Archive for the ‘Santa Clarita’ Tag

Keeping My Assistant Busy   3 comments

One of the challenges in a 1-man shop is how you can get more efficient. When it’s just you against the world, you can’t afford to waste time.

I decided some time ago that I would not hire an assistant … so I bought one.

My CNC router is a computer-controlled carving machine that will do what I tell it to do, generally. It will work on one project while I’m doing other tasks. I’m now doing some processes for many of my products on the CNC. Magic Bottle Openers, Trivets, Coasters and Pigs all go through the CNC now.

And in this case, “more is better” is definitely a true statement. I’m slowly adding more products. Wall plaques are now happening, along with some 3D carving. As I gain more skills there, you’ll see Cribbage Boards (I promise!) and new Cheese Slicers make it to the finish line.

For now, here are some of the ideas I have delivered sing the CNC.

The Board Chronicles: Palos Verdes Street Fair 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.

There was a time that I was staging promotional events on the road. It was a big idea. I hired a staff in 7 markets and we created over 200 night club music events during a 6 month period. After that project ended, I rolled right into another promotional project that was staging music events in 35 markets. All told, I saw a lot of this country, visited several states for the first time and logged 180 hotel nights in 1 year.

What did I learn? I don’t want to travel for a living. No amount of points or free stuff from Marriott or American Airlines or whatever could compensate me for the tough travel time.

So, here we are, at the glorious end of the 4th Annual Spring Fling. we’ve had some great events – and a couple of clinkers. We’ve gotten wet more than once. The main thing I’ve learned, though, is that doing 10 events in 11 weeks while balancing a real job is not for the faint of heart.

But, we still have one more to go. What’s in front of us?

The Palos Verdes peninsula is a landform between Redondo Beach and Long Beach. The event itself is in Rolling Hills Estates. It’s not easy to get there from here – I have to brave the Friday commute on the 405 again! – and we’ve never been to this event. We booked it kind of blind … it’s a big deal in the community and it’s a pretty nice neighborhood. But do these people need lotions & cutting boards?

New Ideas

  • This is an event “in LA,” but we still opted to get a hotel & avoid the 90 minute commutes to and from the event. It was a good decision.
  • We’re using our pop-up canopies for this Saturday morning set-up, but we are now adding mesh walls to the pop-ups. Made by Flourish who also made the Trimline canopy and its mesh walls, these new walls are sized to fit the pop-ups. Sta-Bars – rigid bars at the bottom of the legs – are added as well. These add to the structural strength of the canopy, stretch the mesh walls, and provide a nice unobtrusive place to put our weights. Importantly, artwork & signage can now hang on the walls at every event.

