a recap of my biggest antique market event to date!
At the beginning of this month, I was a proud vendor at the 2019 Witches Fly North Antique & Artisan Show in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
I was invited by the event organizer, Diane Gibble, who owns Miss Morgan’s Milkweed Antiques. Not only did she want me to bring my hand-painted furniture and Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, but she asked me to teach demonstrations and classes on how to use the paint on furniture. (Cue Jenn doing her happy dance!)
In this blog post, I’m recapping how the weekend went and sharing gorgeous photos of my space taken by my friend, Cindy of Reinvented Delaware.
getting ready for the market
Even though the antique market took place at the beginning of October, I had been preparing for it since May! It began with accumulating quality pieces and giving them makeovers using General Finishes and Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint products.
Now I’m not a millionaire and I didn’t have tons of money to go out and buy everything in sight to prepare for this antique market. I had to space out my buying and spending across a few months so it didn’t hit the business (and us by extension) too hard. I went picking at of my favorite shops and took small bunches of decorative goodies home with me.
In hindsight, I’m very pleased with how I prepared for this event. I gave myself the right amount of time to get ready and did not feel rushed at all. Putting money out up front is always tough because there’s no guarantee that you’ll get it all back in sales. I also had very kind friends in the business who lent me display pieces like ladders and windows. That way, we didn’t have to be stuck with them at the end of the market.
packing for the market
The antique market was being held at the gorgeous Lebanon Expo Center in Lebanon, PA. It was just over an hour from our home, so it wasn’t terribly far away. The circled area is where everyone set up, so you can see how sprawling the event was!
I was responsible for recruiting fellow furniture painters who were experts in using Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint to be in a building with me and a fellow paint enthusiast, Chris Kimmel. Chris owns a business called Five & Divine in Wernersville, PA, and she is a Chalk Paint® Stockist. Our building was called “Endless Possibilities With Paint”, and we had an assortment of furniture painters and artisans all up and down our aisles.
In addition to staging and decorating my own 10′ by 30′ booth space, I had a 16 foot long stage to decorate and scattered spaces outside of our main building and in the connecting hallway.
Yeah, it was a LOT!
Decorating all of that square footage required a lot of inventory and a large truck to haul it all. Marc and I rented a 26 foot long Penske truck that turned out to be about the same size as a school bus!
Marc wound up driving this beast, because there was NO WAY I was getting in that thing. He did a great job maneuvering it around! This truck was a large chunk of our expenses for the event, because it required diesel fuel and we rented it for an entire week while we were at the show. In hindsight, I think we could have gotten away with returning it after we unpacked and re-renting it once the show was over. Next year!
Staging the booth
Once Marc and I unpacked, we set up our booth space in an “L” shape. It took us a few tries to get our layout looking the way we wanted it to, but in the end, this worked the best for us. Here’s a look at the space from the corner of the “L”.
If you walk off to the right, you would have entered the hallway that connected our building to the next one filled with vendors. Chris and I decorated the hallway to reflect the paint brands we were there to represent. I helped Chris stage her side with this fabulous tin of Annie Sloan’s Barcelona Orange tipping over onto a ladder.
And my side was filled with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint goodness!
a lot of help from my friends
I needed extra help to run my booth space, help fill it and offer support to my shoppers during this event, so I tapped my friend Cindy of Reinvented Delaware on the shoulder. We had met one another at the Haven Blogging Conference 2 years ago in Charleston, and have followed one another on social media ever since. Cindy loves using General Finishes and Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint products, so she was a great partner to have on hand! She is also a fellow believer, so it was nice to connect on a deeper level than just paint.
In this photo, Cindy is on the left, I’m in the middle, and our other painting buddy Jennie of Found Our Haven is on the right.
I invited Jennie to come to the show too because I love her work and she’s an absolute doll. Jennie drove all the way from Toledo, Ohio to make it to the event and her space was so dreamy!
Cindy drove up from Milford, Delaware to help me run my space and offer MMS Milk Paint support to our shoppers while I was busy on stage doing demonstrations. She brought some of her own creations to help fill my booth space, and our pieces fit so well together!
Just look at her upholstered pieces!
My friend, Greg of The Furniture Fix was also there with his beautiful repurposed metal and wood furniture. Greg’s wife, Karen, is also super talented but she wasn’t able to join us for the weekend.
Jennie, Cindy, their husbands, Gred and of course Marc, were invaluable during and after the show. We all helped one another unload our things as we arrived. Together, we staged one another’s spaces and held mirrors in place as they were screwed onto dressers. We all went out to eat together and bought one another breakfast and coffee. When the event was over, we helped wrap up our furniture and load it into trailers and trucks. They were all such a huge blessing to me and I couldn’t have imagined getting through the show without them.
endless possibilities with paint
A big part of the reason why I was at this antique show was to host Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint demonstrations. Chris of Five & Divine showed folks how to use Chalk Paint® as well, so we collaborated together on a theme for the weekend, “Endless Possibilities With Paint”. I designed a banner to hang on our stage where we held our demos.
