Archive for the ‘Thousand Oaks’ Tag

The Board Chronicles: Gingerbread Boutique 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.

Last year, the Gingerbread Boutique was a very nice find for us. Sales were robust, albeit at an expensive event. Still, the event was a Thursday/Friday boutique (last year), so all sales could be viewed as incremental.

I definitely had a positive experience in 2016; read about it here.

The event is a fundraiser for the Westlake Village Junior Women’s Club. There are a relatively small number of vendors, and a lot of women come to shop. What could go wrong?

New Ideas

  • Another central cashier event, though this one is hardly inexpensive. For a 9 hour, one day event, the up-front fee is still $300. And then, add 20%.
  • Last year, this event had a VIP cocktail party on Thursday, followed by a day-long event on Friday. This year, it was Friday only, with the public event 10a-4p, a break for dinner, and then the VIP event 6p-9p. Odd schedule … a VIP party after the public event? Odd.
  • Since I was setting up on Thursday afternoon, during Anna’s Boutique, I had limited display pieces and inventory to actually set up. I did what I could, planted the flag, if you will, and called it good. The rest of setup would be done Friday morning when I had the trailer with everything else in it.


  • Event # 5 of 14 in our 4th quarter.
  • Day 3 of 5 in my Week From Hell.
  • Set up on Thursday was a surprise: my space, though “the same” as last year, was “smaller” than last year. There just wasn’t as much space. OK, go.
  • This space is very much a “found space” as I called it in my black box theater days. I was at the edge of the stage, and had a stairway in the booth. That sounds like display space to me!
  • When I arrived on Friday to set up, I was told my neighbor was not there … so I could have their space as well. My space just got bigger than last year. OK, go.
  • Yes, I can fill the space.
  • Come to find out, the missing vendor was a re-seller of used wood serving pieces who insisted she should not be next to me. She sold large serving pieces & charcuterie boards that were uniformly silver in color: used wood. They looked good, but who wants to put their food on such a thing? I know what gets sprayed on barn wood, after all.
  • I really don’t like central cashier events. They hide their true cost by charging a percentage of sales after the event, so that cost is not felt as much as writing a big check in advance. In any case, since I don’t really like them, I think I have to make a new rule for next year: no central cashier events. There. Done.
  • Last year, this was a 12 hour event. This year, it’s 9 hours. This may not end well.
  • My neighbor is a high end jewelry designer that has a few brick & mortar boutiques that carry her stuff, she said. For this event, she took her normal wholesale price, added 20% and more … and ended up making more money from each sale at this event. Her first sale was $1,750. I’m definitely not the vendor with the highest prices at this boutique!
  • Sales are down this year. Is it because this is only a one day event instead of two days? Is LA just out of it due to the World Series loss? Did the sponsor not promote this event as well this year since there’s a new coordinator? No clue. In any event, sales are down from last year … and we’ve got better stuff, more stuff, in a larger space. Not. Good.
  • The aftermath of this event proved to be memorable. After the 9p close of the event, I struck everything and moved it to the walkway that was just outside of my entrance door, 5′ from my booth. Convenient. That way, I moved everything out of the room so the promoters could lock the door and leave … which left me to load the trailer from the public access sidewalk. Unfortunately, it was a long load due to the chaos I had left the trailer in. Oh, and I was tired. Go figure.
  • 11p: trailer locked. Time to drive home. I got on the 118 freeway, which was narrowed to only 1 lane due to construction … on a Friday night. Then, unfortunately, there was an accident that I was fairly close to, and the artificially narrowed freeway had to be closed to clear it. There I was, 11:30p on a Friday night, at a dead stop for 20 minutes due to a traffic accident. Not. Happy.
  • Home at 12:30a. So ended Day 3 … and began Day 4 of my Week From Hell. Stay tuned for Boutique Fantastique!

The Food

Friday Breakfast: A breakfast burrito from Carl’s Jr. Sometimes you have to shake it up.

Friday Lunch: Sandwiches were provided by the producer, which was very nice. Not very filling, mind you, but I should not complain. Free is free. And given what the event costs….

Friday Snack: Nope.

Friday Dinner: I found Maria’s Italian Cafe during the break, and have a very nice dinner of Brussel sprouts & lasagna. This was the best part of my day.


The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 231
  • Booth cost: $300 + 20% = $520
  • Food cost: $38
  • Travel cost: $120
  • Total sales: $1,272
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $594
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: many
  • Friday alarm: 5:15a
  • # transactions: 39
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There was a soap maker selling soap art (very pretty cupcakes “made with food-quality ingredients.” What does that MEAN?), but their prices were much higher than Mrs M’s. But then, we don’t sell cupcake soap, either.
  • # woodworking vendors: Just me and the used wood retailer.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 11:1
  • Returning next year? Nope.

Boards sold: 12

Magic Bottle Openers: 4

Cheese Boards: 3

Custom Orders: 3

Word Blocks: 2

The Board Chronicles: GingerBread Boutique 2016   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.

gingerbread-boutiqueI met the vendor coordinator for this event at the Westlake Village Street Fair; Michelle was my neighbor and told me I should be a part of her November event.