Observations

  • This is event # 10 of 10 in our 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • Quoth Hamm in Beckett’s Endgame, “Finished. It’s finished.”
  • The Fling’s over, and I get a week off from events. Thank goodness.
  • This is not a cheap event for a spur of the moment kind of booking. Our double booth cost $700, plus a city business license of $39. I sure hope these people want some handmade soap….
  • We arrived Saturday morning to find a stainless wash station & big water tank in the middle of our booth. “Oh, that was for last night,” the volunteer told us. What in the world were they doing last night?
  • After I helped move the leftover infrastructure, we set up … right next to the entrance to the carnival. We were on the midway next to a carney thrill ride. We were in ‘tween central, and just downhill from the Domino’s Pizza trailer and its diesel generator. Pop music was booming all day. A perfect location … for what, exactly? Not selling soap. Not talking to customers in a relaxed setting. Not for Mrs M’s sanity.
  • Set up took a long time today … 4 hours later, we still weren’t done. Having to move the trailer to one location and then park the Jeep a block farther away didn’t help. Not an auspicious beginning.
  • The head of the Chamber of Commerce visited us first thing to verify we had a Rolling Hills Estates business license! Apparently, the city had threatened the COC if they didn’t police their vendors. The city didn’t have the staff for enforcement … so the Chamber of Commerce was responsible? Very odd.
  • A lady walked into the booth. “Excuse me, do you have a petting zoo?”
  • Uh….
  • Something I never expected to hear from Mrs M: “I guess you get used to the screaming after a while.”
  • I have 2 carved plaques right up front, and a nice moment was when a Mom was reading the sentiment on “In This House” to her brood and using it as a teaching moment. Very cute.
  • Dad asked the price … no sale, unfortunately. But I was entertained.
  • This event has a lot going on in a very compact space. It’s all parking lots and roadways, but they cram in a carnival, a concert stage, a beer garden, an “International Food Court” (AKA Fair Food) and 150 vendor spaces. Activities, drinking, music, people … but this year, there wasn’t much shopping. An excessive number of vendors were first-timers, too, and that’s never a good sign. If vendors don’t come back, there must be a reason.
  • A couple was in the booth shopping in Mrs M’s, uh, department, and the discussion turned to beard oil. Before long, I had the lady – and the guy – fondling my beard to see if it was soft. I was objectified while minding my own business. In my booth. That I paid for.
  • The things I must do to support Mrs M’s totally out-of-control hobby.
  • Saturday ended with an underwhelming number. We were OK … but not impressed.
  • And the screaming. Oh, the screaming.
  • A lady admired the product shots hanging on the wall. “Do you have this piece?” she asked. No, I’m out of that one. “How about this piece?” No, I’m out of that one, too.
  • Great. Now I have to manage my cutting board inventory because of the photography.
  • A guy walked into the booth. “I think you’re the guy my wife told me about.”
  • Uh….
  • A shade stealer (you know, a person more interested in the shade of your canopy then the products it shelters) came into the booth and started talking to me, then switched to Mrs M. He was a former biochem major, and they talked soap. It was a highlight of Mrs M’s day, actually. Later, his wife & 2 daughters showed up and they bought some stuff. Not all shade stealers are bad … you just never know who you need to be nice to … sometimes you just want to say “get out of my booth.” But, it’s better to be polite, every time. In my experience.
  • The weekend moved Oh. So. Slowly. Was it the screaming? Was it the engine fumes? Was it the long hours? Was it that most people were not there to shop? I don’t know. The final tally was really OK, but we certainly didn’t have fun at this Street Fair. Unfortunately.
  • Requests were for Cribbage boards (2x) (sigh), Chess pieces (2x) (sigh), a Pegs & Jokers board, larger Lazy Susans, lighter cutting boards and more photographs to be on sale.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Saturday dinner was at Gaetano’s Restaurant in Torrance. It was simply fabulous. Mrs M had found the place on Yelp … “I knew we were coming to the right place when one of the reviews said they use too much garlic.” She had the seafood special; I had the Marsala (naturally). We even had the bruschetta and a dessert. Exquisite. The best event of the weekend, by a country mile.
  • Honorable Mention: Sunday breakfast was at the Pinwheel Cafe & Bakery. Again, fabulous. French sourdough to die for.
  • Worst Meal: Friday dinner was at a horrible iteration of Mimi’s in Torrance. The only good thing was that parking the trailer was easy. Maybe that shouldn’t be how we choose our restaurants.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 164
  • Booth cost: $739
  • Food cost: $275
  • Travel cost: $283
  • Total sales: $2,202
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $905
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 4:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:15a
  • # transactions: 77
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There was a booth that had mainly bath bombs, but no one else.
  • # woodworking vendors: There were a couple of buy & sell guys (imported crap). One turner might have been a real woodworker instead of an importer, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. Not sure. Certainly no other cutting board makers.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 28:2
  • Returning next year? As a solo act, maybe. Mrs M won’t touch this event again.

Boards sold: 30

Magic Bottle Openers: 6

Trivets: 5

Coasters: 4

Cutting Boards: 3

Small Boards: 2

Lazy Susans: 2

Chess Boards: 2

Cheese Boards: 2

Carved Signs: 2

Clipboard: 1

Medium Surfboard: 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.

Observations

  • 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

 

Getting Clippy   Leave a comment

It’s been too long since I’ve made a batch of clipboards. So, once I cleared the shop time, I made sure I made enough to last a while. We’ll see how long!

I have a wife that tells me they aren’t needed in our modern paperless society.

At the same time, 2 of our kids have an open ended order for clipboards from me.

