When summer hits Truckee, it’s all about Thursday nights. Celebrating its 10th year, Truckee Thursdays, put on by the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association, has grown into the town’s signature summer event, a festive gathering of locals and tourists alike.
For visitors to the area, Truckee Thursdays provides an opportunity to check out artisan goods from local vendors all in one lively outdoor bazaar. People browse the aisles to find that perfect something representing a slice of Tahoe to bring home with them. For locals, it’s a weekly community block party, replete with food truck options, quality beverages, and free music performances, all set against a historic downtown backdrop, so close to the train tracks it will rattle the portapotty if you’re inside at the right — or wrong — time.
And since most Moonshine Ink readers probably know what Truckee Thursdays is all about, this article isn’t meant to tell you what to expect, or provide a shopping guide. We’re taking a look at Truckee Thursdays from the other side of the booth. We sought out vendors, both veterans and first-timers, to find out firsthand what it’s like to be a part of this festival.
The Grater Plate: A Product Literally Made for Truckee Thursdays
Kara-Lea Hansen beams at her customers from across her foldout display table. As she goes through the demonstration she’s created for her product, her infectious energy is unending while she repeats the words she’s heard herself say countless times before. Hansen’s device is The Grater Plate, a small stoneware clay plate with a grooved pattern in the middle that can be used as a grater for food items like garlic, ginger, nutmeg, citrus, and even chocolate. This is Hansen’s first year as a Truckee Thursdays vendor, but from the inception of her company this past winter she’s had her eyes set squarely on the main street market.
“I came here last year, and I just knew it was an artisan supermarket,” Hansen said.
She enjoys the creative process of seeing ideas go from start to finish, and wanted to create something that she would be able to sell successfully at Truckee Thursdays. The inspiration for The Grater Plate originally came from the traditional Japanese plates called oroshigane, which are used to grate wasabi. She fires the plates in a kiln, and then colors them with food-grade glaze.
Hansen, a Glenshire resident, admitted that her sales tactics needed some brushing up at the beginning of the summer, but after a few weeks she has certainly found her groove. She says the crowds have gotten bigger, and interest in her booth has increased week over week. Hansen said that she believes “a crowd draws a crowd,” so she aims to make her booth like her “Truckee living room.” She invites friends to hang out with her while she works, which makes the afternoon more fun, but also has a strategic sales advantage. Her friends’ genuine excitement for the Grater Plate draws customers in and encourages them to buy one.
Hansen tries to walk the line between being too pushy and too hands-off with her selling style. She said that vendors need to set the tone if they want people to come look at their products, and be engaging if they expect anyone to buy anything, let alone come look at their offerings. Though Hansen is still new to Truckee Thursdays, her approach seems to be working for her.
“Every week is getting better and better,” Hansen said. “And I don’t know if it’s me getting better and better, but the clientele is getting better and better, and it just seems like everything is tripling every week.”
Find The Grater Plate at facebook.com/thegraterplate
Paper Sails: Testing the Truckee Thursdays Waters with Bold Bathing Suits
It’s hard to walk by Hailey Sebahar’s stylish booth full of color and unique patterns emblazoned on her Paper Sails swimwear without stopping to glance. Punctuaed by chic touches like an area rug, a trunk, and even a changing room adorned with flowing fabric and textured ribbons, her set-up is sure to grab attention.
It’s clear that fashion rules Sebahar’s life — on the day we spoke, her pink-streaked hair matched her lipstick, which also matched her thick-framed sunglasses. Paper Sails provided the opportunity to blend her graphic design skills with her passion for fashion. When she first moved to Genoa, Nev., two years ago from Los Angeles, she was inspired by Lake Tahoe to make her own swimsuits.
“I started making bathing suits for myself, and all my girlfriends loved them, so I started making suits for them,” Sebahar shared. “Then I thought, ‘Wait, maybe I should go wide with this.’”
Her wild patterns are what really make Paper Sails swimsuits stand out in the crowd. A beautiful sunset silhouette that adorns a sporty top is actually the background of a picture from her wedding in Palm Springs. To create a lace pattern, she scanned a piece of vintage lace she had, so she could work with the intricate details digitally.
Sebahar found out about Truckee Thursdays when a girl at a hot spring saw her bathing suit and encouraged her to become a vendor. She said she has been to other fairs where the size of the venue is too overwhelming for shoppers, or there is no music or food. She likes that Truckee Thursdays is “mellow.”
“It was just word of mouth, I heard from people that they loved it,” Sebahar said. “I like how many locals are out; it’s a very friendly group.”
Setting up her stand is the hardest part of the day, Sebahar explained. She usually comes by herself, so she needs to drop off her stuff, find a parking spot, then come back in and hustle to set up her zone before customers start mingling.
Sebahar has a laid-back approach when it comes to drawing in customers. She knows her demographic, and says they have an eye for her style and are naturally drawn to her tent. She spots a group of young girls walking through the market and identifies them as potential customers. Minutes later, the girls enter the tent and start rifling through the racks, much to Sebahar’s amusement.
Sierra Essentials: From “The Candle Lady” to Veteran Vendor
This is clearly not Holly Redpath’s first round of Truckee Thursdays. The owner of Sierra Essentials, an eco-friendly lifestyle products company, commands her booth with the knowledge of someone who has years of expertise, and the passion of someone who has clearly found her calling. She approaches every customer who enters her tent with a giant smile. Flitting from patron to patron, she explains the details of products, helps a young girl pick out a lip balm, and shares little-known essential oil facts. Redpath never stops moving; it’s as if the dragonfly tattoo on her back is in flight as she darts from one customer to the next.
Sierra Essentials began with Redpath’s foray into candle making, a project she started to create a non-petroleum-based candle to use while working with massage clients. She was known at first as “the candle lady,” but she’s long outgrown that nickname, having expanded to a full line of body and home products, from soap and essential oils to sunscreen, bug spray, and even meat rubs.
Redpath, also a Glenshire resident, has had a booth at Truckee Thursdays for eight years, and like her company, the festival has grown exponentially since its start. She’s been in the same spot the entire time, right across the street from the music stage. And for Redpath, it’s not just a booth. She transforms her space into what looks like a full retail store — wood shelves with burlap accents create a neat, but rustic design scheme. While she doesn’t have her own store, her products are sold everywhere, from big name stores like Whole Foods in Reno to locally-owned outfits in Truckee, like Mountain Hardware. As each customer checks out, Redpath asks where they live, so she can direct them to the retail store in their area that carries her products, or to her website, if they live in a market she hasn’t reached yet.
“I got involved with Truckee Thursdays to have a venue to drive business to my retailers and get exposure for my brand,” Redpath said. “It benefits me to do retail, but I don’t want to sabotage or cannibalize my retailers, so I promote them. There are all these local businesses that can benefit from me doing Truckee Thursdays, but then I also benefit. It’s a full circle.”
Every person who purchases something goes home with a complimentary bar of soap, and it’s here that you can see her genius at work. She takes a split second to size up the customer, and then confidently presents her scent recommendation. And when she peers over the top of her glasses and looks into your eyes, it’s a feeling so genuine you wouldn’t think to second-guess her.