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Hit-and-run marketing launches one-day show of vintage items

Pat Patera

Craigslist was the meet-up spot for Tracey Buxton and Adrian Mineiro, who dubbed themselves The Tumbleweed Cotillion and went on to launch what they hope will become a tradition.

After meeting in the virtual world, the two vendors of antique items and shabby chic recreations enacted a hit-and-run marketing plan for a one-day show of vintage items.

Buxton, who works a day job, decided she didn’t have time to sell at retail the products of her after-hours business, A Cottage Industry.

“I wanted to create a venue to showcase my shabby chic furniture pieces,” she says. “But I gave up the bricks and mortar.”

Instead, Buxton and Mineiro invited a dozen more vendors to step out of their boxes of bricks to join them last month for the one-day vintage show, billed as a Paris Flea Market.

Presenting a seamless theme was important to Buxton. “I wanted it to look a step up from a craft fair, which lacks a definite theme,” she says.

The locale, she figured, needed to match the vintage flavor of the merchandise, so she rented Reno’s historic Lake Mansion for $1,100, plus $250 for a one-day insurance policy.

“Bartley Ranch was a contender, for its historic character,” she allows, “but weather-wise on a Saturday in October we thought Lake Mansion would be more appropriate.”

Planning took into consideration all the other autumn craft fairs on the calendar: Genoa Candy Dance, Galena and McQueen high school fairs.

But at the last minute, McQueen changed its date. “At first we panicked,” says Buxton, “but then decided to make hay. We went to the lines outside McQueen waiting to get in on Friday night and handed out postcards promoting our event the next day. It brought huge foot traffic.”

To recruit vendors, the women turned to Craigslist, posting in the arts and crafts category. It’s a free service.

“We were after every kind of free,” says Buxton.

They designed their own logo, made and delivered their own media kits and baked their own fancy cupcakes to get editors’ attention.

With no ad budget, they photocopied 2,000 flyers and trotted them around to boutiques and beauty shops in town.

Buxton estimates they donated 80 hours of labor to produce the event.

Vendors paid a $110 to $115 fee for a space 12 feet square. About 250 shoppers attended. Working the traffic, the promoters built a mailing list of 100 names, and as a bonus garnered vendor inquiries for next year’s fair. One vendor even offered space to host a June event.

“Our goal was to break even,” says Buxton, “but we each went in the hole for $60, which meant we paid for our booths.”

However, she adds, they plan to apply all they learned and next time around won’t have nearly the costs. “On the next one,” she says, “We’ll more than break even. But it will take four of these to really get clipping along.”