This was my third year at the Santa Cruz Church Street Fair, and the year where I most enjoyed the people I met, the extraordinary talents of the vendors, and the challenge and fun of promoting and selling my “Impudent Soaps for Adventuresome Folks.”
So and Soap Products
Each year I hope I’ve made products people will want, and each year I’m surprised about what catches the customer’s fancy. I thought the artsy Cabrillo Vase soaps would be a hit, but the Where the Watermelons Are and Turkish Bazaar soaps were winners. As predicted, all of the lavender soaps sold well, the kids went for the bath bombs, and the Soap Lifts brought in customers who would normally walk past my booth. The $6 soaps didn’t sell any better than the $7 soaps, so a dollar off doesn’t seem to make a difference. This year everyone wants shampoo bars, so I must look into getting some ready soon.
So and Soap Customers
I was lucky to have my usual spot near the front of the vendor area, so I got people who are newly wowed by the sights and sounds of the fair. In my case, they are also wowed by the soap fragrances that waft from my booth into the air from about to about 10 feet away. Just after that they notice the big So and Soap banner across the back of my booth. They love to say the name out loud and chuckle a bit. Some come over right away, some say they will come back later (and surprisingly, many do), and most walk by with nary a glance.
Interesting booth visitors
- The woman who buys soaps to match her clothes.
- The guy who collects handmade soaps for the fragrances and colors, and displays (and maybe uses) them in his bathroom. It’s rare to find people other than soap makers who collect soaps.
- A customer who says he’s a tinker, sailor, chauffeur, and spy.
- A woman who says she and her dog can’t handle fragrances and then she proceeded to sniff every product I have.
- Two women who spent fifteen minutes looking and asking about my products, clearly favoring several, and then didn’t buy anything. Were they fellow soap makers casing me out?
- The guy who gave me an origami bird “for free” and then demanded a donation so he could pay his credit card debt.
- The young man so impressed with the watermelon soap that he proclaimed it an artistic masterpiece and shook my hand.
- The woman trying to buy just the right thing for her fiancé and a lotion to soothe her eczema. She clearly appreciated my help and I have a feeling her fiancé will appreciate her thoughtfulness.
- The young man nervously trying to decide which bath bomb to buy for his girlfriend. He so wanted it to be something with just the right color and fragrance, and he loved it when I gift wrapped his purchase.
- An upbeat teenage girl who sought out my booth again this year for the bath bombs. She bought one on Saturday, tried it out Saturday night, and came back Sunday to buy more.
Booth Neighbors and Buddies
Now that I’ve vended at this fair for three years, I’m getting to know some of the vendors who also participate every year. Yes, there are several other soap vendors at this fair, including local favorite Garimo. He makes fantastic organic soaps in earthy colors. The booth next door is always watercolorist Carol Riddle. Carol paints scenes from around Santa Cruz county, and she catches the essence of our area perfectly. I always buy her cards, chat with her when I can, and watch her booth when she needs a break.
At this fair I was concerned about the uneven pavement in front of my booth because I saw fair goers stumbling over the cracks. It was Carol who helped me plan how to place some orange caution tape around the cracks to minimize the hazard.
My booth neighbor on the other side was Barb from Lazy Dog Designs. Barb makes these clever ponchos from hemp fabric she dyes herself. They feature interesting hand made buttons from Africa. Her quilts feature graphic images inspired by the sea. Barb loves meeting people and I noticed that people lingered in her booth at length just to chat with her.
One vendor I see at every fair in Santa Cruz county is Peggy from Twins Kitchen. What a vibrant personality! She draws everyone in with her inclusive enthusiasm. And I love her multi-colored glasses frames! She makes amazing jams and mustards. I always buy Blackberry Pie Jam and Champagne Herb Mustard. This time I also bought Heirloom Apricot Jam. I tried it in a vodka cocktail. It was love at first taste!
My best booth buddy is my husband Ben. He’s the one who sets up and knocks down my canopy, fills in when I and my booth neighbors need a break (even though selling is out of his comfort zone), takes care of transactions and purchase wrapping while I chat with customers, and hands me a glass of wine and dinner at home when I’m done for the day. Other booth buddies were friends who came to check in and touted my products to prospective customers.
I sell at fairs maybe eight or ten times a year, so each time I do it feels like a special event and a privilege to share my soapy art with others.