Thursday, June 23, 2011

Les Vide Greniers de Eté

As we near the finish line of completing our upstairs rooms in our chambres d'hote (bed and breakfast) with the hopes to at least tap into any overload from nearby inns beginning in July (yes, that is one week away and electrical and water are still being worked on as we speak), we have also begun the process of getting our gift line, or "Petit Clos Cadeaux" off the ground. When my mom was out in early spring, she had packed one of her suitcases full with pretty aprons and totes that she had designed and sewn to be sold when our little gift store on the premises finally opened. It was also my goal to bring the hand embroidered antique french linens back to life in the form of hand-sewn pillows and sachets. But, seeing that we're not widely known in the area yet, nor are we exactly located in the most heavily tourist-trafficked Rue (remember, our address is just the name of our house and Federal Express only recognizes it after multiple attempts which usually end up being delivered at our village's Mairie's office which is at least easier for them to find due to its closer proximity to the village's landmark artisan boulangerie), we decided about a month ago that we needed to begin participating in the local marchés and even "vide greniers" (french for village garage sale). Marchés were still sounding kind of intimidating for me with all their french professional vendeurs who do it every week in multiple villages and of course, speak the language....but vide greniers, hell, I just might be able to handle one of those as I'm sure I wouldn't be intimidated having a stall next to someone selling their priceless antiques alongside grandma's old slippers or their disney collection of VHS tapes. That's the beauty of vide greniers. There is so much great stuff waiting to be discovered amongst a lot of not-so-great-stuff and the best part is that it is an absolute requirement to negotiate. Something I'm still getting used to, but actually think I'm improving at and even discovering my own little strategic techniques..

So, I started slowly researching just what type of venue would be best for our products, just mentioning my interest of doing this to a few of our local friends, when one of them, Patricia, enthusiastically volunteered to help me sign up in the nearby village of Loubes-Bernac which we did. Thank God I had a local to guide me as we began at her hair dresser's (coiffeur) where we found out where to get the form, only to find it was down the street at Bridgette's gift store. Bridgette in turn informed me of all of the details that I probably only understood half of, and then we were off. Wow, I've really done it and now the money really should start rolling in right? Well, not exactly. Especially when I found out that his particular village wasn't holding their vide grenier until August and right then I realized that I had to get serious and began looking into other nearby vide greniers online

The first one I decided to sign up for was in one of our largest neaby villages of Eymet and it was held a few weeks ago and after a fairly dismal start, we ended our afternoon with a decent profit. I mean, I'm still probably only clearing .25 an hour when you consider my labor, time and expenditures, but it was still exhilarating. People were walking by and oohing and ahhing and actually saying out loud how much they liked our things and taking our business cards. In fact, as luck would have it, one of those persons was the incredibly talented Leeann who runs the gorgeous chambres d'hotes and gift store in Eymet called Maison No. 20, but remember, you can only stay there if there is no room at Petit Clos! Nah, not really, especially if you prefer the village atmosphere over the country, this is one of the nicest self-contained B&B apartments I have seen with incredible attention to the finest details. Plus, her place has water and electricity so she's got that over us right now. Anyway, Leeann dropped by and took our card and as luck would have it, called me the following week with an order. I couldn't believe it. My first order! 

So as you can imagine, my confidence has slowly started rising and I thought to myself, "Hell, I'm going to try getting into a more specialized market, maybe the culinary based one they have in Soumensac over the summer." 

So last week when I went to the post office to pick up a care package filled with cheetos, frito-lay sunflower seeds and every makeup sponge applicator ever made on this earth from Teddy, I decided to ask the ever kind postal woman if she knew how one could go about participating in the Soumensac market. First off, as I stuttered my way through the first part of the question, she slowly and patiently spoke to me so I could understand. She then went next door to the Mairie's office to inquire for me and returned to let me know that it appeared that they were no more spaces left this year but that I could request a stall for next year. Well, that's okay I think (that is if we survive here that long), but she then proceeded to write exact instructions about who and where to address the request and offered to personally deliver it to the right person and perhaps ask if there might still be an opening. So, that's what I did this morning. Drafted my letter explaining who I was, how I wished to participate in the community and sell French & American inspired gifts relating to the kitchen (aprons, table clothes, napkins, etc.).  For some reason I didn't seal it and I ran over to deliver it, before they closed at noon. Thankfully, my buddy was there and smiled when she saw me, so I gave her a sachet in thanks and I asked if she wouldn't mind reading my letter. So, of course she does. I'm in the post office. The primary postal worker has literally stopped delivering the mail and began making some corrections, while continuing to assure me that it was well written. So, I buzz on home, make the corrections, buzz back to the post office,  return the revised letter and voila, it's done.

It still remains to be seen if they'll have me at their sunday marche in July and August, but I've done what I can and more importantly, made another few wonderful french connections in the process.