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.

StampFest 1997

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.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting bit of Marco's history! I can just imagine how bewildering it must have been to do your first show. I think I first saw your exhibit in the late 1990s or early 2000s, somewhere in NY or maybe even CT or NJ. So glad you are still in business!

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