Do you remember the outlet malls from yesteryear? They sprung up in out-of-the-way places so that retailers could divest themselves of extra inventory. Usually things were marked at least 40%-80% off to entice you to buy. I loved those stores and their “get-it-outta-here” vibe. I miss that. For me, today’s “outlets” don’t really feel all that different than the regular stores.
I think that’s why I love the Wilton Tent Sale so much. It’s an annual tradition around here. Every June, a series of connected enormous white tents appears in their parking lot.
It’s huge. Inside is a baker’s heaven; there are big cardboard boxes ripped open, full of items priced to move. I know I’m going to sound like Bill Hader’s Stefon character from SNL, but seriously this place has everything: cookie cutters, baking pans, tea pots, knife sets, and every utensil you can think of (and some that you probably never knew existed).
There are different sections throughout the tent that are never labelled, but you get to know them throughout the years. All the kids’ birthday stuff — including specialty cake pans, sparkler candles, icing in every color, invitations and gift bags — is in one part. Everything to do with weddings is in another. In recent years they’ve also added scrapbooking materials, American Girl crafts and Martha Stewart products. It’s crazy.
It’s also cheap. Most items are half off. I love it.
I can admit that in the past I bought stuff there I didn’t need (Make Your Own Harry Potter Candy Pops, I’m looking at you). There’s not a lot of time to think because the hard-core bargain hunters swoop in to grab stuff right in front of you. Sometimes I would get home and dump my bag out and think why exactly did I buy all this fondant?
I’ve gotten better. I walked right on by the chocolate fountains and cake storage. I breezed through the paper products and bypassed the utensils. This year was a surgical strike on new pizza pans and the vanilla section. That’s right, there’s a whole section on extracts and flavorings. It was easy to find even in that big tent. It’s the place where you see the crowd forming and elbows flying.
But seriously, 4 oz of pure vanilla extract for $4? I had to buy some, even though my homemade vanilla is almost ready to try. I’m only human, after all.