The Traveling Salesman

Not often do I get the opportunity to visit the stores that carry Meadowbrooke Gourds. Most of my interactions with our stores are over the phone where orders are placed and stories are told about how well last year’s gourds sold for our many vendors. When I do get to meet a customer face to face, it is at a trade show where I can point out what is new and we can laugh and smile as the orders are written. But one lazy weekend in the beginning of June, I set off in our gourd van to visit some customers, deliver their orders, and see where they call home.

My journey begins at 5am June 3rd. This is way earlier than I usually wake up, so I dusted away the cobwebs and set off to pick up my buddy, Dan. Dan works for Amazon and thought it would be fun to tag along on my trip. I only filled him in on a few of the stops we would be making. But our first stop was going to be in Connecticut. Our drive was pretty seamless. We arrived at America the Beautiful Country Store, a quaint store, in Collinsville, CT right about when I expected to. I found Greg and Kellee waiting for me. What a surprise!!! This store sells handmade furniture made in the USA. Greg informed me that the store is more of a showcase for the furniture and people will usually do a custom order which they will then pick up. Of course, that lead me to ask “How do the gourds fit in?” It turns out the gourds are used to accent the furniture and it allows for customers to get unique handcrafted products that are not seen everywhere.

After some breakfast, at the awesome restaurant above America the Beautiful, we are back on the road. Next stop Vermont. This is when I sprung the news on Dan that we would be spending the night in a tent on someone’s porch in Burlington. Dan was not pleased and started asking why I would do such a thing. I explained to Dan that in order to save costs, I had to be a little creative with my budget. I decided that all of my lodging would be done through AirBnB. The Vermont Gift Barn is located in South Burlington, Vermont and is a gift shop with many different product lines, from local maple syrup to clothing. Of course for the gourds all you would need to do is make a display and start selling and they would fit in seamlessly.

This is where day one ended………well not quite. Remember Dan? Well Dan is known to have a black cloud following him around. That evening after some local libations, Dan and I finally made it back to our tents and went for a slumber. We needed to get up bright and early to be on our way to the next stop. The sun rose and we stumbled out of our tents.

“Dan, are you ready to get going?”

“Sure let me get my things”, Dan says. “Have you seen my right shoe?” Dan whispers.

“No, Dan I have not seen your shoe. Where did you leave it?”

“Right outside my tent,” he says.

The next 30 minutes were spent looking around a second story porch that was roughly 10 feet wide by 30 feet long. There was no place one shoe could possibly hide in this space. We flipped the tents and walked in circles all while whispering trying not to wake up the owner of the house. We were left dumbfounded.

I told Dan, “I have no idea where your shoe could be? I saw you walk back to the porch with shoes?!?!?” He is just as confused until finally I say, “Look, we have to get going. We will stop and get you new shoes.”

We finally got off of the porch, out of the house, and started driving. After driving around for some time, I spot a Rite Aide.

“Dan,” I say, “stay here I will be right back.”

He quips, “Dude, where am I going to go, I have no shoes!”

I started laughing as does he. In Rite Aid, I started looking and finally I come to the best shoes for Dan, water shoes. Only fitting, I would get him a pair of shoes only suitable for water. More on that later.

On the road again, finally! New Hampshire was our next stop. What an enjoyable ride through the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire. Breathtaking views of the White Mountains and some ski areas without any snow on them. Nestled between these mountains in North Woodstock, New Hampshire is The Christmas Loft. The Christmas loft reminded me of an old German type of Christmas shop with ornaments galore and fancy nutcrackers everywhere. (Glad my wife was not along, she is obsessed with nutcrackers).

We were met outside by the owner and his son. After some small talk, we decided it was time to open the truck and get out the gourds. That is when Dan and his black cloud struck again. While in Vermont we picked up some of the most difficult to find beer in the country, Heady Topper. So sought after, you need to be within a 30 minute radius of the brewery to even find any. Well what do you know, when I opened the back of the truck to get out the gourds for The Christmas Loft…. TIMBER!!!! A case of beer started crashing to the pavement below. We lost 8 beers that day, and the owner’s son at the Christmas Loft got some free beer for his troubles in helping us clean up.

