Wright Square Merchants Open House

Doing business today with the technology of 2010!

Ah, I am long past due for a blog update. My latest breaking news is that now I have Bonnie Blue merchandise and I've upgraded my technology, which, like this blog post, was also long past due. The merchandise: just iron-on patches for right now. If I can get the money together, I would also like to do pins and maybe, eventually, t-shirts. When I was telling some friends about the patches and how I just get a handful of them at a time from my supplier, Jim (Reed) asked me "Where do you buy 'a handful' of patches?" with a far more incredulous tone than I thought necessary. I had never really given it any thought, but I guess any business that makes promotional items must require people to order them in bulk. I don't even know what kind of bulk. 100? 1,000? I've only got a dozen on hand at any one time.

The person who makes the patches for me is a woman in Ohio named Kathy. She and her friend took a tour with me over a year ago and had such a good time! Kathy does embroidery professionally and got the idea for the two of us to work together on merchandise. She doesn't even care much about her profit margin- she just thinks it's fun. She's so gung-ho, I had to hold her back from charging ahead with embroidered bags and hats and stuff. I prefer to start small. Plus, I have no money coming in right now and don't want to commit to more expensive endeavors if I don't know for sure I can pay for her materials and labor in a timely fashion. I've got three different patches available right now, pictured below:

Bonnie Blue Tours logo patch

Ghost patch

Downtown square

I just worked up a new design last night and emailed the file to Kathy. We'll see how she finesses it, but here's what I gave her to work with:

The Talmadge Bridge at sunset

It's fun to have a project to work on, even though it doesn't net me a significant profit. I did talk to Jen last week, though, about selling the patches in her new café, The Coffee Fox. She owns Foxy Loxy and just opened The Coffee Fox at Whitaker and Broughton. I was there Friday, November 30th for the grand opening gala. Jen sells all kinds of locally made stuff in both of her locations. She liked the patches, especially the square one (no surprise). She even told me she was interested in having her own patches made and I told her I'd set her up with Kathy if she wanted. I emailed Jen the details, but still haven't heard back yet. I'm sure she's very busy with her new place, but I guess I'll send her a reminder since it's been over a week. I haven't sold any patches through my website yet, though they're listed on there. I have them all ironed onto my work bag where people can see. Whenever anyone makes a comment about them, that's my opportunity to make a sale. It happened just that way when I was at the Wright Square Merchants Open House on the 30th.

Scoping out the brand-new Coffee Fox was not my primary goal that night, just an opportune diversion. I was really downtown for the festivities at Wright Square. The shop owners around there put together this nice shindig every year to kick off the holiday sales. Unlike some retailers, they have the good grace to wait until after Thanksgiving. I got there right at the beginning when all was still pretty quiet, but it wasn't long before the area swelled with people. A band of carolers floated from storefront to storefront, there was a giant Punch and a giant Judy (Representatives from Angela Beasley's Puppet People? I'm not sure.), and the Lutheran Church on the corner provided a venue for different musical acts throughout the evening. I popped in for the last performance- the Skylark a capella group from my old high school, Savannah Arts Academy. The Park and Tree department had festooned every lamp post in the square with green wreaths and red ribbons. It's so nice how they decorate the entire Historic District each year. If only we got an inch or two of snow, the city would be irresistibly quaint. Perhaps this winter will be that once-every-ten-years winter when we get a tiny bit of snow that actually sticks to the ground.

I whirled from one store to the next, bumping into friends and acquaintances, connecting with merchants I hadn't seen lately, and, most importantly, hoovering up all the free food that came within my reach. The petit-fours at Yves Delorme were especially good. My friend Jeroy is the manager. He knows how to set a classy buffet. I found out while I was there that renovations were complete on the vacation rentals above the store. They were also running an open house that night. Turns out, the brand new York Street Vacation Rentals are owned by none other than... my landlord! Jesus, the Krinsky family are turning into SCAD- just buying up everything. I had to snoop, of course, and Fred (my landlord's dad) was happy to let me take a look. The building is of a fairly modern vintage, so they chose to use a correspondingly modern aesthetic on the inside as well. It's all bright colors and sleek furniture. And TVs on the walls. Big, big TVs. I seriously think Harley (my landlord) is commanded by the god of the boob tube to distribute television sets across the land like Johnny Appleseed of the flatscreens. Harley owns a popular bar on Congress Street called the Congress Street Social Club and it is also full of flatscreen TVs. I think there's even one in his office downstairs from my apartment. It goes well with the pool table and Budweiser sign he has in there.

I took a break from Wright Square to check out The Coffee Fox, recharged myself with a brownie and free coffee, then plunged back into the Christmas breach. My friend and fellow actor Bill had been ambling around the square all night as Father Christmas. He made a very tall and very New England-y Father Christmas. We had chatted at Yves Delorme, but I ran into him again on the sidewalk along State Street. He introduced me to his wife and the two of us vaguely remembered meeting once before. They, in turn, introduced me to a neighbor of theirs whose name I have, sadly, forgotten. A young guy, he's a self-employed locksmith. Don't meet those too often, do you? Anyway, he noticed the patches on my bag and really liked (duh) the square one, so ta-da! Another sale for me!

Locksmith guy gave me the first opportunity to use my brand new credit card scanny thing on my brand new iPhone 4 because he didn't have any cash. I have been wanting a new phone with a data plan all year so I could start taking credit cards and stuff. 2012 has been so dismal, though, I simply couldn't spend the money if it wasn't absolutely necessary. Well, necessity finally forced my hand. My previous phone, which was showing its age anyway, became impossible to use. The speaker stopped working so that I could not hear people on the other end of the line unless I put them on speakerphone. That's a cumbersome way to do business. Mom's phone was on its last legs too, so we finally renewed our contract with AT&T for the next two years so we could get new phones real cheap. Time to start learning the ways of the smartphone! At first, Mom ordered a pair of Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate smartphones, which was just fine... except that model appears to be the one phone in the world that is not compatible with any of the major mobile credit card apps. Not Square, not Intuit, not PaypalHere. So, we had to send those back and exchange them for a pair of iPhone 4's. Activating those was a little confusing because someone somewhere along the line at AT&T hadn't gotten the memo about the change, but I was able to solve that problem pretty easily with a phone call... from my land line, of course.

So, then, I downloaded the PaypalHere app and sent off for their little credit card scanny thing. Paypal's thing was only released earlier this year, so it doesn't have as much cred as Square or Intuit, but I went with that because I already have a Paypal account. And if I don't like it, it's not like it cost anything. I can just stop using it. I also like that PaypalHere allows you to scan checks, which is something Square and Intuit don't do.

Anyway, Paypal's blue scanny thing was in the mailbox just as I walked out the door on my way to Wright Square that night, so I was all prepared for locksmith guy! Except the stupid thing rejected three of his debit cards in quick succession. Aside from the possibility of losing a sale, I hate to disappoint people and I hate looking like a complete idiot. However, the app was fine when I keyed in one of his debit cards and the money went right into my account and I was able to send him a receipt with no problem. A few days later, I was able to scan one of Mom's credit cards and sell her one of each patch with no problem, so... not sure what that was all about. Does technology suffer from first-night jitters? Maybe there's something about debit cards the device doesn't like? Whatever. So, I have expanded my payment options on my website to include, aside from cash, credit and debit cards and checks. I'm hoping that will open up a little more business for me. We'll see how things pan out in 2013.