Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Our First Booth . . .

I have promised a story about our first booth and our first convention experience ever since I started this blog almost nine years ago . . . but kept thinking I would find more of the pictures I took – keeping in mind that at this point I was still taking pictures with a camera and then taking the film to be processed.  I remember taking pictures of the bare floor . . . the tape on the floor . . . and the pile of boxes that Heidi remembers so well.  But years later, I have only found one – and that will have to do.

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This is it – our first 10’ x 10’ booth at StampFest Orlando in late June of 1997.  But without more pictures, it will take some narrative to get from “Once Upon a Time” to here . . .

Once Upon a Time . . .

I still remember when we were dragged kicking and screaming into the crafting world – two local stampers happened upon the front room of our little print shop, where we sold scraps of paper and envelopes and poster board to churches and teachers and such.  Those two stampers said that we should be marketing to them, and our response to them was basically “What?  Are you nuts?”

But over time, we would stick a toe in the water – first a small catalog (just a single sheet printed on both sides and folded in thirds), then an ad in Rubberstampmadness.  Gary made a trip to Stampaway USA in Cincinnati and met Connie Williams, and then a trip to Adventures in Stamping in Cleveland and met Bill Petal.

Then came the day when Gary approached me and told me I was going to Orlando to set up a booth and sell at a rubber stamp convention.  I had never seen one.  But I love to travel and was willing to give it a shot.  So we shipped 1,500 pounds of paper (yes, three-quarters of a ton) to what was then the Sheraton World Resort on International Drive, and I pulled the back two seats out of my Dodge Caravan and loaded it with so much that the tailpipe was six inches off the ground.  And Ryan (who was eight at the time) and I set off for Florida.

On Friday morning, I walked to the entrance to the convention hall and met Debby Drabik for the first time – I have said many times in the years since that we owe Debby so much, because she took a chance on us when no one outside of Dayton, Ohio had ever heard of us.  Debby showed me a map of the show floor and pointed out my booth space.  And I walked into the hall.

When I got to that space, I stopped short – all I saw was four corners made out of masking tape, and my booth number taped in the middle.  Oh yeah, and that big pile of boxes that we shipped to Orlando – Debby’s friend Heidi reminded me for years that she hauled those boxes from the front door to my booth.  I had no idea what to do next.  My first thought was of Les Nessman, the newsman from WKRP in Cincinnati – he put tape on the floor around his desk and referred to his “walls”.

If you look back at the picture above, you’ll see part of a garage door just to the left of my sign.  I unloaded the Caravan through that door – then I had another pile next to my tape boundaries, and still no idea how I was going to construct my booth.  Then it hit me – I needed a real wall.  So Ryan and I drove out to the nearest Walmart, where I bought a roll of masking tape and nine yards of red fabric for $1.00 a yard.  Back at the Sheraton World, I taped all of my empty boxes into a backdrop, threw the fabric over it, attached our brand new sign (that I had picked up on my way out of Dayton) and a few Rubberstampmadness covers that had been created with our paper – and I had a wall.  Rearranged several tables a number of times over the next few hours, and piled everything we brought on top of them except the main thing I brought to sell – about 200 packages of multicolored cardstock (10 sheets each of 30 different cardstocks – we still sell them), which I left in boxes on the floor in front of the sign where I could get to them.  I had not yet come up with the idea of a booth that customers could walk through and shop – this was more like the oldtime grocery where you gave your list to the clerk and he got everything off the shelves and handed it to you.

Saturday morning came, and I had no idea what to expect – just stood behind my cash register at 9:00 as the show opened, wondering how many people would come, and if any of them would have any interest in what we were selling.

Fifteen minutes later, customers were lined up 25 deep – and I didn’t have a moment to think until the cardstock packs ran out about 1:00.  At that point, I stood back and realized that I had never had that much fun in my life.  And over 20 years, that has led to what you now see at shows. – and I’m still having fun.

