s top rated TV morning show on KTLA, Channel 5.

This Friday, 5/19, the show will be on location from the California Strawberry Festival’s site in Oxnard, and I’m one of two artists selected to appear on the show and talk about what we do.

I don’t know exactly when, of course, but I’m told that the segments are projected at about half past 6am and “in the 9 o’clock hour.” Here’s the link:

Watch KTLA Channel 5 News Live

And it’s all in celebration of my favorite fruit!

The Board Chronicles: California Strawberry Festival 2016   8 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.

headerIt’s one of the top festivals in the nation, according to the organizers.

250+ vendors. A carnival. Unending strawberry delights … sold by local charities. Over $4,500,000 has been raised at this event for those charities during its history. Expected attendance of 55,000.

And, it all happens about an hour from our house.

You bet we’re in.

Last year, we had unspectacular results (see The Board Chronicles: California Strawberry Festival for the 2015 summary), but with 20/20 hindsight, I’m sure we didn’t bring our “A” game. Since this event celebrates my favorite fruit, it’s time to step it up and make something happen.

New Ideas

  • Last year, this was one of our last 10×10 booths before we began doing 10×20 booths everywhere. Always. To see our sad little booth last year, see How Far We’ve Come.
  • The Lady had to “work” at her “job” so Little Girl & I did this one together. Wait. That’s not a new idea.
  • Doing food at this event last year was crazy. Long, long lines. 30 minute waits. We brought our food from home this year. Mrs M wasn’t there to do her great cheese platters, but we survived.

Observations

  • Spring Fling event # 7 of 8. I love that I can see the end.
  • I took Friday off just to go do the set-up, which always seems difficult at this event.
  • Wind. Blows.
  • Be prepared for a major production here. The event is HUGE, with an entrance fee, shuttle buses, a carnival, corporate sponsors, wacky strawberry contests….
  • I had a new direct competitor! A professional, full-time woodworker from Sacramento was at the event, and his offering was very similar to my own. His boards were artfully made and very attractive. They seemed to be a bit smaller than mine, but he had a nice looking booth & a great inventory. He and his wife were very friendly when I introduced myself.
  • Direct. Competitor.
  • Hope I brought my “A” game.
  • Little Girl continued her tradition of painting her toes before the event starts. Ah, tradition.
  • Gates opened at 10am. We were ‘whelmed by 10:30am. Not overwhelmed, mind you, but we were ‘whelmed. I lost my tally of sales almost immediately. Simply too busy to know what was going on.
  • I like busy.
  • The vendor side of the California Strawberry Festival is managed by a professional organization that manages about 20 different events up & down California. Among other wonderful things, they dedicate centrally located portable bathrooms in the vendor area to vendor use only. And they are clean. And available.
  • No question that legacy sales for both Mrs M & me were important this weekend. Many people remembered us, sought us out, and bought from us. Again. I don’t always feel a strong connection to other events and particularly last year’s event, but the Force was very strong here.
  • Please allow me to declare victory with Mrs M’s new display. Again. We had groups of customers 4 deep in/around her booth several times this weekend. I can’t overstate this. The new booth lends us a legitimacy that was clearly lacking in our simpler, table-centric presentation.
  • I looked at the other skin care products booths at this event … and they were all very simple, table-centric displays. That is so last month.
  • We got ‘whelmed a few times on Saturday. People just kept coming, and both sides of the booth were busy.
  • So many transactions under $10. So many.
  • When I finally got home to balance the books Saturday night, I found that I had a very good day with 24 boards sold. Mrs M, though …

Best. Mrs. M. Day. Ever.

  • We fell just a bit short of our all-time best day … but this is May! We’re not supposed to be that busy in May!
  • When in doubt, French Braid. I don’t get wisdom like this if Little Girl isn’t around.
  • So many transactions under $10. So many.
  • I was asked for utensils, a backgammon board (not going to happen!), in-counter boards (3x), my business card holder (!), a gift for a wine lover to complement my Magic Bottle Opener for a beer lover (I need more shop time!), pizza peels (3x) and (wait for it) chess boards (3x).
  • My new product introduction is an unqualified success. Magic Bottle Openers are now outselling cheese boards 2:1, and cheese boards used to be my # 1 seller. Hmmmmmm.
  • Every vendor was told that vehicles could not come into the vendor area until the police had cleared the street as safe (as in, free from civilians wandering around). In no event would the street be opened to vehicles before 7pm after the 6:30pm close. Pack your booth FIRST, then bring in your vehicle, everyone was reminded. It worked perfectly. A guard manned the gate. No chaos. I brought the trailer in at about 7:45pm, and we were on the road in about 30 minutes.
  • After a comfort food dinner (and yes, it was essential), I saw how we did … and the display delivered. Again.

Best. Mrs. M. Event. Ever.

  • But wait. There’s more. I didn’t have my best sales event, but with Mrs M’s business growing to a fabulous 43% of our total….

Best. Event. Ever.

  • I heard some other vendors had good weekends; some were not happy. As it always is. Several veterans reported to me this was an average year for them. If so … average works for me.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Jimmy Dean’s Junior Breakfast Burrito. I was told I shouldn’t say it’s the 2nd best breakfast burrito in Santa Clarita … so it’s the best one that Velda doesn’t make.

