Advertise more. Offer more arts and crafts. Provide more security. Help us find parking.
Those were some of the suggestions offered by a sampling of vendors among the 300 who set up shop in The Village for last weekend’s Oktoberfest.
About a dozen booth operators interviewed Saturday night said they were generally happy with the event—with all saying they plan to return next year.
Nancy Turk of Rancho Penasquitos, operating Country Neighbor Crafts, said business was good—even better than last year. But she said: “There used to be a lot of crafts,” and the balance has tipped toward commercial and manufactured goods.
“I’ve got a lot of complaints from customers” about the lack of handmade goods, said Turk, 58.
Sponsored by the La Mesa Village Merchants Association, the 38th annual Oktoberfest stretching up and down La Mesa Boulevard and some side streets attracted tens of thousands in its three-day run ending Sunday. No exact count is available.
But the crowds were a boon to booth operators, including Deanne Fingerman of San Carlos, who said Oktoberfest was better than the Del Mar Fair for her Scentsy perfume and candle products.
“People here are really willing to shop,” said Fingerman, 38. “It’s the same people year after year … almost seems like family.”
But she was among several who urged more promotion of La Mesa’s Oktoberfest.
“I saw very little advertising,” Fingerman said. “I never saw it in the Union-Tribune. I didn’t hear about it on radio or television. We have a lot of events to compete with.”
Agreeing was Marie Elmquist of La Mesa, who runs the Mail & Misc shop on Baltimore Drive with her husband, Dean.
“I was looking for more announcements on the news,” she said, like that accorded the Miramara Air Show.
The Elmquists said their booth was “a bit slower than last year” as of late Saturday night. “But you can’t complain in this economy. People are making less money and resetting their priorities.”
The good will fostered by their booth could boost their regular business, however, Dean Elmquist said.
Deborah Blackwell, 43, of La Mesa—selling T-shirts by a Normal Heights graphic artist—said her Urban Octopus had better sales this year. But she too would like to see more advertising about Oktoberfest—“anything and everything—media, newspapers, word-of-mouth, television.”
Hava Ilan, in her 60s, sold Tupperware at Oktoberfest for the eighth year and had two explanations for why her booth has done worse this year than last: the economy and the fact Oktoberfest featured two Tupperware vendors.
She also didn’t like the fact that Friday was the Jewish new year holiday Rosh Hashana, which could have depressed turnout.
Amadu Majway, 47, of Los Angeles said his Chezamy booth selling Rastafarian souvenirs did “way better” last year.
And Rick Patel, 36, of Moreno Valley said his N-S-Style booth selling custom-made belts, ceramic tiles and sunglasses was “a little bit slower than last year.”
But he was one of several vendors singling out event coordinator Richard Felix for praise, saying: “Mr. Richard always does his best.”
Still, Patel said Oktoberfest organizers should “make sure you provide the right amount of security,” with guards staying at stations. While being interviewed, he stood with his “princess”—10-year-old daughter Bryanka.
Tom Perry, 68, of the high desert town of Apple Valley sold wooden children’s puzzles and praised Felix for helping him move his vehicle into The Village on Thursday, since his car opens up into a storefront.
“He takes the time to take care of people,” Perry said of Felix, while acknowledging that last year, his first at Oktoberfest, was better for sales.
Danny Kumar, 31, of Corona, who operated the Raja Fashions booth, said this was his first year since about 2007 at Oktoberfest but would like to see organizers help more with accessible parking.
“We have to roll everything in,” Kumar said. “That’s very tough. … Some of the stuff I’ve already sold out, and I can’t go get it. It’s parked four blocks down.”
At least one vendor was unhappy with visitor demographics.
Frank Arambula, 40, of National City staffed his Advanced Exteriors and Rhino Shield booth, not far from the La Mesa store on University Avenue, and said he’d gotten business at Oktoberfest.
But, he said: “It’s very hard to sell exterior coatings, especially to kids. A lot of kids here.”