Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Answer to December 7th comment

A few days ago I received a comment on my blog.  Honestly, at first it really pissed me off, then I thought about it and now I just think it deserves an answer even if people do not agree.  It’s called conversation.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A Few Thoughts to End the Summer"…
So a failed show gives you the authority to tout one over the other. Who died and left you in charge?

Posted by Anonymous to Travels with Quilter's Rule at December 7, 2014 at 11:28 AM

Here are my thoughts:

First and foremost, no one died, unless you count the many vendors who have given up because it is no longer viable for them to continue with falling attendance, decreased revenues, and increased costs brought on by a changing world in which there are too many shows.  Or maybe you could count the shows that won’t happen next year because show managers created too many too close together in time and location and have called it quits.  It least a few of them have recognized the situation they are in and have made a difficult decision.

Absolutely no one left me in charge. I enjoy the position I have due to hard work, a willingness to invest personal fortune in my dream, and a stubborn refusal to quit when things get tough.  No one has to do a thing I suggest, I hold no great power to force people to do what I want. 

On the other hand, I have an absolute right to say what I think is good and bad in our industry, as does everyone who works in our industry.  No one has to listen, that is your absolute right.  On the other hand, I think I bring a different perspective to the conversation because I own a company, I am a vendor, I am an attendee at certain shows, and I have been a show manager.  There are others just like me, but not everyone is willing to have the conservations I have and be willing to put up with the criticism in a public forum or take the financial hit to make a point.

Yes, I started a show because I wanted a machine show in the Upper Midwest.  I got more than I wanted.  There are now two shows left,  instead of three.  Being optimistic I guess you could say my glass is over full; because I don’t have to do all that work next year and I will be home in bed the evening Machine Quilter’s Showcase ends.

I still want just one really great machine show in the Upper Midwest. I will always work towards that goal. That is how I maximize my company profits with the least expenditure of money and effort.  I am sure some would call me greedy, selfish or some other unsavory term.  Will not be the first time or the last.  I will continue to work hard, earn as much as possible and enjoy what I do.

Finally, I will continue to advise my readers and customers of which shows I think are the best for them to attend to get the most value for their hard earned money.   Coincidently, you should suspect they will be the shows which show management has not refused to allow my company to attend.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Few Thoughts to End the Summer

My how time flies, my last post was in March and here it is September.  That is a lot of miles down the road.  But I really have not had a lot to say, that I could say without getting angry.  Much has happened, the quilting landscape is still changing again, but some things remain the same.  So let’s talk about what I see coming down the pike as Quilter’s Rule gets ready to do its final run of shows for 2014.  Our next stop is the third weekend in October at the Pacific International Quilt Show in Santa Clara, CA.  The new San Francisco 49er’s Stadium across the street from the convention center is complete.  Construction blocking parking lots is over.  Thankfully, San Francisco is playing at Denver the last day of the show.  So parking will be much improved this year.  We look forward to a great show.

The Quilter’s Rule Third Tool Challenge to benefit the Military will start its tour at the new Mancuso Show in Palm Springs, CA, the first weekend in October.   Then it will travel to PIQF where we will pick it up and bring it home.  The challenge tool for this exhibit was Gaylee Quilting’s Thirtysomething Tool.  If you would like more information on the fourth Tool Challenge using the Wonder Cut Triangle ruler visit the Quilter’s Rule website at .  I ask you to support our Military members by supporting this tool challenge, make a quilt.  I am a Viet Nam veteran; we were treated horribly when we came home.  Not since WWII have service members been treated as well as they are today.  In part because Viet Nam vets and vets from all conflicts since are making sure our country never treats veterans poorly again.  Help us continue to make our service members welcome as they return home.  I have a special place in my heart for Viet Nam vets, so I always look to find them first.  Please help me to let them know how much they are appreciated.   I have carried my quilt with me for five years; it was the first thing anyone did to let me know what I did was appreciated.  It actually means more to me than the Bronze Star I was awarded.