Back on the road we went again, next stop Maine. Our next stop was the Kittery Trading Post. I know the store is famous but I had no idea what to expect. Kittery Trading Post is located in no other than Kittery, Maine and they are one of our biggest customers. After driving most of the day Saturday to get there, when we are about 30 minutes out I decided to call and let them know we were getting close. They don’t accept Saturday deliveries, but they made an exception for us. Pulling in I saw that this place is massive, I didn’t really know where to drive, but eventually I found the dock. We quickly unloaded to not waste any more time. (More on this unload a little bit later.) But I had go inside to see what this store has to offer. This place had two floors of anything from sporting goods, to hunting and fishing gear, apparel and beyond. Where would our gourds fit in a store like this? I searched out the nearest associate and they pointed me in the direction of the gift department. Now I get it! Our gourds would find a home on one of these displays in the gift department.

One more stop to make, but I needed to find my way out of this store. I found an exit, but the van was nowhere to be seen. Apparently, I had gotten myself turned around. After circling the store, I finally found the truck and we were on the road for our last stop, Kennebunkport, Maine here we come. Where Lee would be waiting for us and promised to take us out to dinner for delivering him his order of gourds. Lee owns The Whimsy Shop with his wife, Mary. Mary was out of town on this day, but Lee had us drop off the gourds at his house, and then drove down to his shop. If you have never been to Kennebunkport, you need to visit. It was one of the coolest little coastal towns I have ever seen. We walked to Lee’s shop and went inside; to me it was a throwback to an era before I was born (1979). Elegant lace window dressings and everything was handmade from all over the world. Purses made from cork, floor mats made from old lobster traps, handmade clothing, and of course gourds made in Pennsylvania.

After about an hour in the store, we decided it was time to eat. Lee took us to a restaurant down the street. Dan and I were trying not to be greedy for our free meal, but Lee would have none of it. Anything we wanted Lee said. We were in Maine keep in mind, so lobster bisque it was. I kept it simple with my meal, but we got to learn a lot about the area and what drives people to Kennebunkport. Now a tourist destination, Kennebunkport used to be more of a fishing hub. There are giant sea captain mansions along the streets and three beaches you can visit. Lee insisted that we need to visit the ocean, so we left the restaurant and set out to the ocean in the dark.

Remember Dan and his black cloud. Well let’s face it, never go on a trip with Dan. As we started driving to the ocean, I asked Lee about this weird fog Dan and I saw on our trip up the coast of Maine. Lee explained that it had been a strange day with the fog coming off the ocean a few miles and subsiding back off the coast. What do you know we got to the ocean, there was a dense fog, and we could barely see 10 feet in front of us? We decide that we would try checking this out again in the morning.

After dinner and our unsuccessful beach excursion, we needed to go to our AirBnB stop for the night. This time, I actually got Dan and myself rooms. He was much happier and so was I. The couple’s house we were staying at had an upstairs area for guests and was very nice. It sure beat sleeping in the tent. After walking inside, the folks who owned the house asked if we would like a drink, of course we said yes and proceeded to tell them about our journey. They were truly amazed to learn about Meadowbrooke Gourds and the trip that we had taken. But what got the most laughter was the story we told about Dan, the black cloud, and the missing shoe. We set it up perfectly for them, telling the story from both of our points of view, playing off each other’s statements, until we were all crying from laughing so hard.

That morning we woke up to head back to the beach. Of course it was still foggy….DAN!!! But Dan did get to use those water shoes. He said the water was freezing, and I believe him. The last leg was upon us. Time to head back to Pennsylvania.

“Hey Dan,” I say “What is the weather forecast for the drive home”.

Dan says, “Guess what? Rain!” And then he laughed.

He wasn’t joking. It rained from the time we left Maine, all the way to Pennsylvania. And when we got to PA, we were greeted with thunderstorms and torrential down pours. Thanks again Dan!!!!!!!!

I almost forgot. Remember when I was unloading gourds at Kittery Trading Post “very quickly”. Well on Monday my phone rang. It’s Lee, “Hey Darren, I seem to be missing a box of gourds”

On no!! We accidentally dropped one of his boxes off at Kittery?!?! Luckily we found the box and Lee, as great as he
is, drove the 20 minutes to get his box.