Sometimes the effort is more important than the result.
Have you ever undertaken a task and thought, Wow, I can figure out a better way to do it? That must have been what happened to the person who put aside his paring knife and invented the swiveling, two-bladed potato peeler nearly a hundred years ago—a real winner that I benefited from as a kitchen helper in college.
It is easy to be frustrated with a task and try to devise a better way, but coming up with a workable solution is hard. I had this problem with dish towels. Under-counter racks or the handle of the oven are traditional places to keep towels at the ready, but neither was satisfactory for me, so I decided to do something about it. My goal was to make dish towels readily available, where they would dry faster after use, and be unobtrusive.
To accomplish this, I sewed a half-inch plastic ring to the center of a standard terrycloth dish towel and fashioned a thin wooden bar with three cup hooks and double-sided mounting tape. The hanging bar and towels were then affixed to the inside of an under-sink cupboard door. Most kitchen sinks have two doors, which allowed six towels to be hung. In the era of automatic dishwashers, this number would be sufficient.
The wooden bars were made from standard window-framing material cut in length suitable for mounting (about one foot), sanded, and either painted white or stained, before being affixed with the tape and then adding hooks. The plastic rings were hand sewn to the towels using coat thread. I had a good time doing this while watching a football game on a Sunday afternoon.
With no intention of making a profit, I attempted to sell these towel sets, but after a few “sales” I thought better of it and decided to use the towels as a means of raising money to support a community college scholarship. To do this, I sent towel sets to more than 100 friends, as a gift, along with a suggestion that they consider donating to the scholarship fund. Any money donated went directly to the college. This raised approximately $5,000—a satisfying experience—but there was more.
I had always enjoyed going with my wife, Barbara, to outdoor markets and street fairs where vendors offered crafts for sale. Over the years, we had purchased lots of small items we wanted but did not need from people who were mostly selling their handcrafted wares. This was always an enjoyable experience for us and apparently satisfying for the vendor. I thought, Let’s try that with the towels—but where?
Each fall, the Good Hart store hosted a small outdoor market on Saturday afternoons. It was free for the vendors, who were responsible for setting up their own booths. Our first attempt was plagued by intermittent rain. When it let up, we demonstrated our towel sets to a dozen lookers but made no sales. Barbara bought a bowl from the ladies selling in the booth next to us. They were also selling expensive “theme” dolls. My wife was one of their few customers. We were disappointed but not discouraged. We would give it another try.
The next week was sunny. We set up next to a young girl selling gloves she made from old sweaters purchased from the Goodwill store. The girl said, “My mother is a home economics. teacher and she made the pattern and taught us how to sew them. She did a brisk business including selling to us, although we were told by a veteran seller that the girl wasn’t charging enough. “No wonder they are selling well,” was his comment.
We sold nothing and had even fewer lookers than we had a week before, in the rain. At the end of the day, a fellow vendor looked at our towels with interest but couldn’t convince herself to buy. I kept lowering the price until she bought two sets at about my cost.
It was fun just being there. I expect it was the entrepreneurial spirit we had in common with the other vendors. With this activity off the to-do list, we decided we would rather give the towels away as gifts.
By Savvy Senior
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