I listened, but I was sceptical. After all, the GingerBread Boutique was happening on a Thursday evening and a Friday … successful weekday events aren’t just unusual. They don’t exist.

In my experience.

But, Michelle kept after me, patiently answered my questions, and assured me that Mrs M’s Handmade could be successful at this event.

She wore me down. We’re in for the 35th Annual GingerBread Boutique, which is staged at St Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Westlake Village as a fundraiser for the Westlake Village Junior Women’s Club. The event proceeds are 100% donated to local charities.

New Ideas

  • Who needs Mrs M? I solo’d at the event with our double booth. I drove the trailer to the event with all of our product, but only used some of our display pieces due to the limited space.
  • This is an indoor booth, and booth spaces are about 8’x7′, the instructions say. I got there, and my space was by the back door, and wrapped around a stairway to the stage … and my job was to make it work. OK. This was going to be an unusual layout. Can do.


  • Event # 4 in our parade of 11 events in the 4th quarter. I can only see more from here.
  • Who needs Mrs M?
  • I finally filled out & sent in my application for this event in September … 7 weeks ago. Every time I had a question about how the event worked, I found the answer in the application. With my required initials beside the passage. Excellent application; excellent information in it. My retention of that information: not so good.
  • This is a central cashier event. Good news: I don’t handle any money at the event. Bad news: I have to hand write a receipt in triplicate for every transaction, and then keep the purchased items until a receipt stamped “paid” is returned to me by the customer. Not my favorite way to handle cash at an event, but it did give Mrs M an accurate representation of how many lotion bars I sold. But what scents, she asks?
  • I do have my limits.
  • The Thursday night event was a cocktail party. Wine. Women. Me. What’s not to like?
  • I was a bit under dressed, though, as many of the ladies were at a cocktail party and wore their heels & little black dresses. I was at a vendor event, in shorts. They tolerated my presence, but I should have thought through the whole Wine, Women & Me thing.
  • … when I initialed the passage on the application, no doubt.
  • One of the legendary moments at the Mowry table was when I instructed our growing family to no longer discuss underwear during our family dinners. The boys had brought their girlfriends to our table, and eventually those young ladies were fiancés, and now wives … but somewhere early in the process, I was uncomfortable with the discussion of under garments. I figured boys’ minds were focused enough on such things without added discussion. In my presence.
  • The girls decided that discussing U-wear was perfectly fine, since they couldn’t discuss underwear. I took exception to that opinion, and a family legend was born. Now, many years later, both the boss of me (the younger Mrs M) and MrsMowry were delighted, however, with my story from this event: one of my vendor neighbors sold, uh, ladies underwear. During her sales pitch, she shared her cup size with her customers. And with me, a very few feet away. All of the time.
  • Sometimes I just can’t catch a break.
  • No free lunch, apparently. Vendors were supposed to get a coupon for a free hot dog from the cart, but somehow the person handing out the coupons missed me in my double booth. I should have gotten 2 lunches. Free. And I got nada.
  • Part of the Mrs M tradition is the packaging that every purchase gets, complete with a bow around a pretty cellophane bag. Mrs M gets lots of props for her post-sale presentation, but she wasn’t at this event. My packaging got big props. One lady told me that I have a very feminine side. Well, OK, then.
  • Own the demo. When Mrs M is not available, I excel at demo-ing lotion bars. I explain the advantages of Mrs M’s lotion bars, and the relative disadvantages of regular lotions. I own the demo. I effectively sell lotion bars.
  • Must be my feminine side.
  • Nope. It’s my speech degree from Mizzou. In my humble opinion.
  • I’m a communicator. That’s me.
  • The application told me that I had 90 minutes to strike the booth … and I included on the app my note that 90 minutes would be tough. It was. I was packed in 90 minutes, but it took me another 30 to cart the stuff out to the trailer and begin loading. The organizers were patient with me … and good communication was key. They knew what I was doing, and I asked for their guidance. As you should.
  • This charity event takes 20% of your sales in addition to a $400 booth fee for a 12 hour event. Our sales were really very strong for a Thursday night/Friday event, but with that 20% take by the house, the fee for our strong sales ended up being $895 (according to my calculations. I won’t get the actual check for 3 weeks. Sigh.). That’s a huge fee – our 2nd largest booth fee EVER. However, we did end up doing sales of three times that booth fee … and it was a Thursday/Friday event. I could have been sitting at home, with no revenue. Or, I could have been with the women & wine.
  • You know what I chose.

The Food

Thursday Dinner: Subway

Friday Breakfast: Hello, old friend.

Friday Lunch: A Polish Dog from a cart. And chips.

Friday Snack: Nope

Friday Dinner: With leftovers like Velda’s Chicken Piccata, I am always OK. Oh, and bourbon.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 192
  • Booth cost: $400 booth fee + 20% of sales = $895. Oh, and a $30 raffle prize.
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: several
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Total sales: $2,661
  • # boards available: almost all of them
  • Thursday alarm: nope
  • Friday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 56
  • # soap & lotion vendors: just us
  • # woodworking vendors: just us
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 19:2
  • Returning next year? Probably

Boards sold: 21

Magic Bottle Openers: 10

Medium Surfboard: 4

Custom Order: 2

Notepad Clipboard: 1

Bear: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Domed Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

The Board Chronicles: Thousand Oaks Street Fair   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.