As many of you probably already know I have managed the Machine Quilting Today’s Upper Midwest Show for the past five years.  While we have been modestly successful it has never been a roaring success.  This month MQX will open a new machine show in Springfield, Il and MQS the show that MQX broke off from, has decided to move their show to Cedar Rapids, IA.  I think they are hoping lighting will strike twice because of the success MQS had there.  Three machine quilting shows sharing teachers, vendors and patrons within 300 miles of one another.  And that does not include the six other major quilting shows within 300 miles of each of these shows.  The good news is I wanted a machine show in the Upper Midwest, and I have had one for five years and will have one for the foreseeable future.  The bad news is three machine shows are two too many.  Something has to give.  We decided, because we were the smallest of the shows, our show should vacate the field.   Now it becomes a tug of war between MQS and MQX. 

No one can pick winners or losers.  But in my opinion, in order to have a high quality machine quilting show, there should only be one in the Midwest.   Our show announced it was shutting down and threw its support to MQS.  I would ask that you do the same.  Let me tell you why I think this is important.  MQX has its flagship show in New Hampshire, in the past it has been a very successful show.  MQS started the trend of machine quilting shows and has always been located somewhere in the Midwest.  First in Springfield, IL, then Overland Park, KS,  then Wichita, KS, and now Cedar Rapids, IA.  They have always geographically stayed in the Midwest.  HMQS, a wildly successful show started and remains in Salt Lake City, UT.  That is three shows spaced out across the United States, with only the West Coast without a machine show since MQX withdrew from Portland, OR and there is no indication on their website they intend to return.  

If you are a vendor, as I am you need to pick fewer shows in a geographic area.  If you decide to do every show in an area, you will increase your expenses, and reduce your revenue per dollar spent.  If you are a teacher, and pay your way to shows, you will also increase your expenses and reduce your revenue per dollar spent and give the students a reason to not make a decision today.  Finally, if you are an attendee or student, and unless you have an unlimited budget, you will have to reduce the amount of money you can spend on merchandise and classes, because it will cost you more to attend all the shows. 

Only the show promoters win. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Home after Hampton

We have returned home from the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival.  I did not write anything while we were on the road for several reasons.  First of all I caught a bug, or perhaps better said a bug caught me.  Food did not taste good for several days.  Second, I am not ready to write what I would like to say it will just make people mad because they will have to stop, think and make a decision.

But the show went well we were up slightly from last year.  For many of us that is the new normal.  Happy that sales were not down, flat is good.  I am just not ready to accept that as the new normal.  I think the fabric dealers did very well as every one of them around us said they did very well and at least one did not have much left after the show was over and was going home to restock for the New Jersey Quilt Fest.

Of course we had to have snow, ice or rain somewhere during this show.  This time it was scheduled to start about midnight on load out night.   Almost everyone who was going north or west hurried to get out of town ahead of the storm.  We waited because we were going south to Rock Hill, SC.  Typically the storm had not hit Hampton by the time we got up.  So we took off and drove into the storm by midmorning just before we crossed into North Carolina.  By Wisconsin standards it was not a terrible storm, not even a bad storm, but people need to slow down.  We saw three accidents in about 30 miles before people caught on.

By late afternoon we were in Rock Hill, SC and visited with Jim Miller at YLI.  It was a very interesting visit.  Seeing all the winders and braiders; equipment that is really old and probably not replaceable at a reasonable price.  Many of you know I was in the military and I got to see the equipment that in all likelihood made the gold stripes for my dress uniforms.  That was really cool.  It is a slow process, now I know why it was so expensive even 44 years ago.  We had dinner with Jim, Kay and son James before we checked into our hotel.  Next morning we caught a flight home.

I know this is sort of a ho hum blog this time.  Winter has the best of me.  I am tired of going to a show and coming home to below zero temperatures.  This morning it was -4 degrees when I went out to feed the animals.  I have over 24 inches of snow in the back yard and the normal day time temperature is supposed to be 39 degrees.  This week end time springs forward.  I think I will spring with it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Continuing Thoughts on Shows


I hate it when I make a mistake and know I am making it when I do it. I violated my own 300 mile rule and I did it twice. Just call me stupid.  In 4 weekends there were 5 shows in Southern California and Arizona.  First in the line was Yuma and Tucson on the same weekend and then Ontario’s Road to California and then two shows in Phoenix on successive weekends.  All these shows are too close together in time and distance. Knowing better Quilter’s Rule attended the Tucson Guild Show, Road to California, and the Rusty Barn show.  Yes, we saw different customers at each show and yes we saw the same customers at each show. 

