Monday, April 28, 2008

The Charity Fun Fair: Part Two, or, In Which We Sell Cookies and Receive Visitors

I found Michael across from our town's Borough Hall, with the table all set up and lookin' good. He used about half a roll of duct tape to secure the sign to the table, as it was a verrrrrrrrry windy day. Garrick didn't want to miss a moment of the cookie selling, so came along with me to relieve Michael.

(I'm inordinately proud of that sign, which was conceived and executed at about 11:30 Friday night, on no sleep and less energy.)

There is an aspect of last summer's bake sales that I had mercifully forgotten. It's the ten minutes or so that occur after you're all set up and jazzed and ready to go go go, and before the first actual customer steps up. It's murderous. Ten minutes of ohmygodi'vescrewedupentirely. Ten minutes of i'mnotgoingtosellasinglefrockin'cookie. Ten minutes of nobodylovesmeortheywouldbebuyingmycookies and whatthehellamigoingtodowithalltheleftovers? Poor Michael stuck around for that ten minutes, though I'm sure he wished (wishes?) he hadn't.

But the parade finished and the townsfolk started meandering about, and soon some friends showed up -- old friends of the family who've known me since I was a wee sprout, theatre friends and their adorable kids, family members, and very cool new friends. Lauren stopped by, and The Domestic Goddess, and MemeGRL. And we had a bone fide celebrity stop by and sample the wares:

I tried to get an action shot of our celebrity visitor enjoying her home-made dog biscuits, but she is too dang fast for me. But not as fast as her little buddy:

Bossy's Dane isn't just great, she plays well with doggies 1/100th of her size.


We sold cookies and raffle tickets and dog biscuits and handed out literature and we did all of this before the rain came. In between making sure the cookies didn't blow away in the wind, it was lovely to socialize and catch up with folks. By the time the first (of very few) raindrop fell, it was time to pack up and call it a day. You can't ask for better timing than that.

The extreme windiness prevented me from counting our take until we got home, which was probably for the best. I had expected to make in the range of $300 ('bout 3x what we made on the daily bake sales last summer), and was mightily disheartened (at first) to discover that we only made $159. Now, a whole week later and with a little distance and perspective, that is actually a good haul for this event. Another booth-holder was excited that they had done so well this year ("We made more than we ever have -- $55!") so I decided to just shut my pie hole.

But if you have any facility at all for mathematics, you've realized that if we started with 360 cookies, 61 muffins, and 26 baggies of dog biscuits (at a buck each) and we only came home with $159, then I must have come home with one enormous car load of left-over cookies.

Two hundred twenty-seven cookies, 59 muffins, and 15 baggies of dog biscuits, to be exact.

I would have put my head down and wept, but we were late for a Passover Seder and had to get on the road. I threw the muffins and dog biscuits into the freezer and made sure the cookies were all airtight, and off we went to drink overly sweet wine and ask the four questions.

It is hard to enjoy a Passover Seder when you are feeling mightily disheartened. The amount of effort that I put into the cookie production was truly prodigious, and the thought of all that effort yielding such a small return was depressing as all giddy-up. In between moping through the drive to New Jersey and moping through the Seder and moping through my children's flirting with their little girl cousins and moping all the way home, I came up with one idea. I'd ask the manager of our local Co-Op (locus of last summer's bake sales) to let me put out baskets in the store in an attempt to sell off the leftovers.


Monday morning, even before going to work, I hit the Co-Op with bribes free samples in hand. The manager was out but the assistant manager was in and susceptible to bribery gave me the go-ahead. We decided to price them to move at fifty cents each, because really, $1 per cookie is a little ballsy unless you're in a charity situation. Significantly cheered, I went about my day (NEVER OPEN A COMPANY IN MEXICO, YOU WILL THANK ME) and returned to the Co-Op on Tuesday morning with crisp signage and pretty baskets of cookies. Tuesday evening, they were ALL GONE, which cheered me even further.

All told, between Tuesday morning and Saturday night, we sold 181 cookies at the Co-Op, adding $90.50 to the take. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons. The remaining (slightly stale) cookies have found good homes in places like the kids' snack bags and down the street at my parents' house and occasionally stuck to my hips.


I'm glad we did the Fair, but I'm feeling like my grass roots days are numbered. I just don't have the steam to push this hard for so little return (Exhibit A: the miserable cold that hit me on Wednesday last week and is still rattling around. Exhibit B: the condition of my house. Exhibit C: Michael who?). My dreams of ongoing bakerly glory will have to wait until the mortgage is paid off and the kids are through college. Until then, we will have a summer yard sale (date TBD), a cabaret (with raffle baskets), and I will annoy solicit friends and family for direct donations at the appropriate time. I will also put that damned grant writing experience to good use by seeking corporate sponsorship for the walk, and I'll go to some local chapter meetings to inspire other grass roots types to be creative and get enthusiastic about fundraising.

But right now, I need a nap. Or three.


Adorable Girlfriend said...

Next time you kids sell some baked goods and Stella is going -- could you send an e-mail to adorablegirlfriend at yahoo dot com? AG would love to join in the community fun.

Domestic Goddess said...

WOOHOO! Actually, I'm lucky to clear about $100 at charity events, so you did well. Although, I am disappointed I DID NOT SEE STELLA!

BOSSY said...

Lord. That's all, just LORD.

RuthWells said...

AG, you shoulda been there! Communications will be better next time. DG, Stella was quite the popular visitor, let me tell you. Bossy, that is one sweet dog.

Kelly said...

I'm impressed, totally.

O said...

The cookies were awesome. I will cheerfully admit to seeing the Co-Op setup and buying more since they were such a hit with my boys.
And again on perspective: the only way my group's booth broke even was that one member was promoting her business next to us (which required 1/3 of profits be donated to the group). Her 1/3 profit brought us to a grand total of almost $10 ahead. And we did not have any major setup costs.
I think your decision is sensible. And I think you could make a killing selling the dog biscuits at Christmas time.