Grand Rapids Comic Con 2016

Grand Rapids Comic Con is a growing new convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This year it was held over the weekend of October 21-23, 2016 at the DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.

We headed up to Grand Rapids on Wednesday so we'd be in place to load in at 1PM on Thursday. We were staying in a new place further south than the one we used last year. We were happily surprised that they had an indoor pool and hot tub, so we decided to take a soak after supper and work out the aches and pains of the drive up.

Then I worked on some website updates. I had con reports to put up on my personal website, and we had just added another con that needed to be added to the events list on the business website.

On Thursday we had some downtime before we needed to be downtown to load in. So we sat in the lobby and I did some work on the stories I want to get ready for release on Amazon's Kindle.

Then we headed downtown and parked in the DeVos Place parking garage, since we knew from experience the previous year that our van would fit and we would want a parking spot as close as possible to the freight elevator, preferably with a pillar to the right of us to ensure our access to the side door. When we got there, we found several other dealers already parked, and ended up several pillars down.

We were talking with one of the other dealers when the freight elevator arrived with several flatbed carts for dealer use. This year they were being a lot less persnickety about not starting until exactly 1PM, so I hurried over to start unloading our van and get our cart out.

My husband was able to grab one of the flatbed carts, and with both carts going, we were able to get everything out of the van and to our booth in good time. Since I didn't want to pay any more parking at the half-hour rate than I had to, I then moved the van to the lot on Monroe Street, which is five bucks a day.

Then I walked back to DeVos Place to begin the process of building structures so we could get all our merchandise up. We had a little help, but that helper had other obligations and couldn't stay for long. Even so, by the time setup ended for the evening, we had most of our structures set up and merchandise in place.

We thought that we'd just jump back on US 131 and shoot back down to our hotel. But as we approached the ramp, we discovered that traffic was blocked up solid. So I found a way to jump back off the access road and we went to a gas station to get directions. However, we ended up modifying them a little and getting back on US 131 to go the rest of the way back.

By then it was too late to get in the hot tub. So we just did a little winding down and hit the hay.

Friday morning we had the hotel's complimentary breakfast and headed back downtown to finish setting up. This time I dropped my husband off at the DeVos place and went up to the Monroe Street lot to get the van parked.

We were able to get set up in good time and I took a look around. I talked with the people from JAFAX, the Grand Rapids anime convention, trying to get a feel for whether it was a good match for us.

Then the doors opened and we settled in to do business. People began to flow in, but while we were getting people looking at our merchandise, even admiring it, very few were actually buying it. However, a lot of the lookie-loos did have three-day badges, so there was a strong likelihood that they were just scoping out the dealers' room and would come back later to spend money.

Still, I was more than a little concerned by the time we closed for the evening. If sales didn't pick up soon, we were going to be hurting, bad. It didn't help when we had one lady dump a whole bunch of t-shirts she was going to buy and walk off in a huff, simply because we'd asked her politely to let us help her dig one of the largest sizes out of a stack.

By the time we closed and drove back to the hotel, I was tired and sore. We went to the hot tub and soaked for a while before having supper. I did manage to squeeze in a little writing before we turned in for the night.

On Saturday we got up and had breakfast. Then we headed downtown to the DeVos Place. As we were driving up US 131, I noticed how the engine of the van sounded unusually loud and figured that the exhaust system probably had a leak. Since we were going to need an oil change when we got back home, I made a mental note to have the shop check the exhaust system.

By the time I got the van parked and got over to the vendor hall, there wasn't a lot of time left to look around before the doors opened and people started flowing in. At first sales were slow, but they picked up by afternoon. I ended up eating lunch really late because I was so busy dealing with customers.

In the evening when we headed back to the hotel, traffic was a complete snarl around DeVos Place. However, by the time we got to Pearl Street, we were able to get turned and find our way back to where we needed to be to get to the hotel.

At the hotel we took another welcome soak in the hot tub. Then I discovered we were approved for another new Square Capital loan. Because we'd done so well at Tampa Bay Comic Con, the subsequent events were enough to get the old one paid down to the point where they were willing to extend us credit again. So I took a look at our wholesalers' websites, trying to decide what I wanted to add for Youmacon, given that we'd be taking a lot fewer t-shirts and a lot more other things. Then I did a little more work on my novel before turning in for the night.

On Sunday we got up and had breakfast. Then we headed back downtown to the DeVos Place for our final day of Grand Rapids Comic Con. Although they'd changed the date, it was still up against that marathon which had snarled traffic so badly the previous year. However, this year we knew we wanted to park in the DeVos Place parking garage and be in position for loadout, so it wasn't that much of a difficulty for us.

We were early enough that we actually had to wait before they'd let us in to the exhibit hall. As soon as they opened the doors, I hurried to the vendor check-in desk and made arrangements for next year's booths, so that we'd be able to keep the same spot we'd had the past two years.

Sales were slow at first, but around midday they finally picked up. However, they remained stubbornly small, with none of the large sales that we'd seen on Saturday. We also weren't selling that many t-shirts, hardly surprising when we were one of twenty t-shirt dealers. Worse, that was also about the time that we really needed to start packing if we were going to have any hope of being out by a reasonable hour.

One thing that did help loadout was our helpers, who were real go-getters and brought the carts down to me one after another. All I had to do was load stuff into the van. However, the boxes that we'd emptied didn't want to nest very well, so we ended up with no measurable reduction in the cargo volume. That made it tricky to get everything back in and still leave room for our personal belongings.

Finally we got everything loaded and headed back to the hotel. I got a few notes scribbled on a story and then we went to bed.

On Monday we had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. Then we packed our belongings and carried them out to the van so we could hit the road. We were about to take off when I realized my husband wasn't wearing his jacket. I asked him about it and he had to ask the front desk to let him back into the room long enough to retrieve it.

We stopped at a branch of our bank in Kalamazoo and made the deposit. It wasn't as big as I would've liked to see, but it was decent. Then we continued back to Indianapolis. I was pretty tired, but there was nothing much we could do except keep going. I wanted my husband to switch off, but then we discovered we couldn't get the seat back far enough because the merchandise was too far forward and blocking it. I was very glad when we were able to pull into the driveway and I carried in our stuff. I was pretty thoroughly worn out by that point.

Copyright 2018 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated January 11, 2018.