I’m pretty sure I’ll vote with the kids customers on this one. After all, I worked for a newspaper for over 20 years. I believe in paper … and I still do.

Electrons have their power, but they’ll never have the feel of newsprint. For that reason, I’m a clipboard maker.

Three of these clipboards are special orders; the other 16 go on sale Saturday morning at the Montrose Arts & Crafts Festival.

Hearts   Leave a comment

I enjoy making these hearts.

Can they be cutting boards? Of course.

Most people, however, view them as either display pieces or cheese servers. Works for me.

What I know is that every heart has Bloodwood in it (wouldn’t you?) and no heart ever has Yellowheart or Black Walnut in it (because those do not belong in hearts).

I trust that you’ll agree that those are good decisions to make a nice heart.

If you’re out and about this weekend, come see us – Mrs M is finally joining me! – at the Montrose Arts & Crafts Festival. We’ll be there 10-6 on Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday. Hope to see you there!

The Board Chronicles: Bishop Mule Days 2018   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.

I don’t know anything about mules. Some are from Missouri, I think. Shouldn’t I know more about that?

Bishop is a mountain community on the eastern Sierra located on US 395. They have the world’s largest annual celebration of mules each Memorial Day weekend. In addition to the events at the fairgrounds (and the vendors there), a parade is held on Main Street (AKA US 395). The Bishop City Park is there, and the local arts council sponsors their annual craft fair for vendors of handmade goods at that bucolic park with a stream, a duck pond and large shade trees.

Sounds like home.

We’re in. Well, I’m in. Mrs M had to work at her “job,” so my solo act was headed north to see if a celebration of mules was the right place to sell my cutting boards.

New Ideas

  • This is our my first 4-day event. Fridays are slow and Mondays are awful, I’m told … but it is nice to not put up early Saturday morning and take down late Sunday night. Recovery is a good thing.
  • Carved signs make their debut on the mesh walls at this event. Booth decor is now complete, for the moment: photographs of my boards in use are mixed with CNC-carved signs with a bit of sass and quotes with a bit of historical interest.

Observations

  • This is event # 8 of 10 in our 4th Annual Spring Fling.
  • My goodness, will it never end?
  • I drove up on Thursday to set up, and met the coordinator, Lynn, who showed me to my booth spaces. By the time I got there in the afternoon, many of the vendors were set up – and gone. I wasn’t late to the party, but I was certainly not early.
  • By the time I was putting up the Trimline, the late afternoon winds had picked up. Fortunately, a dad that was watching his daughters’ very long swim team meeting at the pool nearby volunteered to help me hold down the dome as I erected the framework.
  • Yes, his wife got to pick out a cutting board to take home. He was a very big help!
  • Love our new strategy of staying at AirBnB guest houses whenever we can at out-of-town events. I was in an in-law cottage that was just perfect for a couple’s getaway to the Sierra. Too bad I wasn’t a couple.
  • The forecast had thunderstorms forecast for Friday and Saturday. Can I not catch a break with the weather this year?
  • It only took a couple of hours … I was quickly asked how much for the engraved signs on the walls. But I don’t want to sell my booth decor!
  • Well….
  • #1 question of the weekend, by a wide margin: “What’s a trivet?”
  • #1 seller for the last 2 weekends: trivets.
  • You can’t make this stuff up.
  • Best visual of the first day was a pair of grandparents facetiming with their daughter and granddaughter. They had bought a stick mule (like a stick pony), and the mule kept dancing in front of the camera during the call. I can appreciate grandparents having fun.
  • Luckily, the rain stayed away. Ended the first day over $600 in sales.  I didn’t really have specific expectations at my first time for this event, but that seemed good to me.
  • Saturday, I was told to expect light crowds until after the parade, and then expect to be ‘whelmed. It didn’t really happen that way: business was steady all day. I never really got slammed, though there were a few times that transactions happened right on top of each other. I was busy all day.
  • Best t-shirt of the weekend: a lady wore a shirt that said “Don’t eat watermelon seeds.” It appeared that perhaps she had; something was growing, that’s for sure.
  • Ended the day Saturday with no rain! I had very good sales, propelled by selling 2x end grain cutting boards with a design I call “Chaos.” They are show stoppers.
  • And I’m out of them.
  • Sunday dawned with no rain in the forecast.
  • It rained on and off through much of the afternoon. I still had OK sales, though. Definitely having a good event, in spite of the rain.
  • Sold a cheese board that’s going to Essex, and then another that’s going to London. Must be a lot of English tourists here to get a taste of the old west. Or something.
  • #2 question of the weekend: “Did Benjamin Franklin really say that?”
  • The day ended with 2x twenty-something couples, and both of the guys really wanted to buy the meat carving boards. Somehow, their delay in making a decision became a discussion about how there was a lack of commitment problem at work here. I backed away. The couples strolled on.
  • And came back. I sold 2x boards. This was a very good day. Not as good as Saturday, but I got close to a good number. If I can just do a little bit on Monday….
  • I sputtered along on Monday; we only had 5 hours before we closed up. In the final hour (OF COURSE), I sold one more large cheese & cracker server that put me over $300 for the day. That put me over a very nice number … and yes!