The Phoenix Metro area is home to 2/3 of the State of Arizona’s population. At 4.2 million it is about half the size of the Chicago Metro area.  We all remember Chicago last year with too many shows. 

Road to California added a tent of new vendors.  There was a bit of grumbling and some vendors I am sure did not do well.  Quilter’s Rule was able to hold its own this year.  Many of the new vendors were related to the long arm segment of our industry and attracted many customers interested in the segment.  We can serve that segment very well and had no competition.  Thus we were able to preserve our sales.

We had no knowledge of what to expect at Tucson, but it is a small community.  Quilter’s Rule did not do particularly well and we will probably not try to return until something changes. The guild does a nice job, just not enough people spending money. 

The Rusty Barn in Phoenix is a quandary.  Last year we had a record year in Phoenix.  This year traffic was good but the sales were not.  There is only one way I would explain the sales.  The local people want to attend both shows and they demonstrated that they will.  They split their purchases saving some money for this week.

The rapid expansion of shows is a problem.  Only the vendors are harmed.  The promoters for the time being have the vendors and the gate.  The attendees have more choices of shows to attend.  The vendors are spending more money and seeing smaller sales.  For some that will quickly end.  Vendors will drop out.  We are already hearing rumors of shows with a waiting list have exhausted those waiting lists.

Tucson, Yuma, Ontario and Phoenix have always had their shows in January.  So what changed?  Ontario moved to later in the month and this year added more vendors and  AQS announced its intention to come to Phoenix at the same time as the Rusty Barn show. 

In my opinion AQS in Phoenix is a renegade show with a couple of differences.  They are a huge for profit promoter and they are acting like the 800# gorilla.  They see what appears to be a lucrative market and they want to own it by crushing the competition. That is American business at its worst behavior and why many people dislike businesses.

The questions becomes, are the actions some promoters taking what you want?  If you are a vendor is doing all the shows in your best interest?  As an attendee or guild member is going to all the shows in your area in your best interest?  If it is what you want than continue your present actions.  If not it is time to choose.  Some shows and vendors will definitely not survive.

Quilter’s Rule will not continue to make the same choices.  We will not do multiple shows in overlapping markets.  We are a vendor and we intend to survive by maximizing sales at the lowest possible cost.  We will leave some money on the table as the cost to acquire it is just too high.  We will encourage and make suggestions to the promoters we choose to support and have supported our company.

And today daughter Patricia and I are on our way home after a very long time on the road.  I think there is a little snow in store for our drive.  We will see some of you at the Mid Atlantic Show in Hampton Roads, VA.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Happenings in Tucson

It seems like months since I last wrote in this blog.  Christmas as passed, the year ended,  a New Year has come.  Patricia and I am on the road again and my wife is home in the cold with animals to feed.  Before you feel sorry for her remember she is retired and she gets to ride any time she wants to brave the cold temperature.  Come to think about it this is a good thing.  I left wind chills of -47⁰ for daytime temperatures in the 70’s.  I have a bunch to be happy about even if Patricia is upset about the heat.    I am not sure why but she gets upset when it is over 70⁰.  Sometimes I wonder where she comes from.  Oh yea, I married her mother. Great lady.  Good choice!  She is 68 ½ years young, rides Hunter Jumper several times a week.

When Patricia and I leave we are always very careful about checking things so as little as possible can go wrong on a trip.  So it was my responsibility to check over the truck and trailer.  Which I did!  Everything was working we had trailer lights, a full gas tank and everything was loaded except for a new product that we were supposed to pick up the first morning on the road.  And of course the new product coming in from France that was supposed to arrive on Thursday and is stuck in Customs and we have spent two days in correspondence with France and Customs first of all is the glue stick toxic and what kind of wood is the box made of.  You would have thought we had cut down every exotic species of tree in the whole rain forest.  And to top it off they have our FEIN wrong.  Now how could that be?  I have never imported anything before.  They have the FEIN of another company I registered.  It does not import either.  Don’t you just love our government and their computers?

