Good morning friends! As I write this, I am definitely feeling this past weekend—two different events, in two days, in two totally different areas takes its toll! I’m writing about our experience at the St. Augustine Festival in Richmond today, and next week I’ll be sharing a review of the Shed 5 Flea at Eastern Market.
We decided to do the St. Augustine Festival back in May, and we had three reasons for signing up. The first was that we were coming off of a really good show just down the street at Junk in the Trunk, and we were thinking (since we’d never been to Richmond before) that it was a great area for our items. The second was that the booth fee was very reasonable, which is always appealing to me when I’m thinking about the third reason that I’m doing shows this summer, which is to provide resources and information about local shows and events for all of my wonderful readers!
After four years and nearly 50 events, you would have thought that I’d have learned everything there is to know about doing a craft show, but I’m so surprised at the things that I’m still learning, and this show provided some great experience. Of course, I have this sneaking suspicion that I may have already learned some of these things, but they are so much clearer now because I’m writing them down and thinking analytically about them far beyond just the moment in which they occur.
So here’s the breakdown of the St. Augustine Parish Festival Craft Show, which was held this past Saturday, August 12, 2017, from 12-6 p.m.
Price: The show only cost us $25, which, again, was a big reason for why we signed up. For that small of an investment, the festival was publicized quite well—both on Facebook and on several large signs throughout the town and on the front lawn of the parish, which is on Main Street in Richmond.
Location: The organizers put us out on the front lawn of the church (which, incidentally, is really beautiful), for a really nice reason, they explained. They’d met us when we were in Richmond for Junk in the Trunk, and they wanted us out by the road to really attract traffic that wasn’t already flowing to the event. That’s really nice to hear, but it had an adverse effect on us in a couple of ways.
First, there was no way to bring our vehicles right up to our booth, which is pretty important for most vendors, especially those who have a lot of heavier pieces. We had to carry our items all the way from the parking lot to the front of the church, around the side of the building. There were volunteers available to help us with this, which was very nice, but I always get a little nervous handing over my pieces to someone else—just in case. That’s probably something I have to learn to let go of, right?
The second adverse effect it had on us was that the traffic was very loud. Part of this was because we were literally ten feet from the busiest road in town, and part of it was because we were also right on the corner where there was a stoplight. If a group of motorcycles or some guy with his bass up really high had to stop at the light, you couldn’t hear anything else for several seconds, which made it difficult to talk to customers during those times. As pretty as it was to be on the front lawn of the church looking up at the beautiful architecture, I would have so preferred to be in the parking lot, where nearly half of the vendors were, where it was quiet and traffic was more predictable.
The last thing that was a little strange about it was that once we were all set up, the side of the church along the sidewalk was roped off by these colorful flags, and it had the weird effect of cutting off the flow of people near our booth and forcing customers to walk along the grass on the side of the church, which felt strange and unnecessary. It made sense to have them across the front of the lawn to let people know there was an event going on, but having them run down the side street? We had a couple of people walk by our tent on the other side of the flags and ask how they were even supposed to get into it; we responded by telling them to just hop over the banners.
Traffic: The crowds were light, and most of the people seemed to be there to shop at the very reasonably priced flea market and country store/farm market that the parish was running. We made our booth quickly with the sale of one large piece, but then for the rest of the day sales were very slow.
Part of the reason that traffic was slow could have been that the weather was being super weird—one minute the sun was out and it was warm, the next minute the sun was behind a cloud and it was freezing, the next minute the sun was back out but it was raining, and then it would pour for a minute or two, and then the sun would come out again. It was crazy. The vintage pieces we had outside the tent must have gotten damp and then dried about four times throughout the day.
In addition, noon is a strange start time—we might have had better luck with a 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. time slot, especially since it’s usual to do most of your sales in the morning at an event like this. Apparently, services at the church started at 6 p.m., so this may have been a reason that the event was structured in the later part of the day—hoping to capitalize on that church crowd on its way in.
Especially in light of our success in April, I was surprised by some of the comments that customers made and the reactions to our prices this time around. Granted, our show in April was more vintage and antique pieces and not really crafts, so maybe it’s an unfair comparison. One customer asked for a discount on a sign as soon as he saw it, and then when I offered one, he asked that I come down even more, stating how high my original price was. That kind of thing can be really hard to swallow, and I honestly thought about his comments for a couple of days before I was able to shake it off. It’s hard to know how to respond when something like that happens—it’s one thing to haggle over a piece that needs work or might be slightly damaged, but it’s another to ask for a discount on a finished piece (I always have trouble with the word “art”—I feel like that should apply to paintings, drawings, and sculpture—but that’s probably a discussion for another post).
That wasn’t even as blatant as the customer who came in talking very loudly about how she could do this or that herself, and about how we probably got all of our furniture for free and just marked it way up. She was particularly incensed about this headboard bench:
She kept insisting that we must have gotten it for free and how crazy it was that we were charging $180 for it, and how easy it would be for her to make one herself. Her comments and questions were mostly directed at her mom, though she consistently made eye contact with us. Once again, it’s difficult to know how to respond, other than to offer clarification on the paint we use, the experience we have with building furniture, and the option for delivery. But this particular customer wasn’t really interested in that, so we just kind of smiled and nodded. What else can you do?
I make it a point not to leave events early, but this one was so slow by 4 p.m., and the weather was getting worse and worse, so we asked the organizers if they would mind if we called it a day. I’d been feeling sick all day anyway, and literally, all I wanted to do was take a shower and go to bed (of course, Dan was sick that weekend, too, so it was just super fun for everyone).
They were really nice about it, and once we were done packing up, my mom and I walked through the rest of the show and did a little shopping, which was nice. We should go to more events just to shop and have fun. I’m making a mental note to do that.
I’m really glad that we packed up when we did, because the two closest spaces to park (where we parked to unload in the morning) were handicapped spaces that weren’t reserved as a loading/unloading zone for breakdown—when the church service got close, parishioners parked in those two spaces for the service, and the crafters in front had to park even farther away while they broke down their booths, as we observed when leaving. The volunteers who helped carry things in the morning were nowhere to be seen, either. The set-up had been staggered that morning—they gave segments of the show different arrival times to make the whole thing smoother, but that always makes me nervous for breakdown since there’s no way to stagger that, and someone is probably going to get screwed and have to wait around forever (though it usually ends up working out in the end).
I always feel like craft shows are a little tricky in June and August, especially for smaller shows–June is graduation month and August is back to school–there’s just so much else going on. Though the St. Augustine festival was a decent enough show for what it was, I can’t see us returning next year–it just didn’t command a big enough crowd to justify the trip out there. We are still really looking forward to doing Junkstock in downtown Richmond in September–this time MI Junktiques is hosting a weekend long sale during Richmond’s fall festival, and the crowds are supposed to be very good as long as the weather holds out. Look for that review in mid-September, and let me know in the comments if you have any questions or comments for me! Thanks for reading, friends.