I painted the little washstand in the photo above with “Bergere” and sold out of the color immediately. I also ran out of “Mora” and Hemp Oil after I showed folks how many different ways there are to use it!
This was probably my favorite part of the show because I was totally in my element. I didn’t have to worry about my booth because Cindy and Marc were on top of it. All I had to focus on was sharing my love for Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint and showing how easy it is to use. That comes so naturally to me that it’s almost second nature. I don’t have to think or plan ahead. It just comes out!
These demonstrations helped me come to the realization that teaching others how to use paint is where my passion truly is. Up until this point, I feel like I’ve been a furniture painting machine and the focus has predominantly been on retail sales.
I also think it’s the main reason why people connect with me. Sure my furniture is pretty, and my booth spaces are lovely, but it’s my teaching that really draws people in. Moving forward, I’m going to be pivoting Eight Hundred Furniture away from retail and more towards digital courses, online instruction, workshops and demonstrations.
It will take a bit of time, but I feel like I have a renewed sense of purpose and direction thanks to the Lebanon Antique Market event.
This is the area of the show where I struggled. To give you some background, this event was hosted by Diane Gibble who owns “Miss Morgan’s Milkweed Antiques” (not to be confused with Miss Mustard Seed). She used to have a little shop in a town called Bethel, and she held an annual antique show called “Witches of Bethel”. It was Halloween-themed and everyone was encouraged to dress up as a witch.
Diane sold her shop in Bethel and started doing pop up markets instead. She still had her annual market and moved to a town called Meyerstown. That year, the show was called “Witches of Meyerstown”. This year, it was further up north in Lebanon, so that’s why it was called “Witches Fly North”.
Now I’m not a “witchy” kind of person. I don’t care for Halloween either. I don’t do skeletons, bats, goblins, ghoulish things, bloody costumes, horror movies, ghosts and monsters. This time of year, I’m all about pumpkins, corn stalks and hay bales. As a Christian, I struggle with the decor during this holiday and I wasn’t all that comfortable doing a show with a “witch” theme. But this was an incredible opportunity and I didn’t feel right passing it up, so I agreed to come on board.
Someone actually made a comment on my Facebook page about the witch topic, and I’m so glad she did! I wasn’t offended because I totally understood!
In the end, God knows where your heart is, and I felt it was more important to be respectful of Diane’s event and be a blessing to her rather than a thorn in her side. I submitted to her authority, wore the smallest witch hat I could find and kept my Fall decorations harvest-themed. Next year, I’ll wear a pumpkin hat and avoid the witch thing altogether.
After the market, I was completely exhausted. We still had to pack everything up and haul it back home. Unfortunately, we had more pieces left over than I had anticipated.
Furniture didn’t sell very well, which was a bit of a disappointment. We put a lot of time and money into this market, and I was hoping sales would have been better. Paint sold like gangbusters though, so next year, I’m going to concentrate more on the paint and less on the furniture.
As we were unloading the truck at our house, I had a major emotional breakdown. I felt like a complete and total failure. Each piece we took off the truck felt like a waste of time and money. We put just as much back into our house as we took out of it. My emotions were running high and the stress of the entire event came crashing down in one big ugly cry fest.
After I had my moments (yes, there were many), Marc reminded me that after-effects of antique markets aren’t always tangible. We did a ton of marketing and promoting for our business. My rooms at Homestead Studios are now outfitted with lots of new and fresh pieces. We exposed tons of people to the world of Milk Paint. I boosted my social media audiences.
I also gave Cindy the opportunity to experience what it’s like doing an antique market, and she felt confident afterwards to sign up for one on her own in Delaware!
Since the market, I’ve been thinking about Eight Hundred Furniture very differently. My focus is now on teaching rather than the “stuff” I paint. My knowledge base and skill set are my biggest commodities…not my furniture.
It’s taken me exactly 2 weeks to get this blog post out of my heart and onto the laptop. Not only did we need time to organize ourselves after the market, but we needed to get furniture moved back into my rooms at Homestead Studios, do laundry and grocery shop and have time to process. I’m only now feeling like I’m “back to normal”.
I hope this rather lengthy blog post has given you insight into what it takes to do a vintage/antique market. I also hope you’re encouraged to stay flexible in your own small business and pay attention to what your customers are saying with their purchases. Pivoting and making changes is a part of entrepreneurship and you are not a failure if you need to redirect your focus. I hope my vulnerability and honesty on the subject is like a big ‘ol furniture painting hug!