North Carolina State Fair

Village of Yesteryear Adopts Future of Commerce

Posted October 20, 2012 9:32 a.m. EDT

If you've been in the Village of Yesteryear you know that the craftspeople who have booths there dress in period clothing and give demonstrations of traditional arts and crafts. Watching the woodworking, basket weaving, or gun-smithing makes you feel like you're in another world.

Which is why it's so jarring when one of them takes out an iPad! But you'll see that this year as some of the Village of Yesteryear craftspeople have adopted mobile technology to accept credit card payments from customers.

Janet Daughtry's basket booth is one of the first displays you see when you come in the front doors of the Village of Yesteryear. She seems equally at home showing the techniques of basketry as she does using her iPad to take a customer payment from a credit card.  She's been using the iPad and Square credit card payment processor for a month, on the recommendation of her son. "He's a Realtor and he uses it with his business," she explained.

Ms. Daughtry has found that customers have no problem with it, and that having such an easy way to process credit cards has helped her business. "If you don't have a shop, you might not have a way to do credit cards. This way, we have an easy way to do cards, and customers don't have to leave and go to the ATM and come back. I love it!"

She loves it so much, in fact, that she's told other people at the Village of Yesteryear about it, including Janet Calhoun of Traditions Pottery. Ms. Calhoun is also running Square, but with a Samsung phone from Verizon. When I talked to her she'd just had the phone for a couple of days, but was enjoying using it. "It's so much easier," she said. "People look at it and say, 'Oh, I've heard about this but never used it before!'"

Ms. Calhoun was a little nervous about using the Square at first, but aside from a few technical glitches it's been going very smoothly. "I've lost the signal a couple of times, but it mostly works fine," she said. "Before I had to keep up with all those receipts," she said. "And I'd have to tell people to hang on to them, you know, because they had all their card information. With this I can tell the customers, I don't even see their card information."

The credit card receipts to which Ms. Calhoun referred are the result of running a credit card through a manual impressions machine. She called those machines "Knuckle busters," as did Dennis Willis, who is one of the soap makers at Carden Farms Soap. He told me horror stories of how much he had to pay for credit card processing in the past, and showed me his credit card processor, which was a bank-based solution.

"So much better than the knuckle busters," he told me. Like Ms. Calhoun, sometimes he can't get a signal on his cell phone, but it usually resolves itself. "And if not," he said, "I have a mobile hotspot."

Many of the craftspeople of the Village of Yesteryear have Web sites and e-mail addresses, so it shouldn't be too surprising that adoption of technology has expanded into the exhibit booth. It might be a little unsual to see traditional dress with a smartphone that processes credit cards, but it makes doing business much easier for both the craftspeople and the customers.