Well..That was unexpected..

Bank holiday weekends mixed with a bit of rain is not a recipe for a good weekend of market sales....

However....it wouldn't be markets if not for their unpredictability. I mean, I sold out..S-O-L-D OUT of chocolates this weekend. It was one of our best non-holiday weekends of the year and that NEVER happens on a bank holiday weekend. And that is especially the case when there's rain....N-E-V-E-R happens!

First, there was Stokey. I love Stokey Market...I just do. The people are the coolest..they get food. They are curious and interested in how it’s made, where it’s made and who makes it. They are loyal. They appreciate the effort. Over the years, many have become friends and people I look forward to chatting with about family, travel plans and just life. So, it’s a pretty consistent market. I have a number of regulars who know exactly what they want and have been coming for their chocolate hit for years..but I've also noticed a number of newbies rolling into the market the last half year or so (which partly explains the banner Christmas to Easter holiday period we experienced). Now, the newbies are becoming the 'new' regulars. 

Oh...I've strayed a bit...easy to do when I get on the subject of Stokey Market...so this Saturday started slow, but to my pleasant surprise it finished with a flourish. The slow start had me in a glum 'oh it’s a bank holiday weekend' mood. I set my expectations low...I always do on these weekends. British families go away...jet-setting off to the Riviera or some other exotic place for these 3-day weekends, right? I track my sales as the day progresses. I could see after the first hour and a half that it was probably going to be a typical bank holiday Saturday--ugh. I was thinking...man, I brought too much product. I made a layered chocolate cake for the first time in months. I had lots of Honey Nougat, quite a few of our newest creation - Brownie Bars ('three layers :brownie, salted caramel and crunchy toffee peanuts and cocoa nibs all coated in chocolate), truffles, two types of salted caramels, brownies, cranberry-ginger biscuits, Cognac Figs, vegan chocolates and on and on...

I was facing the likelihood of bringing tons of chocolates home with me...I know, I know..sounds great to YOU (and where that cake was concerned, my son too -- 7 year old Nikolas showed up at the market after his swimming lesson to make certain he got ANOTHER slice before it sold out)..but I'm trying to run a business here. Then...before you know it, I've got a steady stream of customers...one after another. Regulars and newbies from all over the WORLD -- a visitor from Italy, another from my home state of Michigan in the U.S. another from Camden....on and on. Soon after, the cake was done, finished, finito (sorry Nikolas :) ). Then the Chocolate-Banana loaf, then the brownies...then the Rum-Hazelnut salted caramels and the Masala Chai spiced truffles. Done and dusted. It was a good day...

So, I was feeling good yesterday morning (Sunday) as I prepared for Ally Pally market. It was raining when I left home...I didn't care. I wasn't carrying much product, I'd already far exceeded my sales expectations for the weekend...so I was just feeling good. I wasn’t concerned...just hoping to see a few of our new regulars (its taken a bit longer than expected, but now we've got regulars at Ally Pally too). I'd missed a few weeks at Ally Pally so it was time to make an appearance and catch up with a few people.

It was a light, persistent, typical British rain...with enough wind to be an annoyance. Humidity is bad news for chocolate..it coats the surface and causes sugar bloom (aka sticky chocolates) so I didn't put much out. I was actually just taking my time setting up. The market was already open and  I'd only had one or two of the chocolates on display. Hey, no need to rush...its Sunday morning no one was coming THAT early to Ally Pally in the rain, right? WRONG...got my first customer..a new regular 10 mins in. She bought a "Harmony" (Jasmine Green tea & Orange) truffle. Really nice lady (I forget her name...I'm horrible with names). She comes to the market weekly and is always there early. She has an adult son that she is very fond of and she teaches violin (50 students she tells me..wow). We had a quick chat and caught up. I dropped a salted caramel in her bag...my way of saying 'Thank you' for being my first customer (its always a bit of a relief to break the seal on the day)...I appreciated her visit. The rain stuck around and the market was slow but not terribly so. By noon I was doing 'ok', even a bit better than usual. Then just after noon the rain/mist stopped..and suddenly -- there's sun..glorious, magical, life-bearing SUNshine!! I wanted to sing and dance...but I had work to do.

A steady-ish stream of 'new' regulars stopped by P-Nibby (Peanut Brittle with cocoa nibs) has some serious Ally Pally fans...it sells well there and that was the first to go. Then the Brownie Bars and Tiffin started to jump...salted caramel...truffles...Cognac Figs. Hell, by 1pm, with 2 hours to go, I started to get concerned that I might not have enough product to get to the finish line.  Damn, I was selling...but now I'm short on product. When all was said and done...I was left with 2 truffles, 6 salted caramel, 2 brownie bars and a few tiffin and nougat. I'd had one of my best Ally Pally days of the year. 

Bank Holiday Weekend...go figure

See you next weekend...


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