Best. Solo. Event. Ever.

  • Requests were for a spatula, pepper mills, cribbage boards (multiple requests. I’m trying. Geez.), a backgammon set (NO NO NO), Chinese checkers (NO), a smaller “&” board, a carving board (I am out!) and a lap board for your car to eat lunch on (huh?).
  • Two more events in the Spring Fling. Four total events in June. Hope I can make it … I’m selling out of things!
  • And, yes, that’s a wonderful problem to have.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Mrs M opened the freezer, and I got meals – and a pre-planned menu – for the weekend. Chicken Marsala for the win. Of course.
  • Worst Meal: I stopped in Mojave for a Big Mac, and I was annoyed by the service. Not the best McDonald’s I’ve been to.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 504
  • Booth cost: $580
  • Food cost: $34
  • Travel cost: $854
  • Total sales: $3,532
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $2,064
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Alarm clock: Nope
  • # transactions: 44
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there were a couple … but not Mrs M, unfortunately
  • # woodworking vendors: several. There was a turner & a maker of pine log furniture. Rustic furniture and decor was everywhere, it seemed.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 60:4
  • Returning next year? Absolutely.

Boards sold: 64

Coasters: 13

Trivets: 8

Cutting Boards: 7

Cheese Boards: 6

Word Blocks: 5

Magic Bottle Openers: 4

Small Boards: 4

Lazy Susans: 3

CNC Plaque: 3

Custom Orders: 2

Cheese & Cracker Server: 2

Wine Bottle Coaster: 1

Heart: 1

Serving Tray: 1

Bear: 1

Pig: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

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

 

Trivets   3 comments

Last week, I was on a crash course to finish this batch of trivets. The inventory was too low for our big event this weekend, the California Strawberry Festival.

So, one crash later, I was done with 23 new trivets. I put them in a prominent position in the booth’s outside corner, on a temporary pile of containers and in a crate … which invites people to flip through the pieces as they look for the right ones.

I learned two things:

  1. Many people have no idea what a trivet is. The word doesn’t translate into Spanish, I’m told, so a large number of people with a Mexican or Central American heritage have no idea what the sign means when it says “Trivets.” Of course, there’s a large number of people that are Americanized that have no clue, as well. “Trivets.” A mystery. Who knew?
  2. People love flipping through a crate of trivets. Oh so many people did that on Saturday.

And that’s a good thing. Some of the flippers even bought one or two.

The flipping continues today at the California Strawberry Festival in Oxnard. Come and flip some, if you please. I would truly appreciate it: load out starts at 6:30pm, and I hope I have a lighter load to come home.

And that, of course, will begat a new crash course for next week … a problem for another day.

Cutting Boards And A Pair Of Serving Trays   Leave a comment

The 4th Annual Spring Fling is in full throttle and, yes, I’ve been busy.

Here’s a collection of cutting boards I’ve finished over the last few weeks. As you’ve seen, I’m making many other things, as well, but I need to make cutting boards all of the time, or I’ll have problems.

That’s particularly true of the end grain boards, since they take a minimum of 2 glue-ups, so they take twice as long to make as the edge grain boards (the “stripey” ones).

