Monday, October 12, 2009

It's All Fun And Gobs Until...

Well, what d'ya know. Here we are, and it's Columbus Day. August and September sailed by in a whoosh and October is threatening to do the same. It's probably way too late for a What I Baked On My Summer Vacation-style post, but I have some catching up to do, pronto, otherwise it will be December before I post again, and I don't want to risk being called out as a blog squatter.

I've chronicled the happenings of my career here, as well as my kitchen, ever since I kick-started this blog back in the Spring. I just didn't think that two seasons later, they'd be one in the same. But, just as a recipe can often have a mind of its own - more fodder for my "Accidental Kitchen"-entitled memoirs, btw - so can an economy. And to recap, quickly, that's why I turned to blogging, and then baking, in the first place. Underemployment created an opportunity; namely the Gobba Gobba Hey venture. I seized it, thinking it in turn would kick-start my writing career again. But then the gob biz seized me. In a matter of weeks I went from selling gobs near Valencia Street here in San Francisco, to working out of a commercial kitchen and securing liability insurance.

For the most part it's been all fun and gobs, until of course I caught my first glimpse of the gobs in a retail spot where, in a smashed state, they looked as if someone had played whack-a-mole with them. I suddenly saw my product as potential customers were seeing them. The picture wasn't very pretty. Maintaining control of the gobs once they've left my sight was another item to add to the action list. As was updating the logo. I'm still working on both of those bullet points as I type. Again, a lesson in Marketing 101 came my way in what I've been referring to as "Forest, Meet Thy Trees." Seems my Ramones-inspired turn-of-a-phrase in my product's name wasn't the only thing people weren't getting. The stark black and white label, meant to mimic the "Gabba Gabba Hey" placard carried on stage by Joey Ramone, was equally confounding to potential customers. This came to my attention when I saw that a merchant had taken a highlighter to my minimalist design and wreathed it with squiggly pink lines. When I asked why they had decided to change my logo's look they replied matter-of-fact-ly "Because it needed color."

It was appalling to see at first, but as I looked at the smashed gobs with their Hannah Montana embellishment, I saw the newest challenge in peddling my wares.

If the first hurdle was creating familiarity with the product - try standing on a street corner, asking people if they want to buy a "gob" and then wait for their reaction - then the next barrier was going to be enticing the uninitiated with packaging that sold the Gobba Gobba Hey confection when I wasn't there to provide a sales pitch.

I still haven't cleared that, but I have some time, fortunately as festivals, weddings and deliveries are keeping me plenty busy. Since my last post I've had the privilege of participating in the Eat Real Festival in Oakland and collaborating with artists in a Street Food X Street Art event at Fabric8 Gallery in San Francisco. The Commonwealth Club has asked me to take part in a panel discussion about the street food vending scene in SF; Charles Phan of Slanted Door and Heaven's Dog renown will be speaking, as will Anthony Mynt of Mission Street Food and Brian Kimball, aka The Magic Curry Cart. The discerning tastebuddies at have asked to carry the gobs in their web store and the talented bloggers over at FoodBuzz have requested gobs at an event in early November but before all of that happens, Gobba Gobba Hey will be one of the sweets on the dessert table at a wedding!

Definitely not the path I intended when I first began baking it to the streets (as I've fondly called those early gobbing days.) But it's been an interesting one, and one I should have done a better job of chronicling here.

Speaking of chronicling, the most wickedly ironic moment since this all began came in late July when into the Gobba Gobba Hey mailbox came a missive from none other than Chronicle Books. As I'd pitched my agent on the possibility of a gob cook book in the Spring, I excitedly clicked the envelope open. In the milliseconds that it took for the file to download my mind raced. "Could this all have worked? Did I really draw attention back to my byline by baking the gobs and taking them out on the streets? Was Chronicle actually writing to express interest in my work? The story of food-writer/author-turned-baker-because-of-the-bad-economy had to be a good one, right???"

Turns out they were interested in my work. They'd picked up some gobs from the 4505 Meats stall at the Ferry Building and loved them.

And they wanted to know how they could place a delivery order, for their office, for several dozen.

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