Looking back, I don’t know how I would have survived that weekend without the help of Laura Duhaime, who had the booth next to me, and Gene and Mary from Stamp Cabana across the aisle.  They kept checking on me, offering advice and support.  Gene and Mary went to the same college that I did, so it gave us something to talk about.  But they were off the show circuit within a year.  Laura became a friend – she hasn’t been on the circuit for a long time, but we still keep tabs on each other through Facebook.

Time passes – of the 30 or so vendors from that first show more than 20 years ago, only three are still on the show circuit . . . Debby and Rick from Just for Fun . . . Ted Cutts from Art Gone Wild! (at that point, Ted had a single 15-foot booth – nothing like the Art Gone Wild/Inky Antics/Stampers Anonymous/Darcie’s conglomeration he has now) . . . and that little print shop from Dayton, Ohio.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Last Day of Our Annual Sale . . .

I didn’t realize until yesterday that I neglected to put a note on this blog about our annual sale – and today is the last day!  So if you haven’t seen this yet, you have until I get up on Thursday morning and click all of the appropriate buttons to turn it off to get 25% off practically everything on our site . . .

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And free shipping while we’re at it . . .

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Please go to www.marcopaper.com and save!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Coupon Contest Winners . . .

Tough choices every year – the locals get really creative when we have our annual “Make Your Own Coupon” Contest.  And the best part for me is that I am not one of the judges – I merely take pictures and report the results.  I also don’t know what the prizes are – winners can pick those up at the store.  So without further delay . . .

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First Place – Created by Laura Jack

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Second Place – Created by Diane Stilwill

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Third Place – Created by Marge Reising (my picture does not do the 3-D effect justice)

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Honorable Mentions – Jeanette Alley and Sharon Twardowski

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And a look at the rest of the entries.  Thanks to all who participated!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Learning to Read . . . Filthy Fingers . . . and Gridiron Marketing

I was invited to a birthday party on my block a couple of weeks ago – my friend Aeridan turned seven.  Birthday wish lists are easy these days – his was posted on Amazon.  Looked through it and found something that appealed to me – a couple of clicks later, it was on its way to me.  Then I wrapped it and took it to the party.

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Got this pic a few hours later from Aeridan’s mom – and decided that I needed to get a second copy for another of my favorite seven-year-olds.

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Gave it to her during setup for the show in Madison, Wisconsin last weekend.  Alana Lindeman is part of our traveling minstrel family – she and her big sister, Noelle, have been on the road with Steve and Michelle and the Toomuchfun booth since they were born.  Michelle told me later that Alana had been reading aloud the whole weekend.

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Alana spent her usual time at our demo table during the weekend, but during teardown I noticed that she was reading again, so I snapped a picture over her shoulder when she wasn’t looking.  Later, I took a break and sat down with her while she read me a story from the book and I fought back tears.  They grow up so fast . . .

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The weekend also resulted in a couple of sights rarely seen at a show – me at a demo table during the Friday night event, and the resulting handful of discolored digits.

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This is much more my style – Brian from Craft Fancy had football on the big screen during the show on Sunday.  He didn’t have an antenna on Saturday, so college games were on the small screen above my cash register.  I told several customers that this was not just a way to keep the vendors occupied – with customers stopping by regularly to check on the score, this was creative marketing . . .

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

2018 Date Changes . . .

I know that some of you plan far ahead and travel long distances to come and see us at shows – so I am probably going to say this several times over the next few months . . . most of the Heirloom shows are going to be Friday/Saturday in 2018.  This will not apply to the January show in Grapevine, Texas – it will still be Saturday/Sunday.  But the following shows will be affected . . .

Friday/Saturday, February 2 & 3 – Lawrenceville, GA (Gwinnett County Fairgrounds)

Friday/Saturday, March 23 & 24 – Danville, IN (Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds – replaces Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis)

Friday/Saturday, April 6 & 7 – Allentown, PA (Allentown Fairgrounds)

Friday/Saturday, June 1 & 2 – West Springfield, MA (Eastern States Exposition)

Friday/Saturday, July 13 & 14 – Grapevine, TX (Grapevine Convention Center)

Friday/Saturday, August 3 & 4 – Port Huron, MI (Blue Water Convention Center – replaces Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens)

Friday/Saturday, October 12 & 13 – York, PA (York Expo Center)

The rest of the shows that we regularly attend are unaffected – most are Saturday/Sunday except New Port Richey, FL (Saturday only), Novi, MI (Thursday/Friday/Saturday), Cincinnati, OH (Friday Evening/Saturday), and Birch Run, MI (was already Friday/Saturday).