And, of course, the serving trays are all stripey. These 2 have been languishing in a cabinet for a couple of months waiting on me to take them over the finish line. Clearly, they were worth the effort. What took so long?

If you find yourself out and about in Southern California this weekend, you will find Mrs M and I at Oxnard’s 35th Annual California Strawberry Festival. It’s quite the thing, with crowds in excess of 50,000 annually. You’ll find the fine art & craft section has been moved to the other side of the festival … near the Green Gate. We are in booths 254 & 256.

Hope to see you there.

The Board Chronicles: Simi Valley Street Fair 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.

I know this event is quirky.

Simi Valley is a bedroom community that’s very similar to Santa Clarita, and we’ve done their Street Fair twice before (2015, 2016).

You know how much I like going to the Street Fair.

But, this event is unusual. It’s put on by the Chamber of Commerce, and they have a “required” pre-meeting for vendors. That’s where you can get your booth number confirmed, and talk about how the event is set-up with the organizers. Since I’ve done 100+ events in multiple cities and now 2 states … I’m not enthusiastic about driving to their office to hear about their event. Or be reminded to wear comfortable shoes.

Write a good info packet and I’m ready to go. Every time.

Another quirk is they don’t let people drive onto the street to set up: they make you cart everything in for some reason that’s never been clear to me. In previous years, there was enough room on the street. This year’s street is tighter, but it’s still an unusual situation to require 100% of things to be carted in, as they have in years past.

We didn’t do this event last year as it is only a 1-day event, and there was a better 2-day event available. This year, though, the Sunday of the weekend was not only Mother’s Day, it was also our 40th wedding anniversary. We agreed to take the day off so we could celebrate … so this Saturday event fit the calendar perfectly.

Which is always important to me. So, it’s off to Simi….

New Ideas

  • The new location meant going to the mandatory meeting was a good idea, I thought, and I learned that I either had to cart everything in at 6:30am, hire their UTV/wagon driver to cart things in for me or I could drive onto the street with the trailer at 5am to unload right by the booth. That’s a no brainer for me. I don’t need to sleep.
  • This year I was told that the city required a business license from me if I was to sell at the event, which I learned at the vendor meeting. What I didn’t learn is that the city didn’t have a working website to do this on, so I had to drive back to Simi a second time in order to complete the paperwork and pay the most expensive fee yet for a city’s one-day business license: $57.
  • Mrs M opted out so she could stay home and prepare for MrsMowry’s 30th birthday (a good choice, that), so I got a double booth all to myself.

