WALLA WALLA — ’Tis the season to shop and not just at stores.
Churches, community centers, homes and even museum are often locations for holiday bazaars.
Many bazaars are already a month into their season, which starts the first weekend of November.
“You want to get a jump start,” said vendor Sue Gillespie, who on Friday was selling at the Kirkman House Museum bazaar.
Then on Saturday, Gillespie was at it again at the First Congregational Church bazaar.
Gillespie, who has been selling at bazaars and other craft shows for 15 years, said the key to success is quality and quickness, as well as not having a product that is too expensive.
“You have to see what people want to buy and that it is quick to make,” Gillespie said, as she sat in a room filled with dozens of her proven sellers: place mats, table runners and pot holders. And there were some new items she was trying out, like beverage bags.
For Midnight Oil owner Kim Hedine, homemade soap is her main product, which she sold at the holiday Farmers Market on Saturday.
Like Gillespie, Hedine agreed vendors have to have a quality product that is highly desired. But she added one more important ingredient.
“The people that come, they need to come with money in hand,” Hedine said, adding she usually gives a bazaar two years to see if it is profitable for her.
Across the aisle and two booths down from Hedine, Susan Hosticka said being silly is important for her.
Hosticka, who runs Octopus Garden Honey, had topped all of her plastic honey bee containers with Christmas stocking caps and was wearing a costume herself.
“I think it is all about having fun, and the costumes are here to have fun,” she said.
All vendors interviewed agreed that enjoyment is a big part of why they sell at bazaars, but there is also a business side to their work.
Vendors usually pay a flat rate for a table or booth, with fees as low as $20 for churches and community center bazaars. At large-scale events, like the annual Custer’s Christmas Arts & Crafts Show in Pasco, dealers pay closer to $200 and buyers pay $6 just to get in and spend money.
Some bazaars also require the vendors to pay a percentage of their sales. The Kirkman House bazaar collects around 10 percent of the revenue.
At The Center at The Park, Executive Director Howard Ostby said Saturday’s annual bazaar is one of its biggest fundraisers.
“It just depends. It is hard to know, and we have raised all over the map depending on the year. But we hope to raise over $7,000,” he said.
Along with the vendor fees, Ostby said the senior center holds drawings, silent auctions and sells turkey dinners to raise funds for center programs.
With more than 500 people expected to turn out Saturday, The Center at The Park bazaar is one of the more successful in the area.
Marketing is important to create a successful bazaar, said Kirkman House Museum board member Pam Myers, noting that the museum started its bazaar in 2010 and is still growing.
Mailing lists and posters are often used by bazaar coordinators to reach customers, but Myers said good old-fashion community newspapers are still where it gets most of its shoppers.
“It (poster advertising) brings in a certain amount of people, but you need to get your newspaper advertising out there,” she said.
In addition to raising money for vendors and sponsors, some bazaars also serve other purposes, such as giving seniors work and a sense of worth, especially at assisted living centers.
Or in the case of the Kirkman House Museum, its bazaar is a chance to bring in new people.
“It also gives us a chance to get people in the house that maybe haven’t been here before. And we love having a lot of people in here and showing off the house when it is all decorated for Christmas,” Myers said.