Kollision-Kon is an anime convention held in the fall in the Chicago area. This year it was held over the weekend of November 15-17, 2013, at the Crowne Plaza O'Hare in Rosemont, Illinois.
Because dealer setup takes place on Thursday evening, we headed up on Thursday morning. We were making good time on the way up, and even stayed at the rest stop to eat lunch rather than having our meal on the road. But once we got into Chicago, we hit two backups that delayed us, to the point things were getting tight by the time we got to the hotel.
After we got checked in, we wanted to get our personal belongings into our sleeping room before we started hauling merchandise into the dealers' room. Because this place is a fancy one, the bellmen kept a very close control over the bell carts, so I had the fun of digging our handcart out from behind a fair amount of merchandise. But I did it and we got our stuff into the room in good time. In fact, we ended up siting in the lobby and waiting for time to load in.
Getting loaded in was a real pain in the keister because we had to haul every load through a big chunk of the hotel, down corridors with significant turns in them. Fortunately we had several people helping, and they were able to snag one of the hotel's flatbed carts, so we were able to speed up the process significantly.
Once we had everything into the dealers' room, it was time to set things up. That's no small task, since it involved setting up three of our own tables and some complicated store fixtures, including the hutch displays for the t-shirts. But we got it done and even had some time to carry out the empty boxes before the dealers' room closed for the evening and we headed up to our sleeping room to catch some shut-eye.
Since we were pretty well set up, we didn't have to be down there the moment the dealers' room opened on Friday morning. However, we wanted to get some breakfast and get moving at a reasonable time so we could take a look around before we opened for business. Since this hotel didn't provide a complimentary breakfast, we brought our own bagels and cream cheese to ensure we had a healthy start for the day.
Sales were a little slow, but still better than at Youmacon, which was supposed to be an order of magnitude bigger. Of course it helped that we were able to sell ramune and pocky at this one, because a lot of our sales were pretty clearly impulse buys, things to be eaten right now. A number of people opened their ramune and pocky and started eating within minutes of purchasing it, as if to remove all doubt.
On the other hand, we did have one problem. We were right across from a dealer selling music DVD's, and he had a TV set up to demonstrate them. He was playing his J-pop and K-pop so loud that I was having to bellow just to carry on a conversation with a customer standing right in front of me. Not to mention that "Gangnam Style" gets old after a few repeats.
By the time the doors closed for the evening and we headed up to our sleeping room to have supper, we felt pretty confident we were on the road to a profitable convention. I did some writing, mostly notes for a couple of stories, and we turned in for the night.
On Saturday we had breakfast and headed down to the dealers' room to open the shop for business. Sales continued to be steady, if a little slow, and we sold out of strawberry ramune. Of course we still had half a case at home -- because our new wholesaler carries so many flavors, I'd split each case and taken only half the bottles of each flavor -- but product in Indianapolis doesn't do us much good when the show's in Chicago. By the time we closed for the evening, we felt confident we were indeed in the black.
There was some amusement and concern that we were sharing the hotel with two groups of mundanes, a wedding party and a church group. However, they seemed to be taking things well, and weren't too upset by all the otaku, especially the cosplayers. Some of them even asked questions about the costumes and the characters they represented.
We headed up to the room and had supper. Then I got some more writing done, since we'd never had enough lull time during business hours to write. We turned in early, since we were concerned about the weather forecast and didn't want to be worn down to nothing by the time we loaded out and drove home.
As it turned out, it was a good call. When I carried our personal possessions out to the van, the air had an icky heavy quality to it that often presages a bad storm. When we got to the dealers' room, a number of people were talking about the weather forecast.
Sales continued to be steady, and focused on ramune and pocky to the extent that we started packing the more marginal product lines right after lunch. As the storms went through, hotel and con security were watching the radar very closely in case they needed to send all of us below for safety. It didn't come to that, but we did hear some worrying news of tornado touchdowns in the Chicago area.
By the last hour we were supposed to be open, customer traffic had become so close to nonexistant that we packed even the ramune and pocky, which had been our best sellers. We weren't the only one either -- a lot of the dealers started packing and were ready to load out before the official closing time, simply because they weren't getting the traffic.
Loadout logistics were just as problematical as loadin, and complicated by darkness and the horrible wind that wanted to blow light stuff away. I had a lot of trouble getting stuff to go in properly, and with all the rain, I couldn't unload and repack things to get them in tighter. It got so bad I was starting to wonder if we'd need to abandon some boxes because we couldn't get stuff to fit in properly. We ended up with the middle packed higher than I would've liked, and some stuff that was less stable than I would've preferred, but we had everything back in, even the empty ramune and pocky boxes, and could hit the road home.
Driving was not a pleasant experience. I was tired, and the wind made driving difficult. When we were on I-65, I saw at least one overturned semi in the median, not to mention several smaller vehicles that had been blown off the road. By the time we got home, I was just glad to see it was still in habitable condition and our cat was safe. She greeted us with indignant meows and was unhappy to get dry kibble for her meal, but she seemed in good spirits.
Copyright 2013 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated December 6, 2013.