Observations

  • This is event # 6 of 10 in our 4th Annual Spring Fling. Miles to go before we sleep.
  • As I drove to the event in the dark, it was misting. That turned into a heavy mist. That turned in to, “Oh, hell no, it’s not going to rain, is it?”
  • It didn’t, but it did get a little wet once during the event. No big thing, but it was a cloudy, cool day. Perfect for a Spring Fling event.
  • Plenty of volunteers – at 5 in the morning – to help me unload. A volunteer assured me they would be there to help me load as well … and they were. This event gets an A+ for having volunteers to help. The volunteers I had, though – adults and teenagers – knew nothing about event spaces, but were good to move the heavy stuff.
  • The event gets a D for how they marked booth spaces – chalk numbers faintly written on the top of the curbs. In the dark, you had to turn on a flashlight and be right on top of the numbers before they were legible. There were no marks for the boundaries of the booth: not left/right, nor front/back. I was the first in my area, so I placed my canopies centered on the booth #s. I moved a foot or so out of the gutter (nothing good comes from being in the gutter), which put the front of my booth up to the dividing line between lanes on the street. Looked good to me. No one ever commented, so I must have been OK. It wasn’t until 3 hours later that I noticed some random lines on the street that might have been booth space dividing lines, placed out of the gutter on the solid white line marking the edge of the driving lane and beginning of the gutter. Don’t know what those lines were.
  • The big issue about no front border for the booths became an issue later, unfortunately.
  • With a 5am unload, I had plenty of time to set up my double booth. Who needs Mrs M anyway?
  • I worked straight through, got set up, and did have time to sit down and have my breakfast (bagels/cream cheese from home). While I was eating, a guy walked into my booth and went straight to my chess set. “It’s $140 for the set? I want it. But I only have $4. Here, you take the money until I can get to the bank. I’ll be right back.” So, I put the chess set on lay away for $4.
  • This first sale was long before the event started at 9am. A good beginning, this.
  • Early in the day, a guy came to the booth and said he wanted to buy a cutting board. That had one of my boards, he said, but it was lost when their house burned to the ground. He wanted to get a new board, and he would bring his wife by later, he said. He did, and that was my first $200 sale of the day.
  • Not long after they left, another couple was standing by the board I had just put on display, replacing the one just purchased. I did my standard greeting, “Let me know if I can answer any questions,” I said. “Can we buy a cutting board?” he said. That’s what we in the professional sales business call a “buying signal.”
  • I launched into my standard spiel. Size. Color. I then asked, “What size are you thinking of?” He said, “Can we buy this board?” That’s what we in the professional sales business call a “shut up and take their money signal.” So, I did. In about 10 minutes, I had two different $200 sales.
  • Good, this is.
  • I was busy all day. Business wasn’t over the top, but I was on my feet, talking, working. All good. Busy is good.
  • You can’t choose your neighbors, though. Mine were annoying. And, the promoters get an F on controlling vendors.
  • On the left, I had a professional politician with an army of volunteers soliciting votes & handing out balloons. He was running for Supervisor, and he had a brigade (their word) of volunteers in front of the booth all day long. When they moved to in front of my booth, I complained, and they pretty much kept to the front of their booth – not IN their booth, but IN FRONT of their booth. They were 100% working the crowd in the center aisle. They never, ever let someone go by without stopping them. They typically had 5 volunteers in front of their booth and 3 volunteers inside of their booth – plus the candidate. No way should they have been allowed to only buy a 10×10 booth.

The balloons were given out by members of the politician’s horde … they never stood in the booth, as the rules said they should.

  • I actually heard one of the organizers of the effort say, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” When that is the philosophy of management, what they’re really saying is “the other vendors are too stupid to do what we’re doing, and the organizers don’t care if we take advantage.”
  • I. Hate. That.
  • On my right, I had a professional buy/sell vendor with leather purses & such. He set his canopy up 1′ in front of mine, and then did a waterfall display off of his grid wall that was 1′ in front of his canopy. The result: he had a 2′ corner jutting out in front of my booth. He also had tables set up back to the gutter and boxes on the planter behind, so he had about a 16′ deep booth going.

The 2′ corner in front of my booth. I actually had one lady come into my booth wanting to buy a purse.

  • The net result of all of this was that customers were directed by my neighbors to walk away from my booth. I did push back against the politician’s minions when they were standing IN FRONT OF MY BOOTH, but, overall, I was confident that my 20′ of frontage (which neither of my neighbors had) got me the attention that I had paid for. Had I had only 10′ of frontage – if Mrs M would have been there – then we would have had trouble. I would have become “that guy.” I would have insisted the organizers step in.
  • Oh, and that $57 business license I had to buy? No one ever checked. I’m going to bet my buy/sell neighbor didn’t have it. Following rules may be frustrating at times, but I have to live with me.
  • The final hour came, and my sales picked up. Once again, the final hour of the event was very, very good to me.
  • Requests were for a 6″ Lazy Susan (it was an archery thing, I was told), more chess sets (AARRGGHH!!), a horsey wall hanging, skateboard decks (x2), something in a golf theme and an actual pastry board with side walls and bread hooks.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Birthday cake with MrsMowry, as she celebrated her 6th 5th birthday. Of course!

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 218
  • Booth cost: $350 + $57
  • Food cost: $0
  • Travel cost: $113
  • Total sales: $1,735
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,215
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • Saturday alarm: 3:50am
  • # transactions: 20
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 22:2
  • Returning next year? Probably not

Boards sold: 24

4x Trivets

3x Magic Bottle Openers

3x Cutting Boards

2x Medium Surfboards

2x Lazy Susans

2x Custom Orders

1x Chess Set

1x CNC Wall Plaque

1x Cheese Board

1x Serving Tray

1x Heart

1x Word Block

1x Small Board

1x Pig

 

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