It has been one week since we were running a small booth at the 2nd annual Worn & Wound show that was held inside the Chelsea Market in downtown New York City. The market is a multi use building that is now used as a food hall, a shopping mall, office suites, television studios, Google, and YouTube offices. The complex dates back to the 1890s and now fills an entire city block inside 9th and 10th avenue at 15th and 16th street. This provided a great location for us to interact with many of the 15,000 visitors that came through our doors on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Over a year ago the guys at Worn & Wound had reached out to us to see if we would be interested in participating in this event. It was an idea they had to bring small watch companies together for a show that would allow the public to interact and see what we were doing first hand. I thought this sounded great and I knew it would only grow, so I wanted us to be involved from the beginning. That first show was held in an empty retail space in the SoHo district. I would say all of the 3000 visitors to the first show were watch guys who went out of their way to get to that show. This year was different at the Chelsea Market, we had a mix of people who knew about the show and people who just walked through because they were at the market to eat and shop. This was great because I was able to talk with people who had never heard of us and we even gained a new customer who came to the market to eat and went home with a new Raven Defender on his wrist.
We began planning a few months back as to what watches we would be bringing to show, how to display them, when will we arrive, where will we stay, and what will we do in our down time. Last year I brought 30 watches in 6 travel rolls and just set them on the table for people to interact with. It was a casual approach but after that show I thought my table was a bit underdressed compared to the other exhibitors. Since we are an internet business with direct shipping from the creator to the customer, we have never needed any table or retail style displays. We needed something more than the plastic watch stands that are not strong enough for a bronze Megalodon. I sat down with a custom furniture designer and showed him my sketches. He liked the designs and was able to produce them for me in time for the show. The next thing that fell in line was the arrival of the Raven Trekkers. We were not expecting to have them this early and I was worried my table was going to be a bit boring with only a few models to show. So we had the Trekkers and the new stands and we were getting excited to be in New York.
We arrived on Thursday, the day before the show would open. My crew members Jeff and Jerry travelled with me to Newark then to our hotel in Chelsea. We had a reservation for 6:00pm at Speedy Romeo, a gourmet pizza joint owned by my childhood friend Justin Bazdarich. We met up with Justin and some other friends at the restaurant and we had an amazing meal. This was the kick off that set the mood for how the next five days would go.
Friday Morning we had coffee near the hotel before taking a car to the Chelsea Market to set up the booth. When we entered the showroom area I saw familiar faces from last year. Zach, Blake, and James from Worn & Wound greeted us and made sure we had everything we needed. I started chatting with the other watch designers that I had met last year and it was a good thing I brought a crew this year because I was still chatting as the doors opened to the public. Jeff and Jerry had managed to set up the booth quite nicely while I was distracted with the other exhibitors and their watches. The first day was amazing, we had over 3000 people come through the area and we probably talked to half of them. Our goal for the show was to meet and talk to as many people as possible and any watch sale would just be viewed as a bonus. The first day ended for us at 8:00pm, we loaded the watches back in the case, caught a car to the hotel and took a short break before heading back out to grab dinner. Jerry found us a Korean BBQ joint that we could walk to from the hotel. It was amazing and we ran into Chase and the guys from Oak & Oscar at the restaurant. After dinner we took a car to Times Square because one of our crew members had never been to New York City. It was 11:30pm when we were in the square and it was as bright as noon with crowds of people. We walked back to the hotel and on the way we found a roof top bar, so we went up to see the views. We ended up getting great photographs of the Empire State Building in the clouds.
Saturday morning we were already feeling the effects of this rapid paced and late night lifestyle. The Chelsea Market is full of great food vendors, so we took turns leaving the booth to go and get coffee and food. Saturday we had around 7000 visitors come through the doors and that left little time for rest, lunch, or breaks. This day was a great opportunity to talk with people who have known us for years and also people who are just finding out about us. The show ended at 7:00pm, but this would be the night that RedBar would host an event for us. So we loaded up the watches again, headed to the hotel, freshened up and headed back out to get to the event which was held at the Churchill Tavern. The RedBar party was a great opportunity to talk with some of the other exhibitors. I spent much of the night getting to know Stuart from Farer Watches who came over from the UK and was having a great time. He was not the only one that had travelled far for this event. Men from all over Europe were showing at this years Wind^Up. Companies from Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands and probably more that I didn’t get to meet. The RedBar event lasted for hours, but my crew didn’t get enough to eat and we had worked up quite an appetite during these long business hours. So we headed out on the streets of New York looking for a late night snack which we found at “2 Bros Pizza”. This was a good ending to a long days work.
Sunday was the final day of the Wind^Up show. Everyone was dragging a bit in the morning, not just because of the RedBar party, but because of the pace we had been keeping since arriving in New York. So again we took turns getting coffee and food as we manned the booth. Sunday we saw somewhere around 4000 visitors come through and my voice was completely gone. With a rough and cracking voice we managed to complete the task of talking to as many people as possible. I was quite satisfied with how the event went and was looking forward to a quiet dinner that night. As the show ended we thanked the guys at Worn & Wound and said goodbye to our friends in the watch business. We headed back to the room to make plans for our last night in New York. The first Korean BBQ that we had on Friday night must have had a lasting effect with us because we decided to go again, but this time to Korea Town which is near the Empire State Building. The restaurant was at the top of a Korean bank with city views in every direction. The food, atmosphere, and views were all amazing. After dinner we walked over to the Empire State Building and paid the entrance fee to go all the way up to the 102nd floor observation deck. It was late enough at night that it was not crowded and we did not wait in any lines.
Monday was a day for us to see a bit of New York. We had already been doing a good job of squeezing in the site seeing each night but there was still two things on my list. I wanted to ride the subway, and I wanted to take the crew down to the 9/11 memorial. So we met up with one of my friends who became our tour guide and we headed to Lower Manhattan via subway. We spent some time at the 9/11 reflecting pools, these are the foundations of the two towers that have been changed into the largest manmade waterfalls in the US. The pools are now surrounded by a park with trees and benches. There is also a museum there but the line to get inside is insane. Our day consisted of walking around, lunch at Steve’s Pizza, taking the subway to Central Park, and then heading to get our bags and off to the airport for a 7:00pm flight back to Kansas City.
After the whirlwind of running the booth I have had some time to process the trip and think about my own watch designs and how people received them at the show. I guess I am just use to seeing my own stuff so it helped to observe how the public reacted. The bronze Megalodon drew people in, everyone was picking it up and trying it on. From larger men to petite girls, people were all about the Megalodon and it boosted my appreciation for a watch I have been wearing and modifying for the last seven years. The Trekker was also a hit with our visitors. Some people told me they came to the show just to see these new watches. There were a few times that I left our booth to check out the other watch companies. One thing I learned is that everyone in that room is doing great stuff. Stowa is great at what they do, some of his new Flieger designs are amazing and his classic Fliegers are so nice. Brew is doing his own thing and doing it well, his new HP-1 is a great look and feels solid in the hands. As I walked around and saw many nice watches I realized that I should never think of these companies as competition. They are all different designs that I will never try to imitate or replicate, they are watches I am drawn to and would like to own but we have our own thing going on. We are doing well with our watch designs and with our loyal customers and we need to keep growing and refining that. This trip has given me a boost of encouragement to take the company we have built and make it better. I am excited to see where we will be and what new watch designs we will have at next years Wind^Up show.