Friday, October 27, 2017

Pumpkin Night 2017 . . .

It’s one of our favorite family traditions, every year since Ryan was little.  In late October, we plan a night to carve pumpkins.  Ryan and I were always “freehanders”, but when Emily joined the mix, she introduced us (mostly me) to stencils.  And we got more creative . . .

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As usual, our supervisor was on duty . . .

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Emily likes really BIG stems on her pumpkins, and was so excited about carving them this year that we got two for her.

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This is probably the biggest challenge that I have ever attempted, and I came up with the idea in the few minutes before Ryan and Emily arrived.  This is the athletic mascot from the local high school (yes, stolen from Michigan State years ago – I always preferred the old one, but it would have been impossible to carve into a pumpkin).

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And then we took them outside and displayed them on the front porch . . .

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With a few family shots . . .

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And one for my Facebook page.  Hope you and your little beggars have great weather, and a safe and Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Random Musings, Part 2 . . .

More thing I have observed during the past few weeks . . .

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This nice lady won a door prize to our booth at the show in Fort Wayne three weeks ago – she is 86 years old, and said this was the first time in her life that she ever won anything.  Her second time came much faster – she won a prize in our giveaway later that afternoon.

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This lady was helping out in Riley & Company’s booth in Fort Wayne (for the uninitiated, Riley is a moose), and brought appropriate cookies to setup on Friday.

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Found this leaf on the floor in the Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne.  It was mine – I used our company truck to deliver a tree to the house in mid-September.  It’s called a “Wildfire Blackgum” – supposed to have spectacular red leaves in the fall.  Of course, I have hoped for this with several trees in the yard over the years without success – though the picture I took this morning of the first red leaf makes me hopeful.

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Spotted while refueling in eastern Ohio on the way to York, PA – this one was headed on a long and winding trip across the country, making multiple promotional stops along the way until it reached its new home on the west coast.

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Got to my hotel in York on a Thursday evening, assuming that I would be channel surfing between the baseball playoff game and the Thursday night football game.  Instead, I got two big TVs in my room . . .

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Steve Lindeman’s pen collection – spotted in the lobby outside the show in Fort Wayne.  Apparently he really wants customers to fill out those door prize cards . . .

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My daughter-in-law Emily at her knitting club – I was her designated driver because her car was being repaired . . .

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Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I became a year older – and got my two birthday wishes fulfilled once again.  I got a phone call from Mom and Dad at 6:53 a.m. (the time I was born), singing Happy Birthday to me.  And I got to enjoy lunch with my parents and my brother – we have done this every year for more than 2o years – it’s how we started and I cherish our time together, just the four of us.  By the way, if you’re wondering – no, my parents don’t call my brother on his birthday at the time he was born, and he appreciates that – he was born at 1:52 a.m.

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Apparently the folks at the fairgrounds in York really want people to know where the exit doors are located . . .

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This is really random – the lineup caught my eye and for some reason I felt compelled to take a picture.

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Obligatory crowd shot – this is also from York . . .

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Celebrity Emeritus sighting in our booth in York – Maria Repsher used to be one of us.  You might remember her as “Another Stamp Company” – it was really good to see her again.

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Finally, no trip east would be complete without some fun with my dear friends Dee and Cal Ruger.  They saw this enormous (think as big as a cookie sheet) Rice Krispie Treat at Cracker Barrel and couldn’t resist – I often eat the mini version while working at shows, and they have brought me a box of those in the past.  I couldn’t help but laugh – I had seen the same thing in a Cracker Barrel in Ohio just a few days before.  And Dee found a semi-deflated balloon floating around during teardown and just had to attach it to Cal . . .

And now, I think I am caught up – tomorrow, we’ll carve pumpkins . . .