(L to R) Madelyn Peters of Westwood listens to the Vendor Amie Simon who sells Tupperware during holiday bazaars at Temple Beth Or in Washington Township. Several organizations are holding holiday bazaars. MItsu Yasukawa / Special to the Record
(L to R) Madelyn Peters of Westwood listens to the Vendor Amie Simon who sells Tupperware during holiday bazaars at Temple Beth Or in Washington Township. Several organizations are holding holiday bazaars. MItsu Yasukawa / Special to the Record
Posted: Monday November 21, 2011
Attn Bergen Shoppers: Holiday fairs and bazaars have kicked off the season
By HUGH R. MORLEY of The Record

Shoppers and bargain hunters looking for unique or handmade items flocked to craft fairs and holiday bazaars across North Jersey Sunday, even as fair vendors said the uncertain economy has dampened spending.

About half-a-dozen fairs, including events in Franklin Lakes, Haworth, Washington Township and Maywood, opened their doors, hoping for a steady stream of consumers lured by hard-find items often not available in mainstream stores.

The holiday bazaar season, roughly running from October to December, is now a staple part of the calendar of many non-profit organizations, who use such events to raise funds to pay for operating and maintenance costs, or to support charitable programs.

But some vendors expressed doubt that their revenue will match even that of last year.

“It’s soft,” said Kathy Peck, of Ho Ho Kus, who was selling her self-made pottery plates, pots and other items at the annual Holiday Boutique event at Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, one of five she will attend this season. “People are buying smaller gifts.”

“The economy is definitely different than last year, the vibe is different” said Stacey Weiss, owner of Excessorize, who expects to sell her accessories — such as woolen scarves and earmuffs — at 43 fairs this fall.

“People are not spending as much,” she said. “They are being much more selective with their purchases.”

How that will affect the non-profits, which look to such events to raise funds, is unclear.

Most organizers charge vendors a flat fee per table to show their wares – fees between $50 and $100 were quoted by organizers Sunday. Others charge a table fee and a percentage of sales, or simply charge the sales percentage.

As such, vendors in many cases pay up front, and low vendor revenue this year may not affect fair organizers until next year, when they find vendors are unwilling to come to a fair that yielded low revenue.

Ellen Zlotolow, co-chairwoman of Temple Beth Or's Holiday Bazaar in Washington Township, said the temple raised more than $3,000 last year at its first craft fair that filled two rooms.

But the fair this year has been trimmed to one room, in part due to the flat economy and also because there was too much overlap from several vendors selling the same products last year, which cut their revenue.

Still, the temple had by the end of the day raised about the same as last year by charging more per table, Zlotow said. “Foot traffic was up,” too, she said.

Marian Filan, a steering committee member of the 10-year-old Barnert Temple event, said at about lunchtime Sunday that she hoped revenue at the bazaar, which had 43 vendors, would be higher than last year, when more than 300 people bought goods.

Business became flat in the recession, but last year’s revenue was the event’s highest ever, she said, adding that “we are really hoping to see that his year.”

At the Maywood Senior Recreation Center, Eleanor Baker, co-chairwoman of the organizing committee of the Holiday Gift Bazaar there, said by lunchtime she had already just about hit her target of about $2,000, mainly because that comes from selling tables to 28 vendors at $65 each, with no percentage of sales taken. That money will go to support Reconstructionist Temple Beth Israel in Maywood, and to help repair some water leakage problems in the temple walls, she said.

Yet despite a publicity campaign of newspapers advertisements, fliers and lawn signs, business at the bazaar was slow at lunchtime Sunday, which didn’t please Irma Weissman, who was selling jewelry with gem stones in it.

The clientele was a little older that that of the ideal customer, she said, adding that “older people don’t buy jewelry.”

Still, worries about the economy may not affect the enjoyment of the shoppers, some of whom are just as happy with the thrill of the hunt, as with finding an item, and buying it.

“We are dedicated flea market people,” said Beth McPartland, 55, of Oradell, as she perused the wares at the Temple Beth Or event. “We are hunters and peckers and we will take what we can get. It’s like a treasure hunt. This is a passion of mine.”

Some unusual items seen at craft fairs and holiday bazaars
Some unusual items seen at holiday bazaars

  • Bowls made of melted and re-fashioned vinyl records, including albums by The Bay City Rollers, Andy Williams and Billy Joel
  • Hand-sewn and stuffed ginger-bread man shaped Christmas tree ornaments.
  • Tube guns that shoot marshmallows
  • Crocheted bracelets decorated with bottle tops
  • Jewelry made of gem stones and crystal

E-mail: morley@northjersey.com