Saturday, February 18, 2012

Art/Craft Fairs-Summerfest-Credit Unions

In 1976 I made a decision to expand my retail exposure. Sales at The Leather Shop had been strong and growing since I first opened but I knew I had to keeping pushing for more business. Two venues that I tried were Summerfest and the arts and crafts market.

A Calendar Was Made for the Merchants on Brady Street - The Leather Shop was June
Notice The Caption - Don't Dream It, Be It

The Lake Front Festival of the Arts had started out as a small regional art fair and it was in Juneau Park and most exhibitors layer their art or craft on a blanket placed on the ground. When I decided to exhibit at this fair, it had moved to it's present location at the War Memorial Center. A jury selected the participants and I was fortunate to get in on the first try. Usually the weather for this event can be on the wet and or chilly side being so close to the lake front. During my appearance at the show the wet stayed away but I do remember it being chilly. The fair was nothing like it is today with modern tents, lighting and paid admissions. It was more casual and the display would set up was minimal. Sales were ok but I could see this wan't in my best interest to pursue. Here is a picture of that show.

This Was My Display at The Lakefront Festival of the Arts - 1976

So this left Summerfest. How could I go wrong? Tons of people to sell to and right in my backdoor.
I plunked down the booth fee which seemed expensive at the time and readied myself for the onslaught of business. I quickly found out how much work Summerfest took to pull off and how little money was left after the show. Remember, it's not how much cash that flows but how much cash that sticks. Between the high booth fee, the long hours and the need to pay wages for those long hours ate up any real profit I saw.
The rule of thumb I learned is this, don't compete if the show puts more emphasis on the three "B's" then the art or crafts. The three B's are: blues, beer and brats! Patrons will gladly spend their money to eat, drink and listen to music but when it comes to buying. 


Anyhow, here's the only pic I have of Summerfest.

My Booth at SummerFest - 1976

Trying not to be discouraged, I stayed involved with Brady Street and was the President of the Brady Street Association in 1976. It was mainly a ceremonial role but we did have meetings and I was solicited by tavern owners to nod my approval to the alderwomen when it came to license renewal. Neighbors and business's on Brady Street always complained that the street lacked two things. A hardware store and a bank.

The Brady Street Association did come up with a rather unique approach to neighborhood banking or the lack of it. During my stint as the president, we came up with establishing the first of it's kind credit union. We called it the "First Neighborhood Credit Union" and it was open to anyone that lived in that area. It was helped along by Congressman Henry Reuss and his influence with the United States House Committee on Financial Services. The credit union was run by volunteers and was successful for a number of years. It was a revolutionary idea but difficult to sustain. During one of our meetings I was giving the alderwoman, Sandra Hoeh-Lyon my thoughts on a few subjects. 

She was amused to say the least. Notice the persons hand in the lower left corner of the picture. People actually smoked during meetings.

A Meeting of the Brady Street Merchants Association - 1976

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