Saturday Lunch: a ham sandwich from home. My traditional lunch, almost every day.

Saturday Snack: no time

Saturday Dinner: We went to Margaritas. I had quacamole & a Cadillac Margarita. Thank goodness.

Sunday Breakfast: Jimmy Dean’s Junior Breakfast Burrito

Sunday Lunch: a ham sandwich from home

Sunday Snack: Cashews & a chocolate bar from home

Sunday Dinner: Leftovers = comfort food at 10pm

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 312
  • Booth cost: $765
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 2
  • Total sales: $4,048
  • # containers of product taken: 38. I think.
  • # boards available: all of them
  • Saturday alarm: 5:18a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:45a
  • # transactions: 151. This is a WOW. We’ve never done 100 transactions before, much less 150!
  • # soap & lotion vendors: at least 3 others
  • # woodworking vendors: at least 5 others
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 34:2
  • Returning next year? Absolutely

Boards sold: 36

Magic Bottle Openers: 12

Cheese Boards: 5

Custom Orders: 4

Cutting Boards: 3

Lazy Susans: 3

Large Sous Chef Board: 2

Small Boards: 2

Large Surfboards: 2

Clipboards: 2

Bear Cutting Board: 1

From The Shop: Making 24 Surfboards   3 comments

After I started making small surfboards, it was inevitable that I would make more.

Then I got an order for 24 more. 12 were to be the original large size, which I’m now calling cheese & cracker surfboards. The order was also for another 12 in a new medium size. The 12 large ones were to be identical, and the 12 medium ones would come in 2 designs, 6 each.

OK, go.

Here’s the photo story of making the 12 large ones.

The Board Chronicles: California Strawberry Festival   4 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.

California Strawberry FestivalAt last, we can see the end of our 6 weeks of spring events. We actually scheduled 7 events in 6 weeks … it was to be our big push before summer. Our spring fling.

The first 5 weeks surpassed our expectations, and we had already achieved our goals for the events in total. Week 6 was to be a bonus.

A poor one, it turns out.

We had hoped that this nearby, celebrated community event would get us to record numbers in its 32nd annual iteration. Alas, ’twas not to be.

Sales throughout the event were down from expectations. I talked to several veteran vendors, who described their results as down from last year … which was significantly down from the prior year. No joy here.

New Ideas

  • Because Velda had to go work at her “job,” I was teamed with the other Mrs. M for this weekend. We have fun at our rare events that we get to do without the other M. Plus, she drove their truck on Sunday so I got a very rare day as a passenger.
  • This is a gated event. Patrons paid for entrance, and paid for parking unless they took the free shuttle from the outlying free parking lots.

Observations

  • You never know if you’re getting a good booth position or not. We were almost at one end of the long line of Arts & Crafts vendors set up on Rose Avenue. We were one booth away from the Purple entrance gate … near the Red Gate, and on the opposite end from the Blue gate. Good? Bad? No clue. Our talkative neighbor whose family business is outfitting women of all ages with toe rings (please note the rare juxtaposition of “family business” and “toe rings” in the same sentence) said we were in an excellent spot.
  • Genuine huge attendance at this show, averaging 66,000 for the last 5 years. If only they had brought their wallets…. Actually, they may have brought their wallets, but they came to eat, primarily. And since the food lines had more in common with “Waiting for Godot” than they had any right to, it may be that people spent too much time in line, got frustrated and went home. Hungry in most cases, I believe.
  • “Handmade” is required to be an arts & crafts vendor at this show, and I believe they policed that policy better than any show we’ve been a part of. However, with the poor results we generated, I’m now wondering if that’s a good thing.
  • Conclusion to the previous point: I need to be more focused on buyers than sellers. Say what you will about the quality of the sellers, it was the quality of the buyers that frustrated me.

The Food

Saturday Lunch: 2 chocolate covered strawberries and a hot pretzel. I’m doing it wrong. Again.

Saturday Snack: Watching Alley drink a strawberry-flavored beer.

Sunday Snack: I had two nutrition bars that Alley brought, thinking that might be a better lunch than yesterday.

Sunday Lunch: Today, Alley found a food vendor with less than 30 families in line, so she brought me a Thai chicken skewer. Definitely did it right today.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 306
  • Booth cost: $425
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Total sales: $1,235
  • # containers of product taken: 15
  • # boards available: 63
  • Saturday alarm: 5:30am
  • Sunday alarm: 7:00am
  • # transactions: 62 – 53 for lotion and 9 for boards.
  • # soap & lotion vendors: three other vendors, all focused on soap. Thank goodness!
  • # woodworking vendors: a lot! Three made simple wooden signs (so they were more painters than woodworkers, really). One made redwood picnic sets. Two made children’s toys. One made children’s chalk/dry erase board art boxes. There was a turner selling wooden pens and bottle stoppers. There was a guy selling wooden neckties (huh?). Oh, and one guy made cutting boards out of corian. I feel sorry for his customers….
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 8-1/2 : 2-1/2 (because the Honey Locust & Hard Maple board was part end grain and part edge grain. I’m creative like that. Occasionally.)

Boards sold: 11

Cutting Boards: 2

Engraved Boards: 2

Cheese Boards: 2

Small Board: 2

Sous Chef Board: 2

Bread Board: 1

%d bloggers like this: