Its been a couple of years now since I began this business. I went from a wonky little donated canopy that needed a stick inserted to keep it from sagging to double Swiss Gear canopies (yes two!). There were some disappointing others in between. These are working out fine, but I am taking a LOT of care to keep them in shape– not forcing anything when putting them up or down.
You learn every week. You find out that people don’t like to enter a booth that doesn’t have an easy exit. Well, they will enter if they are VERY attracted by what you are selling, but most people will not make the venture if they are worried about getting trapped by efforts at salesmanship or by geography.
Sociological studies abound, and so do nuts and bolts wisdom. Yes, you should always use weights on your booth (even if the sponsors don’t mandate it.) Booths have been known to suddenly take off like Mary Poppins and wreck a lot of things..including other booths and PEOPLE! I figured out that putting a nice fresh folded burlap blanket over my bottles of water made the booth look a little less po-dunk. It took me until last week to figure that one out! Why so long???
Why two booths? I had the opportunity to show in two places at once. My previous booth had died a sudden death (yes, I forced it and bent it, and plastic parts broke…don’t get a booth with plastic parts..) and I had just ordered one when the opportunity came up, so I ordered a twin! It turned out fine, since I did nearly sell out at the new venue. Gobbled up my earnings, but it was good because now I can either spread out at the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, or send a helper out with the extra booth to another venue.
Sunny weather is great– you can move things out where people will want to touch them. With wood product, this is particularly helpful…the wood people are often tactile people, and they come in with hands feeling as well as with eyes looking. A fellow vendor made me a great stand for a featured item, as you can see. I gave him a free shopping trip through my booth so he could choose something in return. This does happen in fairs and Farmer’s Markets. It’s an informal swap meet…or gifts between friends.
There is a community that happens in a regular market. You find friends among your fellow vendors who are really extra wonderful… being in a venture together makes good bonds, usually. Also you see “regulars” who come and watch you grow and change. I get wood people coming in who want me to come drag their burls from their yards. They want to know if I will carve them a horse. And they come back and buy things now and then. They bring their friends. We have a nice chat–an extension on our last chat. “How’s your husband?” “When is your wedding date?” “Did you have a good time in Coeur d’Alene?”
I take all this stuff to the market in the back of my Odyssey. I have no idea how such a nice spread gets into a sleek mini-van. But it does. Like a jigsaw puzzle. Every week it gets a little more sophisticated…the packing technique. Not only how do you get it in there, but how do you want it to unload next time you have to unload it? Which items go on top?
It’s a long day, but even though it takes this old swimmer a day or so to recover from the effort, it’s very rewarding in terms of human interaction, and the learning curve is about right for a senior citizen to stave off Alzheimer’s or other kinds of dementia.
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