Yesterday was the first of our 10 holiday market days and while I don’t usually go with Mark to set up for markets, we left the kids with a babysitter at 7:30am and left together in the torrential, apocalyptic style rain over the Manhattan Bridge and into 18th street. The BUST Magazine Craftacular expanded to 2 floors this year and while I’m not sure that made a positive or negative impact on the fair, we had the same spot as last year right by the entryway so it was hard for us to tell. I wanted to come so that we could figure out the display for posters and tea towels.
First of all the fair is LONG. 10 hours. But it’s the kind of event where people line up early to get in at 10am, even in a torrential downpour (at least it wasn’t cold, but it was windy), and there are still lines down the block to get in as late as noon. Don’t ask me why. My brain can’t comprehend why anyone would want to stand outside in the pouring rain or the frigid cold as was the case last year to get into a craft fair, but this is why the Craftacular is a good one for vendors. It has a pricier booth fee, but this is our best event in terms of sales and we even blew last year out of the water with the addition of tea towels and prints. It makes all those long hours worth it and it was certainly a nice end to a crazy week. Mark turned to me and said, “well, at least I’m not in the kitchen”. It was a nice change for him.
Every fair is a learning experience and you try to make adjustments in inventory or display to make the next ones better. Because of the way our week went, we really only had 1 day to get products baked for the fair. We could have had a few more packages of the cookies that sold out around 4pm, but Mark did the best he could and we had a fully stocked table. We always bring 2 containers of hot beverages – this year was Mark’s hot spiced chai which was perfect for the rainy weather. It sold out in 2 hours. As a business owner, you can’t help but think that you’d have the potential of making lots more money if we had chai to last the whole fair, but it’s a time and money issue: no time to make more chai and those insulated containers are expensive.
It’s sort of amazing that we have still haven’t hired any help through all of this. We are still doing every single thing ourselves -from baking to packing to delivering wholesale orders and pushing 30 packages to the local post office in 2 granny carts. I can’t decide if that makes us stupid or smart. Stupid because we nearly kill ourselves in the process of getting orders out and fairs done. Stupid because we’ve had to turn down a few large corporate gift orders, but smart, perhaps, because our business has been profitable since day 1. But remember how we lost our kitchen space in the summer and how Mark has been bouncing back and forth between a few different kitchens and doing all these crazy overnight baking shifts?
We feel extremely lucky that we found a large industrial kitchen in Sunset Park right in time for holiday madness. The rental fee is really very reasonable and he’s been in the kitchen every single day for a flat weekly fee. Aside from that, the best thing about the kitchen is that it’s very well equipped for bakers and probably the best equipped kitchen he’s ever worked in. We’re talking a large 8 ft cookie sheeter and a cookie scooper. Do you know what this means?? This is huge! It means that Mark doesn’t have to roll endless sheets of dough by hand. It means that he doesn’t have to scoop cookies with a small cookie scooper for hours and hours. A machine – a large $80,000 machine – does it for him now. The other great thing about the kitchen is that the people who run it are really nice. It also means that it’s possible that Mark can take on an intern from a cooking school now that he has the space to do that in. We were never able to bring on another person because of shared kitchen space issues. Sometimes we think it’s too good to be true because it completely saved us this holiday season. There is no way we could have done it otherwise.
So this is how we’re getting it done by ourselves. We have another tough week ahead, but after that, after Sunday, we can breathe a little easier though we won’t be officially done until 7pm on Dec 23rd. Next up is our 9 day stay at the Brooklyn Flea’s Gifted Market which opens Wednesday. And now…back to work.