Where Are All The People?

Crowd

One of the most annoying phrases I hear from my vendors is, “Where is everyone”? What they are asking me is why there aren’t more customers at the market on that day at that particular time. My response to them is always the same. I tell them that if I could predict where the largest concentrations of people were going to be on that day, I would be rich. Unfortunately, it is always hard to predict how busy a market is going to be from one day and one location to the next.

Ironically, I am writing this as I am working at a market and one of my vendors just asked me where all the people are. I hope she didn’t get too insulted when I just laughed.

This season, we are running five markets per week in four different locations. I would say that four of them have been very successful this year which is why we will probably close the poorly performing market next year. The one that isn’t doing well is baffling to me. On paper, that market should do incredibly well but, for some reason, it isn’t. It is located in a beautiful park in a mostly middle to upper middle class neighborhood with no other competing markets nearby, there are weekly concerts in the park, and tons of commuter traffic that passes by our sign, showing the dates and hours of the market, every day. This is also the third year for the market in this location and even with all of that, for some reason, that market just cannot seem to find its audience. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

Whether the market is in a park, a mall, or a parking lot, it is never guaranteed that it will find the shoppers it needs to survive. Our rule of thumb is that it generally takes a market three to five years to really establish itself. I would never complain about having a successful business, however that being said, when you do have successful markets, everyone always expects a new market that you open to be a huge success on the first day. So when it takes time to become a draw, everyone always bitches about it. The vendors complain that they aren’t making any money and the property owner always asks why there aren’t as many people shopping as at a market that has been around for twenty years. We always have to remind vendors and property owners that we told them at the beginning it would take time to establish the new market. It’s also why we don’t charge nearly as much for booth fees as we would for a big, well established market.

Another factor that hits us in this area is that we are an event driven region. By that I mean that we are a tourism driven town and we have big special events almost every weekend during the summer tourist season. Sometimes these events cause the customer base to decline for a week or two. Weather can also be a factor. When it climbs up to near 100 degrees, people tend to stay in their homes and enjoy the air conditioning. We’ve also been plagued by smoke from forest fires for the past few years which really hasn’t helped much.

Overall though, we have a very steady customer base at our markets and most of our vendors do pretty well which is why they keep coming back to participate in our markets year after year.

So if you are a vendor at a market or craft fair, please know that most of the people who organize these events, are doing their best and truly believe that the time, dates, and location are going to be profitable for you. If they operate like we do, they have really put some thought into this. We scout locations, look at whether there is a competing event, spend money on advertising, and try to get the word out as best we can using social media and word of mouth. If you are a customer, take a look at some of the local websites, Facebook pages, or local advertising and give one of the newer or smaller markets a shot. It could just turn out to be a hidden jewel that becomes a favorite place for you to go and shop.

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This Is My Office

My Office

This is my office. Like yours, I have co-workers, a supervisor, subordinates, and customers. We also have a snack bar that is better than any other I have ever seen. Unlike most offices though, mine gets set up at the beginning of the day and then gets folded up and put away into my car at the end of my shift. I am an event organizer. Specifically, I put together farmers’ markets. For those of you who haven’t been to one, a farmers’ market is an event that has been around for as long as there has been civilization. They have been called bazaars, marketplaces, expos, festivals, fairs, and more in the past, and they have always been there for you to come to shop, gather with neighbors, listen to music, and meet the people that grow your food. It is also a great place to meet those crafty types who make things like jewelry, art, and pottery. You can also find folks that work with wood, stone, and metal at most markets.
Markets have personalities, accents, and attitudes. A lot of it depends on where you are when you go to a market. Markets in Arab countries are vastly different than markets in Europe which are different than those here in the U.S. Of course, since we have such a large country, markets in the U.S. have different flavors depending on which region you’re in. Since our country is made up of such differing landscapes, the crops and products you find on the West Coast are going to be very different than those in the South, Midwest, or the East and the times you can find markets vary by where you are as well. There are some areas such as Southern California where you can find markets all year round. Those of us who are more northward, have seasons. Our season here in Reno generally runs from late May to early October.
A lot of us have been spoiled by the big grocery chains and modern shipping avenues that are available to us now. Even if you are in Montana, chances are that if you go to the store in December, you will find a banana or lettuce or an apple. It causes us to forget that, in your area, it’s a pretty safe guess that you will either not be able to get those items from a local farm but that, even if they grow that crop, they can only do it for a short time during the year. I cannot begin to tell you how many times that I have had to explain to someone that mangos do not grow in Nevada and that is why they cannot find them at the market. A farmers’ market is a place where you can find fruit, vegetables, nuts, and meats that are grown locally in your area.
I have only been in this business a short while as this is my fourth season running markets but I have learned from the best. I have to admit that when I first started doing this, I was one of those people who thought, “How hard can this be?” It’s just a farmers’ market after all. Well I can now tell you, from experience, that it not an easy thing at all. Think about the effort you put into planning a dinner for family and friends or a kids birthday party. All of the hours you spend making sure the food is right and that you make sure all of the guests’ dietary habits are covered. The invitations you sent out and how disappointed you are when someone doesn’t call you to tell you they won’t make it. Then the time you spent planning the entertainment, whether it was a clown, a princess, a bounce house, or a band. Now imagine doing that five times a week. It can be a lot of fun and I do get to meet a ton of very cool people. However, like every other job I’ve ever had, for all the great experiences I have and the awesome people I meet, there are times when things go totally sideways and nothing seems to go right or there is some asshat that just wants to yell at me because mangoes don’t grow in Nevada and that is somehow my fault.
I am new to blogging so you will have to forgive me any errors that I make but I hope that in reading what I’m putting out there, you will get to know more about this very cool way to bring locally produced food into your home and the trials and tribulations that go along with running this type of event.

Hello world!

Ever since I was in high school, I love to participate in events.  I volunteered for as many as I could because I just wanted to be involved in putting together events that would allow people to have fun.  Since the late 1980’s, I have volunteered and/or helped to organize events such as the Sparks Farmer’s Market, The Great Reno Balloon Races, the Downtown Farmer’s Markets, numerous haunted houses and safe trick-or-treating events at Halloween and parades at Christmas, historical and haunted walking tours in Carson City and Virginia City, charity murder mystery dinners, musical events with local talent, and quite a few charity fundraising events.

I also have tons of talented friends and have enjoyed helping them whenever they needed my assistance.  I have lugged gear for my musician friends, hauled lights and equipment for my video and photographer friends, and played bodyguard for people when they participate in cons and other events when they are in very elaborate costumes.

I just really enjoy seeing something creative come together and do everything I can to help out.