Alan and I have been selling bread at Farmer’s Markets for quite a few years now. We started back in our B&B days in the mid-nineties and will likely keep on till we die. And, while I frequently grouse about the early mornings (just after 5:00 on Saturdays!) and the long hours on my feet, I actually adore selling at markets.
There’s just such an immediacy to the business model. You grow some veg, bake some bread or make a craft, rent a table and, BOOM! you’re in business. And all you have to do is say hello to the people who walk past, answer their questions and maybe make a sale.
After a few weeks, the faces become familiar, your initial customers turn into regulars and eventually friends. And all the while, you’re making some money, (hopefully) paying your bills and learning as you go.
We’re a quirky bunch, we market vendors. We tend not to like being told what to do. We like to set our own hours and make our own rules as well as our own stuff. And we take many strange routes to get to there….
When most people think of starting a business, we think of the equipment we need to buy, the space we need to own or rent to make it happen. But when your business is really small, sometimes you need to start making money before you can buy your equipment or a vehicle to get you there.
We started in the kitchen of our B&B. We did have our own truck, our beloved Roy. But one of the other vendors, who sold small antiques, made his way to market in a taxi every Saturday.
And I know a few bakers who have made their start by renting space in a community kitchen (the possibility of baking at home is no longer an option – the Health Department won’t allow it). Their business is them, their personality and their product. No bricks, no mortar, often no website. Just heart, soul and total yumminess.
A few weeks ago, I started giving a ride to one of our cheese vendors who is dropped off by someone making multiple stops on his way to the London market and is thus stranded at the end of the day. Arrangements were made a few days before and this isn’t the first time we’ve had this set-up. They pay me in cheese bucks, which are also valid at the restaurant the dairy runs. Total win all around and so very friendly.
This is fine, usually. But I don’t always get a van from the place we rent the vehicle (our business may have expanded, but not enough for us to justify buying a second vehicle, so my weekends are kinda complicated). And one week, there were two people needing to be accommodated, which lost us a fair bit of space in the hatchback that could have held baskets and coolers.
Thankfully, they are true market folk. Intrepid. So when I said, “The only way to do this is if you hop in and I pile the rest of the stuff in on top of you…” they hopped and we made our merry way downtown.
Then I drove to the bakery to drop off my stuff and back to the car-rental where I was picked up and driven home by one of the lovely people who sell coffee at the market, because, why wouldn’t we help each other out?
I’ve worked in the corporate world (mercifully briefly). I’ve done that Monday to Friday 9 – 5 that we’re all told to aspire to. And I’m glad I did. Because when it’s cold and dark and I can’t find a parking spot anywhere near the back door of the market and I think about all those office types snug in their beds while I struggle through the snow with a cartload of bread that Alan stayed up way too late baking, I can give myself a slap and remember that I’ve done that and it really doesn’t suit me at all.