4.24.2014

down on the farm

hillside mercantile

Primrose Design products are now available at Hillside Mercantile in Shavertown, Pennsylvania (near Wilkes-Barre)! The Mercantile is just one of the many places to visit at The Lands at Hillside Farms, a 19th century, 412-acre non-profit educational dairy farm. Each year the farm welcomes thousands of regional students and even some international ones—the last time I delivered products to the shop they were hosting a group of students visiting from France.

hillside farm mercantile

When you visit, you can tour the dairy barns (where you'll find Jersey, Holstein, and Brown Swiss cows) and visit the farm animals (including pigs, chickens, dorset sheep, alpine goats, Sardinian donkeys, and barn cats, of course). There's a gardening shed and greenhouses, too. Afterward stop at the dairy store for their famous ice cream and dairy products (from those same cows) and for other locally-produced foodstuffs (greens, breads, free-range eggs, honey, and maple syrup, to name just a few).

cute pig

The Mercantile is housed in a 19th century barn behind the dairy store. Under the direction of Noelle Mozloom, the shop is now focusing on locally-made products and crafts (artwork, soaps, candles, knitwear, children's items, and jewelry). My offerings include potholders, tea towels, sachets, wallets, zipper bags, key fobs, and a few pillows, like the Down on the Farm one shown here (actually there are two available). Featuring a vintage embroidered farmer with vintage carrot-themed fabric and carrot-shaped buttons, how perfect a fit is this for a working farm?

Down on the Farm

The Lands at Hillside Farms, 65 Hillside Road, Shavertown, PA 18708, (570) 696-2881

4.22.2014

seller beware

I've been struggling about whether to say anything about my recent experience with selling in a local shop again. It didn't work so well the first time I did it, and my second experience wasn't any better. In fact, it was much worse. Honestly, I won't do it again unless it's my very own store. Maybe some day :)

With this kind of arrangement, the vendor pays monthly rent and possibly gets a reduction if they agree to work in the shop a certain number of hours every week. With enough vendors, the owner gets their rent and expenses paid and doesn't need to hire sales help. The vendor gets to keep all of their profit from sales, minus a small percentage if the customer pays via credit card. Sounds like everybody wins, right? Maybe, maybe not.

In my ten years of doing business I've found that selling in shops is very hit or miss. Some places will be a good fit for your products; some won't. The problem is that there's no way to predict which way it will go. And, if you've locked yourself into a contract and your sales aren't good, you're stuck. That's what happened to me. I lost hundreds of dollars because I had to pay rent every month that my sales did not cover. And that's not counting the hours I volunteered. And it isn't enough to just break even anyway; the whole point is to make a profit.

I was going to suggest that anyone considering such a deal should do their research. But, unless you can track down current vendors to hear of their experiences or vendors who have left to find out why they did, you're relying on the shop owner to be truthful in answering your questions. It's their job to find vendors so it's understandable that they'd paint a rosy picture of how things might be.

I'm currently in another local shop (well, sort of local—it's in the next county over), but it's a consignment situation. I know many people will say not to do consignment either (and there are some potential problems with it that I'll save for another discussion) but it's been mostly a good experience. This shop is a perfect fit for my things and I've made more in the four months that I've been there than the entire time I was in the other shop. And that's including the commission that the shop takes.

My point is, though, that if it wasn't a good fit I could just pick up my things and go. I'm not locked into a specific time period and I don't have to spend time volunteering—hours that I could be creating new products.

I took a very long hiatus from blogging (almost a year and that's partly because of those lost hours spent volunteering) but I'm starting to feel like I have something to say again. No promises; we'll see.