The Life of a Vendor

When Pat Corrigan from Hicksville, NY, is at a craft fair, his main focus is working the crowd. With three years of experience, he has displayed his designer cutting boards in many fairs all over Long Island including churches, hospitals and even Stony Brook University. On Saturday, September 13, 2014, he experienced the 28th Country Craft Fair at Good Shephard Lutheran Church for the first time.

“It’s a way to bring the community together,” the president of the church’s council, John Kallas, said. “A lot of people come to our craft fairs, and often they end up saying they’ll try this out as a church to go to as well because it’s pretty laid back,” Pastor Remo Madsen who has been at the church for nine years, added.

There were 47 vendor displays spread out on the side of Hempstead Turnpike on the front lawn of the church in Levittown, NY, but the only thing that Corrigan cared about was selling his products – handmade designer cutting boards, cheese boards, breadboards and candleholders all made from different colored wood from Robert’s Plywood.

He wore his usual craft fair attire, a navy blue “got wood?” tee shirt and stood in front of his table for the duration of the whole fair. “You have to be up, standing out in front of your craft, speaking to the people as they come by,” Corrigan said. “Once they walk by and they don’t see you, game over.”

The key to his admitted success at fairs is his friendly personality. He uses his charm and positive energy to lure customers to his table in hopes they buy one of his boards. “You have to be personable, if you’re dull and boring it’s not going to work,” he said. “You have to talk to people and get them interested.”

Mary Ellen Meadows of Uniondale, NY, who has displayed her handmade jewelry at this fair for at least five years, has a different approach. “I don’t say anything except usually just, hello,” she said. Meadows spreads out her jewelry on her half of the table right next to the bracelet stands that are placed in front of her close friend Susan Pickett of Ridge, NY. Both of them enjoy the experience of fairs. “It’s fun to be a vendor at fairs because you meet fascinating people,” Meadows said. “You can have the time of your life talking to people who come to fairs.”

For many vendors, selling their products is fun, but there is a lot of preparation and money that goes into the production of their craft. According to Meadows, it cost vendors forty dollars to have a table at the church. One vendor who chose to be anonymous said it costs them between forty and two hundred dollars to be at a fair with a fifty percent profit rate. “It gets expensive at fairs if you don’t do so well,” Corrigan, who spent four thousand dollars in woodcutting machinery, said.

Tom Slattery of Bethpage, NY who handcrafts and paints wooden signs feels pressured by the originality of his inventory. “I don’t have a stock. My pieces here are all originals,” he said. “You have to think about what people are going to want. It’s a lot of preparation.”

In addition to the preparation and expense, one of the most important parts about being a vendor is the customer. When people walk up to Joan Costello’s custom beaded jewelry display, she and her assistant, Erica Falcone of Bethpage, NY, try to understand their customers’ needs. “We try to see what people are shopping for,” Falcone said. “We try to help them put together an outfit or a set and then we try to say how we would wear it and see what they think.”

Corrigan pays extra close attention to who his customers are. “All my designs are random to give the ladies a choice, because most of my customers are women,” he said. “I use all different kinds of colorful wood to make them pop to make them attractive.” He applies the advice he receives from customers at fairs to his work and designs.

“You have to listen to your customer; they’re the ones that are paying for your craft,” Corrigan added.

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