I had my first tailgate market experience yesterday at the Weaverville Tailgate Market and, despite the (blessedly) intermittent rain and dropping temperatures, I loved it. Yesterday was also my first taste of working all day on baked goods – going into the kitchen in the morning, baking without stopping, and immediately making my way to sell said goods. I was absolutely exhausted, in the best way, when I finally returned home for the evening.
But let’s start from the beginning. It’s story time!
The night before and day of: I packed my car full of my kitchen and marketing supplies (and I mean full – I don’t think someone could have ridden with me), and headed to my community kitchen for the first time in over two months to roll out (pun intended) Icelandic almond rolls, butternut squash bread, and salted chocolate chip cookies for market.
First lesson: it takes a heck of a lot longer to package individual items by hand than I thought, especially into my relatively new compostable packages, which are loud, somewhat rigid plastic-like bags. Cookies slid in easily, while almond rolls, if I wanted them to look presentable, fought back. Note to self: allow at least half an hour for packaging.
As I am with most new experiences, I was pretty anxious about set up. I used to tell my kids and colleagues at school that I’m “so Type A it hurts”; I would practice my short lectures or giving directions before kids would come into the classroom, and wrote and re-wrote emails until they were “just so.” Market setup was no exception: I practiced my whole setup in my living room the day before so I’d know that everything worked, how my tent opened, how much I could fit onto my little table, and where and how to hang my brand-spankin’-new sign.
Fast forward again to market day: I rolled in, and was immediately helped into setup by the market manager, as well as my marketing neighbors. I felt as welcome and wanted as a vendor as I do as a customer at tailgate markets, which felt amazing and relieved a lot of my anxiety going in. We chatted, I asked questions, and I just felt good, despite the cold rain dripping onto my chair and down my neck every once in a while (ugh!).
Second lesson: Find a way to keep my chair totally under the tent. Maybe get a bigger tent. Or a smaller chair.
As for actual sales? In the many jobs and volunteer gigs I’ve had, I’ve never been terribly keen on selling, and especially upselling, items, unless I felt really good about the product or service. In comparison to hawking Girl Scout cookies, grocery items, and side dishes for hams, selling at market felt natural and good. (Yes, I’m going to use those words a lot here.) I realize this was likely helped by the fact that a) I made the stuff, so I knew exactly what went into it and what I like about it and b) I believe I’m selling to very like-minded people (as in, my baked goods are specifically designed for customers at farmer’s and tailgate markets).
In all of this, I felt comfortable talking, informing, and joking around with customers in a way that I never could as a grocery store cashier. In other words, I loved working. (This is coming from a Type A introvert who’s actually enjoying being at home these days. It also says a lot about the customers themselves. It’s huge.) I felt like myself, and nothing but myself.
I’m sure there will be days and times where I won’t feel as grand, where I might have cookies and pastries re-baking in the sun or freezing in the sleet, where I’ll be more scatterbrained in one way or another and forget something important (or many important somethings). But enjoying myself in that first experience, even in that cold rain, says a lot about what I’m doing, not only at market itself, but in the sustainable baking and homesteading experiences.
I’m in the right place, at the right time.
Are you a local? Want to know when I’ll be at market, where, and what I’ll be making in a given week? Follow @thecrunchybaker on Facebook and Instagram for updates and previews. Or, contact me directly on the Contact or Order pages of this site if you have special requests, orders, questions, or comments – I’d love to chat!