Shortly after the holiday season comes to a close, Rob and I take a trip to Atlanta to shop for the holiday to come. This might seem like less than a treat, to have the holiday go on until mid January-but I like the timing. What just transpired at Detroit Garden Works is still fresh in my mind. I am still familiar with the materials we had available at the shop for the holiday and winter installations done by the landscape company, Deborah Silver and Co. What has just been on my mind makes early January is a great time to look for materials for the following season. We always drive, as we may make side trips to look at plant material, or a pottery we have never visited in person. Sometimes we find vintage or antique objects that would look great in the shop. My 2004 Chevy Suburban with 120,000 miles still makes that trip without any complaints, and can carry plenty of odds and ends. We have on occasion hauled big benches, concrete pots and plants.
Atlanta is a very long trip by car, but that time we spend discussing an approach for next year. What direction we would like to take, and what things we felt were missing. It also helps to have a days separation from the previous work to the new work. People with shops all over the country come here for this week’s show. I feel sure that each and every one of them will come away with a collection from their own point of view. Despite the fact that many thousands of people are in Atlanta that week, we managed to run into buyers from four other nurseries and garden centers in our area. Does this mean you will be seeing the same things in many places? Not likely.
The America’s Mart is the largest wholesale market of its kind in the US. The registration for the Mart is a rigorous one-it is only open to businesses who can authenticate their business status, not individuals. 7 million square feet of space is host to thousands of vendors. I have no idea how many people come every year, but all of Atlanta’s hotels, restaurants, streets, escalators and showrooms are jammed with people. We make reservations for a place to stay a year in advance. Some vendors set up temporary shop, just for the week. We always shop the temporaries, looking for new sources, and companies new to the business. In the holiday category alone, there are many hundreds of places to visit, and countless items which can be ordered for the upcoming season. The choices are just about endless. Every garden center in our area has their own idea about how to represent the holiday, and will represent their own taste and interests. This means the purchasing public has lots of different things from which to choose.
Years ago, Rob and I would go through every holiday vendor’s showroom, and make a second trip back to order. Given that we have been celebrating a holiday season for many years, we can now more easily spot those things that would work well and represent our interest in the garden and nature. We scout a showroom, confer, and order. The work of it is two fold. It takes a lot of energy and concentration to spot those few things from thousands that have appeal, charm, or quality. It also takes the ability to keep track of what direction the buying takes, so the end result is a coherent collection. Many showrooms forbid taking any pictures, for obvious reasons. But most do not object to closeup pictures of items that are being ordered.
There is another good reason why the show is held in January. Many vendors manufacture commensurate with the orders that are placed. Certain items we have ordered will never be delivered. Lacking sufficient demand, it will not be available. Though the Mart will host another show this coming July, many things will be sold out. We only rarely shop this season on line. It is too hard to get a good feeling for the color, heft, sturdiness and quality of an item from a picture. We like to look in person, as liking what we recommend to clients is important. Great materials speak for themselves. We will shop on line with certain vendors whose product lines do not change much from year to year. Given the big numbers of new things we saw this year, I would say that business has been good for our vendors. In 2009 one of our favorite vendors went out of business-it was a a shock, and a big loss. I like it when their business with retailers is brisk, as it means more choices, and new designs. This wreath made with large pine cones that had been split in half was innovative, and handsome. Shopping with Rob can be a challenge. He wants to be sure he sees, if even just for a moment, most of every showroom-not just the holiday showrooms. This involves miles and miles of walking-but I know my way around the Mart well enough to stop for a cup of coffee while he scouts.
His instinct to scout paid off in a significant way for us this year. This showroom, which featured lighting such as you see above was located on a floor where the other vendors offered goods completely unlike this. Had we not gone into an area which did not seem relevant to our business, we would have never seen this. If you know Rob, then you are aware of his keen interest in winter lighting of all kinds. This was the find of the entire market week for him. I have never seen him more enthused.
Yes, we will have this lighting next season. The timing of the deliveries is complex to set up, especially when you buy from 70 or more vendors like we do. The first deliveries will start to trickle in towards mid July. Spacing the deliveries means Scott will have the time to inventory everything, price it, and pack it back up. There will be thousands of items all requiring a lot of handling, even before we are ready to put them out. We like to have everything on hand, come mid September,as planning how we will display everything takes time.
Another great lighting find-LED light string sets with a warm light much like the incandescent light we like. Rob had stood back from the early years of LED lights. The light was so cold and unwelcoming. This light is warm and cheery. These strands are shatterproof-we watched the showroom staff drop them on the concrete floor, and walk on them. Astonishing, this. They are waterproof. They are guaranteed for 10 years. This will be a significant contribution to our light sculptures-ruggedly built light strands that do not require maintenance.
This was Sunne’s first trip to market with us. Just as enthusiastic as her name suggests, she was a great addition to our group. She spotted lots of things that I missed. A third pair of eyes is good when you are shopping spaces jammed with all sorts of things. Plus she has a very good idea of what will be coming in.
We also shop the Gardens-2 giant floors devoted entirely to things for the garden. By day 7, the show was beginning to feel endless and overwhelming-as you can see! We buy only select things from these floors, as Rob buys most of the garden ornament, pots and furniture from other sources. Eight days, all day and into a few evenings-this was our longest show ever. I feel confident that our holiday coming up this fall will be a particularly good one. That said, it is great to be home.