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The business of bazaars

Sherry Hubbard hands a stuffed toy to Kalle Gebhard of Sams Valley atthe St. Mary's School Bazaar. Sharing the booth with Hubbard are MarilynMalek, seated, Deanna Schroeder, with a clipboard, and Rick Meyer -- allvendors from the Ruch area.

Profits don't always measure up, but vendors enjoy other rewards

Kathy Page drove in from Etna, Calif., an hour and 15 minutes to theSt. Mary's High School Bazaar in Medford last weekend. She stepped intoline with Kathy Wallmann, who'd driven over from Merlin to attend the eventfor the fifth year in row.

It's an obsession, Page said.

Some 2,400 people swarmed into St. Mary's for the two-day spasm of craftymarketing, said Jacqueline Goodreau, admissions director. The 73 vendors,who come from as far away as Portland, paid $75 and more for display space.

And there's a waiting list to get space at the event, which contributedmore than $10,000 to the private school's operations this year.

Across town, a handful of people drifted into the Roxy Ann Grange, whereseveral vendors were displaying wares for the first time.

Christine Soderstrom was offering about 30 dolls at prices of $5 to $40.

I made them off and on for about a year, just for the pleasureof it, she said. It's so hard to know where to price them. Idon't figure to recoup the cost of my labor. I just hope to get enough moneyto go out and buy some material and start over.

The most popular products at bazaars, if you follow the crowds, are whatyou're most likely to find: decorative woodcraft, dried flower and wreatharrangements, dolls and fiber creations.

An 11-pound chain-mail tunic drew a lot of attention from shoppers. Itwas crafted from a pattern Todd Barnett found on the Internet.

It took him three months to make.

It's therapy, says Barnett, a quality control inspector atSRC Vision who also makes custom jewelry. I've always been interestedin history and heraldry.

Crafts have been a business for 30 years for Ruth Heath, who taught tolepainting at Huff's Crafts and has a year-round booth at the Crafter's Marketon North Court Street.

She's had a booth at the St. Mary's Bazaar for 15 years.

It's a lot more competitive than it used to be, she said.People are a lot more picky and prices are more competitive.

Carolyn and Jerry Haynes of Medford have been offering collectibles atbazaars and craft fairs for 25 years. Her business is Video-Tiques Inc.,Antiques & Collectibles.

Business is down this year, she says. When the economyis really good, people tend to shop at regular retail stores and run upcharges on their credit cards.

Sales volumes vary widely from one booth to the next.

The four of us probably did $800 or $900 altogether, saidMarilyn Malek. Her dolls were lined up with Deanna Schroeder's dried flowersand woodcraft, Rick Meyer's whirlygigs and Sherry Hubbard's stuffed animals.

Dolls do not sell any more, she said, but I did sellmy four cats.

The Ruch-area vendors all have regular jobs and work on their craftsin their spare time.

Deanna raises and dries her own flowers and does her own woodcutting,so it holds down the overhead, she said. Rick is very good athis whirlygigs. He does it because he loves it. That's the bottom line formost crafters.

Some ended in the red after booth expenses.

We didn't do so good, said Barnett, who did not sell thechain-mail tunic. There was a good crowd, but we only made about $10all weekend. But we'll try again at Ashland Hills next (this) weekend. Ihope we do better.

Sheila Mundlin of Medford has a wide variety of decorative wood, stitcheddesigns and floral arrangements, cows and cowboy stuff, but she makes moneyfrom only one of her items.

It's the Poop'n Sheep, she said, demonstrating how the $9item works. Squeeze the sheep's midsection and it squirts out some blackjellybeans.

I'm getting out of this, she said. I didn't do thisto go to work; I'm just not a machine. I do it more to meet people.

She says the proliferation of bazaars, 80 or more a year in the RogueValley, has glutted the market.

There are a lot of crafters out there and not a whole lot of goodcrafts, she adds.

Becky Pierce is a housekeeper who, like many bazaar vendors, startedmaking decorative woodcrafts, dried flower arrangements and baskets as ahobbyist.

I saw the ad for the grange bazaar and it looked like a good opportunity,she said. She paid $10 for a table and waited to see what would happen.If it works out, I'll go to more bazaars.

Some are still hobbyists.

Nina Smith of Phoenix crochets doilies, ornaments and other decorations,including some of her own designs.

I've been crocheting since I was about 18, she said. NowI'm doing it about half of the time -- while my husband watches TV.''

An assortment of rubber-stamped greeting cards, crocheted Christmas decorationsand other novelties are arrayed at Johanna Sakamoto's booth. The Talentwoman sees a practical side to selling at bazaars.

I like to do things, she said, but you have to havesome kind of an outlet or your house just fills up.

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The business of bazaars