Monday, June 27, 2016

Early Mornings

I started a new job this month. Seems that my get rich schemes get crazier as I get older. And after swearing that I’d never work any where that made me get out of bed before 7:00 I find myself getting up as early as 5:00 AM to go sell tea towels at quaint French markets.

The latest  scheme is to sell LilyO’s tea towels at 4 different weekly markets. This is actually an idea that has taken a few turns to get back to. The idea for LilyO’s was cooked up when I noticed a lack of representative souvenirs at major tourist sites in our region of France. I was inspired by childhood memories of tea towels brought back from trips to the UK where one finds a pretty towel at every grand house or garden. So with the cart well ahead of the horse I got Tom painting images of local scenes, ordered up 4000 towels and then started to look into the rules for selling things at the local weekly markets. 4000 towels arrived, but the French paper work didn’t -  it was not going to. It has taken 6 years to get that work permit. In the meantime the tea towels sold like hot cakes back in the States and LilyO’s took off. 

Back in France - I now have a work Visa and have navigated all the paperwork (I think,…) for setting up a stand at some local markets.

By the time you normal people arrive at the market everything - all the products and the charm -has been well organized. Those organized rows of stalls wont give a hint of the chaos and jostling that happened within the last hour. There is an orchestrated process to this madness and every performer has their time and place.

The biggest trucks with the best placements take their positions with practiced grace no later than 6:30.  The next layer of stalls waltz in in 5 minute increments. The old and experienced prima donnas know that each dancer has to stay in step because the slightest hesitation in timing can set off a chain reaction of trouble. The other morning a late truck was slithering through stands, brushed a couple of tent tops and knocked an edge of a table filled with produce. Nothing like a fist fight at 7 am.




I’m considered a temporary, i.e. those folks that are only willing to go to market when the tourists are around and the weather is sunny. We haven’t proved our commitment on cold winter mornings or rainy spring days when there isn’t a buyer in sight. We get sprinkled into the market where there is space between the regulars. 

How much or little sleep I get the night before a market is determined by where I want to park. Being new to this and very timid about driving in and out of this chaos in front of the experts. I have chosen for now to park as close as I can to the market and lug my stuff in. Obviously the closer I can get to my placement the better.  But that means getting there in the wee small hours.

Next I have had to find out where the gang hangs out to await The Placer. Each market has a person that is the Placer. This person knows all of the regulars and waits until he sees if they have taken up position or not. This all important person could hold the key to your success in his hands.


A straggly bunch gathers around the Placer and at a certain moment we all take off like ducklings following their mother. At one market we march along and meter lengths are called out, we raise our hands, and the Placer scans us to see who he wants to grace with this spot or that. Location can be ever so important to sales - well at least it is perceived that way by this hungry group.

And after all this I finally get to the set up and go to work. 

2 comments:

Paula Hunter said...

Good for you!

Kathie Kerler said...

Oh, mon dieu. Fascinating post. I know after living in France how slow the bureaucracy moves, but six years is about three times longer than I would have imagined. Way to persevere. Bonne chance aux marchés!