Traveling merchants find their spot at Firefly

DOVER –– Every year start-up companies travel from festival to festival to sell their unique products and for many, Firefly Music Festival is a stop on their schedule.

“We got to a tipping point three years ago where we needed to either give up our jobs in San Francisco or give up our hobby,” said Mackenzie Vossler, co-owner of The Local Branch.

Husband and wife duo Blaine and Mackenzie Vossler founded the Local Branch in California three years ago and have been on the road since selling a wide array of goods from dresses to antiques. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

Husband and wife duo Blaine and Mackenzie Vossler founded the Local Branch in California three years ago and have been on the road since selling a wide array of goods from dresses to antiques. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

“We decided to stick with our hobby and since we didn’t want to settle down yet, we decided to go on the road and have been doing it for three years.”

She and husband Blaine specialize in hand-crafted, American-made and fair-trade wares ranging from cotton dresses to leather lighter cases.

“We really wanted to bring it together for a retail gig and were kind of inspired by food trucks,” Ms. Vossler said. “Because there really aren’t many mobile retail stores.”

For now, the business is totally nomadic, taking the pair wherever the festival and craft shows are, although they recently purchased space for a workshop in the Hudson Valley.

“I make all the leather goods myself and as we begin to build our business, we need a place to store our merchandise and to work on all the hand-crafted things we sell,” Mr. Vossler said.

Another business on site that sells hand-crafted leather goods is In Blue Handmade.

Like the Vosslers, Blue owner Mary Lynn Schroeder decided she needed to get out of the corporate world while working in Chicago.

“I just decided I needed to leave it behind so I moved to a farm in southern Illinois and wanted to become more self-sufficient,” she said.

Mary Lynn Schroeder (left) left the corporate world behind in 2008 to pursue a career in leather ware with her own company In Blue Handmade. Marie Clare (right) is one of several employees Ms. Schroeder takes on the road.

Mary Lynn Schroeder (left) left the corporate world behind in 2008 to pursue a career in leather ware with her own company In Blue Handmade. Marie Clare (right) is one of several employees Ms. Schroeder takes on the road.

“One of the first things I learned was how to sew and once I started, I knew it was something I wanted to continue doing.”

She moved her operation down to Asheville, N.C., and has been on the road since. 2016 was her second time at Firefly selling everything from notebooks to flasks to bags.

New York City-based Michael Gruner, founder of Jaunt, focuses exclusively on a specific type of bag –– the fanny pack at his shop, Jaunt.

“It all started three years ago when I realized fanny packs are just too big,” Ms. Gruner said.

“I thought back to when I was a kid and I used to go to Bethany Beach here in Delaware and I’d leave for the day and didn’t really have much to carry with me.”

But as an adult, there are things that always need to be on hand like cash, credit cards and cell phones. Mr. Gruner wanted to develop a bag that allowed adults to carry everything they need in a bag that left them as unencumbered as possible.

“It’s a pack that’s small, light, carries everything you need and doesn’t weigh you down,” he said. “All the designs are totally original and the fabric is really sturdy too.”

He’s now been on the road for two and a half years and Firefly is the business’ 25th festival stop.

Plenty of other vendors are on site selling anything from vinyl records to gourmet beef jerky that even comes with suggested wine pairings.

The merchants are on the festival grounds across from the Firefly Main Stage.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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