[image-1]Well, the tenth annual Charleston Charleston Wine + Food Festival has ended, but now vendors must pack up their gear and tally their take. For those brands that chose to setup their wares in the swanky Artisan Market, they benefitted from the expanded space. But was the upfront investment, $1,000 for small booths and more for big sponsors like Rewined Candles, worth it?

Rewined’s Amy Pellegrino manned her companies marquee Artisan Market booth for the duration of the five-day fest and says the spot was a win. “We sold more candles on Saturday than we sold at the festival all last year,” says Pellegrino. It helped that Rewined debuted a new rose candle, but Pellegrino says that the company’s front and center location in the tent made sure every Artisan Market visitor saw their product, especially visitors not familiar with the brand. 

For others, like Greg Johnsman of Geechie Boy Mill, being in the Artisan Market wasn’t a financial victory. “We broke even,” says Johnsman. But he adds, the choice to sell in the market was more about developing brand recognition with out of state visitors. “A lot of people came up and asked about our company,” says Johnsman. “I told them, “You’re looking at it.” The farmer credits the fest with allowing him to help visitors understand the nature of Geechie Boy Mill’s small, family-owned operation. And many took home a piece of that business.

While dozens of local festival-goers stopped by his booth to share their love of Geechie Boy Grits, Johnsman says his biggest sellers during the fest were T-shirts. The farmer brought two retro designs, one that simply read “Grits” and another that read “Geechie Boy.” In fact, as we stood interviewing Johnsman, at least four people bought one.

“People are looking for a souvenir,” Johnsman says. That fact has made him rethink upcoming visits to festivals in Baltimore and Washington D.C. “I’m thinking about making another T-shirt,” he says. “It’ll read ‘Cornbread Fed,'” he says.

And then there were the brands that were just happy to gauge customer interest. Y’allsome, a T-shirt and poster company with catchy Southern slogans (sweeT, the word Hush with an image of a puppy, etc.) started in L.A., but is getting ready to move to Nashville.

“This is a great way to find out what people are interested in,” says Y’allsome owner Craig Evans. Y’allsome has only been up and running less than a year, so being involved in Charleston Wine + Food was one of his first attempts at testing the market. “No one in L.A. is interested in Southern T-shirts,” added Evans. “That’s why we’re moving to Nashville.” Given the feedback Y’allsome received at the fest, Evans says he’s confident the businesses move to the his East Coast home, where people like to show their Southern pride in bold logos across their chests, is a smart one.