People have literally been telling me to do this show for years, and I honestly couldn’t tell you why I haven’t tried it before. My dental hygienist, of all people, was the person who finally put the flyer in my hands this past summer and somehow that translated to me finally signing up for the event. Life is funny.
I was a little nervous about having enough inventory ready for this show, since we’d gone on vacation for a whole week after Sterlingfest, where I’d basically sold out of all my furniture, and we had St. Augustine’s out in Richmond the day before. Luckily, I finished two of the bigger pieces that I’d bought up north, and another bed bench before Shed 5, and we only sold one big piece on Saturday, which meant that our booth was full for the event in Eastern Market. Unfortunately, we came home with nearly everything, though we did hand out quite a few business cards.
This show was organized by Mercantile Fairs, which hosts three “fleas” throughout the summer in Eastern Market. This was the last one for the year, and I had high hopes for it. Eastern Market is one of those unique places that you just don’t think about a lot unless you’re often in Detroit, and it’s still surprising to me that it’s both the largest open air market and the largest historic market district (the original sheds were built in the 1800’s!!) in the United States. The vibe as we were setting up was amazing, and I got really excited to shop, once we started selling a few things. I was disappointed overall, but not every show can be an amazing show.
Here’s the breakdown of how Shed 5 went for us:
Price: This show cost $150, which seemed perfectly reasonable when I signed up for it. Mercantile Fairs does a good bit of promotion around Detroit with flyers, posters, and online marketing, and the shows are well-staffed and well-organized. I hadn’t done a show with them since a downtown Northville market in fall 2014, but I knew that they did a decent job. For a one day event it’s still pretty high, and the thing that I’d forgotten about the show that I did in Northville was that they’d put me at the end of a side street rather than in the main part of the show, which they did again this time. But that’s more for the location part of the post.
Location: In theory, there almost couldn’t be a better location for this event. Like I said, there’s the history of Eastern Market that draws people there to hang out no matter what is going on; in addition, there was an antique car show, farmer’s market, food truck alley, and, of course, the Shed 5 flea. The sheds are enclosed, with bathrooms and large garage-type doors on either side that they open for air-flow. Between the sheds, open air pavilions stretch across the blocks, making a walkway for the crowds where the food trucks, smaller booths, and produce guys can just pull right up. The pavilion area in back of Shed 5 was where most of the furniture vendors were, and where I would have preferred to be—instead, the organizers put us up front on Russel Street, with the flea market section, and where it really didn’t seem like there was as much traffic.
We were able to pull right up onto the sidewalk to unload—basically right up to the back of where our booth was, which is always really nice—the spots in the front and the back were both like this—for the booths on the inside of the shed, there was a little more walking/carrying involved in the set-up.
Traffic: Whenever I went into the shed during the busiest part of the day, it was packed. Like, wall to wall people. I made a mental note to come very early if I ever plan to shop—there were so many people that it was difficult to really concentrate on looking at the amazing wares available. In the back, where most of the furniture was, it was busy, but not quite as busy as the inside. But at the front, we never had the masses of people pressing by the booth the way they were inside. If I do this show again next summer, I’ll definitely request a spot that’s either inside or at the back, where the furniture and décor people were better represented–that was my top takeaway from this event.
*Side note: I was slightly justified in my rationalization that we were way out of the traffic pattern a few days later, when I was chatting with a friend who had gone to Eastern Market not knowing I would be there, and had totally missed our booth. When I told her where we’d been, she couldn’t even picture the front of the shed. The flow of traffic just really wasn’t moving people out that way (at least, not that day).
It seemed like many people were shopping for small items and Christmas gifts, though I did see furniture being loaded out in front of our booth, and I know that at least one of the other vendors almost sold out of her big pieces, so it’s not that people weren’t shopping for larger items. I had two very big pieces (my buffet and the Graphite bed bench that I also had at St. Augustine), and I didn’t bring any of my smaller items. With our two sales, we didn’t even end up making our booth fee, which is always very discouraging, especially at a show that I just assumed would be a slam dunk for us. We had several people comment that the prices on our pieces were very reasonable, which is encouraging, especially after our experience with that in Richmond, but no one was in the market for a buffet, I guess.
You can see from the photos that we had a trash can in the middle of our booth—one of those ones that’s cemented to the sidewalk, so you can’t move it (they came by and said that they’d given us a bit more space to make up for it), and I’m glad that it wasn’t a super hot day because it would have been way stinkier. The worst part about it was that, for about two hours in the afternoon when the crowds had even started to die down inside the shed, no one came into our booth at all except to throw stuff away. It was rough.
I’ve been working on a post this month for a series that’s starting in September about how to deal when an event isn’t going the way you’d planned. Shed 5 really tested me—all I wanted to do was lock myself in one of the bathroom stalls (or in my van) and cry for awhile. It feels embarrassing to me when I go to a huge event and barely sell a thing—like I’m losing touch with what people are looking for, like no one will ever buy a piece from me again. At first, I put it all on myself, and then I try to explain it by analyzing external things (where they put us, how my prices line up with the rest of the show, the time of year). I saw a ton of my ideal customers at the show, but hardly any of them came into the booth—they were all inside the shed. Sometimes, there’s no good explanation–like I said earlier, not every day can be THE day.
I waited to cry until I was driving home. During the day, I tried to plan, to dream, to look towards the next event. None of that worked out too well, though I did come up with a few ideas for upcoming blog posts. It was really hard not to do the thing where I start thinking about how this kind of thing will never happen once I have my store. Like, there won’t ever be a month where I don’t make my rent. But that’s not reality. I know retail is hard. I know retail is dying (in a lot of ways), especially brick and mortar retail. How much harder will it be when there’s slow month where nothing is happening and I don’t sell enough to make my rent? It sounds like I was depressing myself even more with these kinds of thoughts, but I’m really just trying to keep things in perspective. Some months, and some events, for whatever reason, will legitimately stink. It’s fine. Well, it’s not fine, but I’ll get over it. On to the next challenge. But all of this is fodder for a different post.
Shed 5 was a great event, but just not for me (at least this one wasn’t). I wish I had gone just to shop—there were a ton of great vendors there and I didn’t really get to buy a few of the things I wanted to because I just didn’t make enough to do it. I did pick up these awesome metal 1950’s juice cans for my succulent centerpiece idea for the Bible Journaling event.
How did you do at the Shed 5 Flea this August? I know that there were a ton of people who had a killer show there, which is amazing! What shows are on the horizon for you? I’m super excited about the fall—it’s my favorite season and such a great time for doing shows, shopping for my Christmas list, and, of course, wearing sweaters!!