Monday, June 22, 2009

Hot Fun in the Summertime

It was a scorcher this weekend in and humid. The morning crowds were good at Traders World, but by mid-afternoon, folks had found something better to do. Saturday was especially brutal for us because it was so windy that we couldn't put the umbrellas up. It was a constant battle to rotate the fruits and vegetable and keep misting them to avoid losing things to the sun.
We've been tracking customers for the last few weeks. There are some definite patterns developing as far as heaviest traffic times and customer spending habits. Of course, these things will change as we change locations, but Barry is doing a good job of recording the data. In order to be successful in the produce business, you must learn to reduce shrinkage. The only way to do that is to keep good records of what's coming and going.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Poppers for Pop on Father's Day

Don't forget your dad on this Father's Day weekend. I've got my card in the mail, and I'm looking forward to my Sunday phone call to my dad in Florida. The older I get, the more I appreciate all he has done and continues to do for me. In fact, just this week he offered me a couple marketing ideas. With age comes wisdom, and I've found that "Father Knows Best" still applies.

We'll have jalapeno peppers this weekend at Traders World. Here's a recipe from Best Ever Jalapeno Poppers. Wouldn't it be great to fix a batch of these poppers for a special treat for Dad on Father's Day? We will also have Father's Day fruit baskets and lots of onions and green peppers for Dad's grill.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I used to be Plastic but now I'm Elastic

I'm a planner. Operating a fresh produce market takes planning...but it also takes an ability to adjust as things happen. I'm the type of person who has things on my calendar that are 6 months down the road. I also have lists and post-it notes everywhere. Since we've started the produce business, I'm slowly learning to be more flexible and not "micro-manage" everything.
We've been opening the produce market on Saturday and Sunday from 9-5 at Traders World Flea Market in Lebanon, Ohio. Jeff does the buying, and he buys what is available at a price we can afford on Thursday and Friday each week. That means that we don't actually know what our inventory will be until Friday night when Jeff loads our vendor carts (the rolling Lazy Daisy Handcarts that were custom-made at Kin Products). Also on Friday, we're comparing local prices at grocery stores, in newspaper ads, and on-line to determine just how we need to set our prices for the weekend. In fact, most of the pricing won't be set until we actually arrive at the stand on Saturday morning. Barry and Jeff call back and forth on their cell phones, and I scurry around writing the prices on the signs. It's all a little too hectic for me, but I'm starting to adjust.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


My friend Simon from Kin Products suggested I change the template and color scheme for the blog. I think he's right. I'm still experimenting with a few things, but my goal is to make it "pleasing to the eye". Let me know what you think about the changes.
Barry and Jeff started insulating the trailer today. Of course, it took longer than they expected, and they ran into a few "snags, " but it should be done tomorrow. As the temperatures heat up, we'll be glad it's done.
We needed 15 cases of tomatoes for our favorite vendor at Findlay Market tomorrow, but Jeff can't get any at all tonight. The Florida rain is still playing havoc with supply and demand. Maybe by tomorrow morning, they'll have something...Timing is everything. It's hard for me to understand how a case of something can cost 4 times more than it cost a month ago...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Severe Weather Drill

Yesterday we got our first taste of nasty weather at the market. Things were going along smoothly until mid-afternoon when the clouds started to move in. We could see it coming, and some of the vendors started scurrying to put their stuff away. We put a few things in the trailer and then started to consolidate the things on the carts. That way we could close gradually rather than all at once. Quite a few people stopped to buy some of our produce as they headed to their cars, too. Once the rain really started, Barry rolled the carts into the trailer in just a few minutes and everything was out of the weather.
Earlier in the day, one vendor showed serious interest in buying one of our "Lazy Daisy Handcarts." He sells sunglasses, and if he had to hustle to put everything away in the storm, he'll probably be calling about our clever cart that he can roll fully-loaded into his vehicle.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Traffic was slow at the flea market yesterday. The seasoned vendors have told us this is the worst year they've ever had there due to the recession and construction near the entrance. We tried to keep a tally today and counted 156 purchasing customers at our stand. The best customers were our good friends Ross and Gene who drove over from Milford.
Emily and her friend Jennie came to work the late afternoon shift. It didn't take them long to get into the routine, and it was a welcome relief for me to head home a little early.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Recipe of the Day

Each weekend we'll feature a special recipe. Tomorrow's it's Fried Zucchini so we'll have take-home copies available. We did bruschetta last weekend, and we found it was a great way to strike up a conversation about cooking and various ways to prepare the produce.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gearing Up for Weekend #2

They got the air conditioner installed in the trailer yesterday. If it works like it's supposed to work, we'll be able to plug it in and keep everything nice and cool. Barry and Jeff are going to insulate the trailer to help, too. All of that will add to shelf life and minimize trips to pick up new inventory.
We've lined up Emily and her friend Jennie to work a few hours this weekend. I need to pick up shirts for them today---and money aprons. We're still using "generic" lime green shirts, but we're about ready to order the "real" shirts with our imprinted logo.
I can't believe how many "Farmer's Markets" are around this summer. It seems like we used to have 3 or 4 in the Cincinnati area, but this year there must be at least 20...Most have websites and the Enquirer has an interactive map to show the locations. I think it's a combination of the economy and the green movement. Either way, if it keeps fruits and vegetables on people's mind, it's good for all of us.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Blast Off!

What a weekend! We opened on Saturday and Sunday at the local flea market. We didn't make a whole lot of money, but the experience was priceless. Lots of people commented about the custom vendor carts and umbrellas. It took about 15 minutes to set up and take down, and anyone who was watching that was pretty impressed. While Barry and Jeff rolled the already-stocked carts out of the trailer, our competitors carried box after box back and forth to their makeshift tables to arrange their stand. The time and energy savings are incredible.
We stocked about 30 items. Mangos were probably the most popular thing all weekend. Carrots were definitely the least popular. Jeff did a great job of selecting the inventory for the first attempt. There really wasn't too much waste.
I'm anxious to try again---at another location, but Barry is determined to get everything right before we try to move too quickly.

Friday, June 5, 2009

3, 2, 1...

Yesterday was a big day for testing the carts with the trailer. Everything fit beautifully, and the ramps worked pretty well. We set everything up in the Kin Products parking lot, and put about 250 pounds of produce on one cart. It was easy for two people to push the cart up and down the ramp into the trailer. It will take a little more tweaking before one person can do it smoothly. The umbrellas are going to work, too, with a few adjustments.
Today we have to get dry ice, cash for the cashbox, and stop by the local grocery stores to do comparison pricing before making our price tags.
Tomorrow the fun begins!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Preparing for Launch

The trailer is ready to go. Jeff has come up with a list of 30 produce items to try. We still have to work out the way to display the pricing, and we still have to find a scale. Barry and Jeff went to the local restaurant supply outlet yesterday and found out they have everything except a scale. They have plastic baskets, paper products, all kinds of herbs and spices, and anything else you would possibly need to operate a restaurant (or in this case a produce market).
I worked on the logo a little more with Simon at Kin Products yesterday. He's a whiz with Photoshop and Illustrator so what he can do in an hour would take me all day.