Thousand Oaks Street FairThis annual event is one of the largest fall festivals in the LA area. It’s a fundraiser for the Thousand Oaks Rotary Club, who have turned this monster of an event into a well-oiled machine.

370 vendors for a one day event. It’s no wonder that the Rotary actually enforce their rules about how and when you set up and tear down. However, they also supply volunteer labor to help you get everything done quickly. Importantly, the help is actually helpful. This is a well-run event.

Last year, we had lackluster results. Our products felt crowded in our single booth; our neighbors put up walls on their booths (as is their right), so there was limited visibility of our products for the thronging masses. I wasn’t happy with our booth location, nor our crowded presentation. Sales were $675. I thought we could do better.

Also, the elder Mrs M had to work last year (you know, at her “job”), but she still showed up late in the day to supervise what was only our 10th event ever. The result was that all three of us drove separately to be at an event 52 miles from home … and this was when gas was at about its highest price. Profits were rare that day, to say the least.

Coincidentally, Mrs M again had to work at her “job” this weekend, so I again had the pleasure of the company of the pregnancy-impaired younger Mrs M. And that was a wonderful thing … but could we sell more stuff?

New Ideas

  • A double booth, with a “corner” (which they define as an open second side). We moved from the D section (sort of center) up to booths B 13 & 14. I hoped that would be a better location; it’s nearer to an end, and since many people want to come back to get their heavy boards, I hoped that would be more convenient.


  • Being rushed to set up + it’s still dark + black cash box + black truck interior = having to walk back to the truck to get the cash box when you realize it’s not there to be set up. It’s more work when you start before the sun rises, clearly.
  • 50 miles from home isn’t necessarily local in LA. We were often asked “are you local?” and my answer was yes, and told them where we are from. Santa Clarita wasn’t always local enough; I definitely felt some push back from a couple of customers that advocated for closer-to-home vendors.
  • Great weather … cloudy most of the day. So cloudy, I had trouble finding sunshine sometimes to show how the bloodwood and yellowheart can fluoresce. Oh, the challenges we must overcome.
  • Uncle Chris’ Italian Ice was directly across from us, and they often had a kid in front of their booth offering free samples. In the afternoon, they often had two samplers working the crowd. That frustrated me: stay in your booth. Like I do.
  • Met a direct competitor at this event! Woodworkers are a relatively rare breed, and I’ve only met one other serious cutting board maker in the 20 months we’ve been doing these events. This guy makes some very similar pieces to mine (and some not so similar) … and uses a totally different finish to get very different results. He’s a professional finish carpenter – that has chosen to not make end grain boards because they aren’t attractive enough. Au contraire, mon ami!
  • Met a student that’s taking her first woodshop class in junior high, and was excited to see my booth. Loved talking to her! Her family even brought her back to the booth so she could ask me a question (!) about “cannery wood.” It took me a moment to understand she meant canarywood, and I proceeded to talk to her about that exotic that I seldom get to use. Thanks to the online expertise of Mrs M, I even got to show the young woodworker how beautiful canarywood can be.
  • We were actually overwhelmed a couple of times with customers stacked up. Mrs M was wrapping board sales (6 boards sold to 4 people at almost exactly the same time) during one rush, and I’m pretty sure I missed helping her with lotion sales at that point of the chaos. A year ago, the three of us were working a single booth (and we barely fit!). Now, we only take two to an event, and it’s the right solution about 99% of the time. We do occasionally get overwhelmed by a rush of customers; at that time we can only ask for patience, which sometimes is in short supply.
  • It’s a relief to be past the last 2 weekends, which both featured two different one day events. Since I have the pleasure of doing the heavy lifting, that’s a real challenge. Maybe I should stop playing with my hobby and start working weekends at my “job” like the elder Mrs M. As we all know, work is easy. Having fun is hard.

The Food

Sunday Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese

Sunday Lunch: Jack in the Box # 9. While I was wrapping a board, the wind blew over my crispy curly fries, though, so they were a loss. The dog visiting the booth a few minutes later did enjoy the crumbs, though.

Sunday Snack: Blue Raspberry Italian Ice, but it was not nearly as good as yesterday’s.

Sunday Dinner: Leftover meatloaf. And bourbon.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 108 miles
  • Booth cost: $370
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0 (though I did have some nice conversations with a couple of the Rotary volunteers)
  • Total sales: $1,072
  • # containers of product taken: 24
  • # boards available: 110
  • Sunday alarm: 4:40am
  • # transactions: 24
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue … at least one other
  • # woodworking vendors: no clue … at least three others
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 13:1

Boards sold: 14

Cheese Boards: 6

Small Boards: 2

Cutting Board: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Lazy Susan: 1

Large Surfboard: 1

Large Sous Chef Board: 1

Small Sous Chef Board: 1


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