Sunday, March 31, 2013

Our First Trade Show

Last Sunday, David and I donned our Gurnet Trading apparel and headed to Portland for the New England Made Giftware and Specialty Food Show. It was a Sunday adventure to see what cool products we might be able to sell in the store and online. But the adventure started well before we arrived in Portland.

To get into the show, you have to prove that you are an authorized buyer and representative for your company. And you have to do so with not one, but two forms of business ID. What the hell is a business ID? As it turns out, the show would accept a corporate credit card, a pay stub, a business card, a tax ID number, or a business check. Gah! We are a legitimate small business, I promise you that. But I get paid on commission for my sales, so I don't really have access to that stuff.

Luckily, David and I both have Sam's Club business memberships through Gurnet Trading. One form of ID down, one to go.

Anyone with a printer and a local office supply store can create a business card. So that was our plan, we would print off some home grown business cards. Now I will tell you this, Gurnet Trading has never before had business cards. Why would they? If someone walks into the restaurant and asks for a phone number or contact information, we hand them a take-out menu. For ten years, the world has come to us; attending this trade show is our first step to taking Gurnet to the world.

Staples, the only office supply store within 30 miles, is a half hour drive and I hadn't made it a point to get to the other side of town. So, 8 am Sunday morning (the day of the show) I found myself driving across town on a mission for card stock. I opted to stop at Wal-Mart (5 minutes closer and 10x the hassle) in hopes of finding some cheaper card stock for last-minute-thrown-together-"business"-cards. Alas, they had card stock but it was for ink jet printers only and I have a laser print. I continued on my journey only to find that Staples wouldn't open for another two hours. Back to Walmart, I would have to take my chances with the inkjet cards. There is nothing quite like starting your morning off with two trips to the mecca that is Wal-Mart in rural Maine.

Slightly curled business cards and Sam's Club membership ID's in hand, we arrive at the show around noon. With little more than a cursory look at our business cards, we gained entry.

A lobster price display board by Big Impressionz of Biddeford, ME
Plastic Lobsters
Almost immediately we set eyes on awesomeness in the form of giant plastic lobsters. I want one. I'm not exactly sure what we will do with it, but we will figure it out. The company also makes a pretty sweet lobster price display board that is probably more practical and cost effective than an 8 foot lobster.

Moxie Jelly from Better Than Average in
Mechanic Falls, ME
Moxie Jelly
What? Moxie flavored jelly? That is crazy. Ok, so here's the back story for those of you that aren't from Maine. It is our Official State Soft Drink. Since when do states have an official soda? Anyway, it is made out of gentian root and is some pretty bitter stuff. It's like root beer with a kick in the pants and an after taste that keeps on giving. We love it. Well not me, personally. I can only stand the stuff when it's mixed with amaretto. But we, Mainers, drink the hell out of it and it is a source of cultural pride.

Better Than Average is a jam, jelly, and sauce company based in Mechanic Falls, ME and they have the goods. They have developed a Moxie flavored jelly. It has that distinctive Moxie flavor, while being slightly mellowed so that your toast doesn't grow legs and run away. I am a fan of this product for two reasons. One, it is unique. Two, it is distinctly Maine. What do you guys think? Do you think people out on the Left Coast getting a box of live lobsters and crab cakes delivered would want to add on a jar of Moxie jelly to get a little more of the Maine experience shipped to their door?

On another note about this small local company, they had a nice medium spiced Raspberry Jalapeno jelly that I think would be tasty with our crab cakes.

Chocolate Puffin
Chocolate Seafood from Safe Harbor Confections in
Waldoboro, ME
I am a fan of chocolate and a food expo is a great place to get some prime samples. While there were lots of chocolate concoctions, this one really caught my eye as being related to the products I sell. Safe Harbor Confections is a local chocolate company located in Waldoboro, ME who specializes in chocolate scenes. I'm interested in their Water Scenes, I think they would make a great value added product for people shipping our seafood, especially when they are shipping it as a gift.

They have fish, sailboats, lobsters, lighthouses. Even a puffin. Let me ask you this, how can you not love a chocolate puffin?

Jams and Jellies
I have decided that Mainers take their jams and jellies very seriously. It seemed like every other vendor was selling some sort of a jam. There were the classics like blueberry and strawberry, but there were also plenty to choose from that had habaneros, jalapenos, garlic, ginger, and more. Even with all the selection, I was a bit disappointed. I had attended the show hoping to spark some ideas, but also to find a nice chutney or sauce that would go well with some of our seafood (particularly the crab cakes). And what I found is that there were very few savory sauces to be had. Even the spicy jams were fairly sweet.

I am on the hunt for a locally made savory sauce that has a slight kick and a nice texture. Let me know if you know of something like that. Sure I could make one myself, but I'm in the seafood business and I want to focus on my fish and lobsters, not the extras. My hands are full enough without going into the jelly business, which already seems to be jam packed full. Sorry . . . that was bad. I just can't help myself.  

The most surprising thing about the show? How many vendors recognized our brand. David and I were sporting our shirts and got noticed. Wicked Joe, the Brunswick coffee roaster was there and chatted us up about our lobster rolls. Robinhood Meetinghouse, a delicious biscuit maker in Bath, recognized us immediately. And there were others that randomly approached us and commented on our food. That felt pretty good. We are just a small fish market and take-out but have gained the recognition of our peers in the Midcoast community.

Check in next week. Gurnet Trading is going to the Maine Restaurant and Lodging Expo. Hopefully we find some more good stuff. Oh and happy Easter!