Everything is going fine.  We meet Robert and Paula of Built By Briick and get our new exclusive product.  They have designed a wood ruler rack and wall unit that exactly fit our gridded rulers.  You will be able to buy them at Road.  So our plan is working until we are about 200 miles from home and I realize my computer case is still sitting on a chair at home.  Ok so about now I receive a text message that the French shipment has arrived and it is being broken down to be shipped to Tucson and it will arrive on the first day of the show.  Ok, so I call my wife and tell her to take my computer to the office and they will ship it with the Bohin France shipment.  For a person who hated technology (computers and telephones included) I have become addicted, and find life without my connections difficult.  Addiction is now complete!  Technology properly used can make up for stupid mistakes.  My computer is on the way, we have all our product on its way and life is good.

First day on the road is always long, but we finally get to Kansas City and are headed west on the turnpike towards Topeka.  I think we can make Wichita before we quit.   It is starting to get darker and I turned on the lights.  But the trailer lights are still dark.   We pull over as soon as possible to check the plug because they were working when I checked them this morning.  Sure enough I have a broken wire.  I only have tape to secure the wires.  So here goes.  I strip the two wires and twist them together and break 4 more.  I can see a disaster in the making.  Now I can handle one broken wire but 4 at the same time is beyond me.  But the good thing is my flashers are still working and the Oasis is just a couple of miles up the road.  So off we go, flash flash….flash, oh please keep the highway patrol busy miles away.  

Now you would think that an Oasis with diesel fuel would at least have a couple of bulletin boards with names of people who would come and help for an outrageous amount of money.  Wrong.  They just handed me a telephone book.  Everyone is closed.  It is now decision time.  Flash, flash…flash Lawrence, Kansas is only 10 miles.  Oh, I owe you one already, now please keep that highway patrol officer busy somewhere else.  We got to Lawrence and find a hotel and settle in for the night, Wichita a passing figment of my imagination.

Next morning I get up call the local Firestone dealer and get told, they can’t help but he did tell me where to go.  I call, no answer, so I decide to just go and be on their doorstep when they arrive.  I am an optimist.  But to make a long story short three hours later and only $45 lighter we are on our way and just 400 miles from where I want to be at this time of day.  But that is why I had planned an extra day into the trip.  Now the shortest way to Tucson is Hwy 54.  I had planned to take it from Wichita to I40 at Tucumcari, NM.  We ended up driving all the way to Alamogordo, NM on 54..  The kindest way to say this is never again unless you want an expensive way to make butter or goat cheese.  Take the long way and drive an extra 50 miles.

Finally, the hotel in Tucson, first night, about 4:30am and the smoke detector start chipping.  You know that annoying noise it makes to tell you the battery is about to go dead.  Now, am I going to make a fuss, after all, I have had a good night’s sleep and this will keep me from being the bad guy and telling Patricia it is time to get up.  I did not fuss, besides they can fix it while we are setting up the booth.

Last night we come back to the hotel after dinner and our key won’t work.  Only this time the light flashes green like we should be able to open the door, only it won’t.  So try the other key same thing.  Stupidity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  So I will not tell you how many times I attempted the same stupid thing. Okay this is getting distressing because I have had a couple of beers and need to be inside my room.  Down to the front desk to get the shift manager and she confidently reaches for her master card key sure that we are just slightly dumb country bumpkins.  Her key will not work, so she runs downstairs and gets the real master key, pops the plastic cover and it won’t work.  All of our clothes and toilet articles are on the other side of a locked door.  We end up waiting almost an hour for a maintenance worker.  They will replace the lock today and we had a free room last night.  I am still not fussing.

We did arrive on time, my computer and my Nook are back with me, and we are fully stocked.  The show in Tucson is not as good as we were told, nor as good as we expected.  More on that later!  The Tucson Guild is composed of a delightful group of ladies and they put on a good show.

Now, we are on the Road to California.