14 August 2011 Market Report

The weather report said yesterday was going to be a nice “partly cloudy” day in the mid-70s. There was a 10% chance of rain1.

The skies out our window, admittedly at about 5:30am when neither of us is at our best, were lovely. So, we got ready, but on shorts & t-shirts, hauled out our water bottles & food to be composted & we walked to the bus stop.

As we walked, the dark, dark clouds rolled in. The skies stopped being lovely. Drizzle started happening. We were not terribly thrilled with this turn of events.

We were pretty thrilled, though, that we caught our bus. That early on a Sunday morning, the buses only run about every 20 – 30 minutes, which means that we’re more often better off walking than waiting for a bus. However, we’re always weighed down with water and compost (and sometimes food), so we really like taking the bus.

We hopped off the bus to get coffee for Bill and tea for me at the Caribou Coffee nearest the site. We also each grabbed one of their kind of crappy sandwiches. I’d prefer not to do this, for a variety of reasons, but we’re 11 weeks into running the market and still have not figured out the best way to do breakfast those mornings. Though this was the first morning that I took a big bag of peaches with us, so we would have had something to eat later on. That also turned out to be a good choice.

Honestly, one of the worst things about running the market is that I’m never interested in food that early in the morning. Generally, no matter what time I wake up, it takes about an hour for me to be ready for breakfast. This varies with time of day, however. The earlier in the morning, the longer between when I wake up and when I want to eat.

Anyway, yesterday turned out to be rainy in the morning, off and on. It also turned out to be surprisingly cold. Apparently the mid-70s are only warm if it’s sunny & not wet.

Rain, as I think I’ve mentioned in the past, is a major problem for one of our vendors, as he sells used books. He simply cannot sell in wet weather. He came out for awhile yesterday, but never unpacked anything & eventually gave up. I can’t blame him.

But I learned something interesting from his leaving. He takes up a lot of visual space, and I learned just how much this matters yesterday.

He left within the first hour or so. The booth next to him did not attend the market this week. This means we started down two vendors. However, because of the way the book guy sets up, it appeared more like four vendors down. We have a woman who sells tamales with her daughters. This group is almost always late, so they were not there before our book guy left. So down three vendors, but it looked like five.

One of our vendors was simply unprepared for the cold, and they had to pack it in near the end, but not as near the end as I might have liked. At the same time, the tamale lady came, but started tearing down her tent. She stayed, selling horchada for another hour or so, but it wasn’t good.

In the end, we were down four regular vendors, but it looked like six. And that appearance made a huge difference. A number of people stopped by and asked if we were just a small market yesterday, or if we’d lost vendors. When I did that same “math” for them that I’ve typed up above, they realized the market is about the same as always, especially with our five “anchor” vendors around, and were quite happy.

But I dread thinking about how many people DIDN’T talk to me. I worry that people will see the market as small and not come back.

So far, we’ve had pretty steady attendance numbers, even on a rainy day like yesterday. With that, I hope that no one will never come back based on one day. But I don’t know.

I do find it fascinating to see that, though the time of day might change, and probably the amounts that people spend chance (we see this as we run the LINK tent), the number of people moving through our market is pretty steady. I’m looking forward to the off-season, when I can take some solid looks at how many people we actually get each week & what times they show up, and how the weather impacts them.

fn1. I always wonder why they report as “X% chance of rain” when, as I understand it “X%” means “there was rain on X% of days that had these weather conditions at this time of year.” No wonder it’s kind of confusing.