EXPOsé: Conclusion – Lean, Learn, Leave

Mary DugganEXPOsé: part 4 of 4

By Mary Duggan


There is an energy particular to the final day of any large fair or expo. In some ways it is a little slower, as some attendees have already left town. But the wrapping up loose ends, making trades, swapping wares energy required to bring it on home is actually it’s own kind of stress. At EXPO it involved talking with people who had spent big bucks and traveled far to be there and needed to maximize their investment. Kind of like us. So the last day continued with the intensity of the first two right down to the very last minute, when the lights are promptly and decisively shut off to encourage registrants to vacate the premises.

Expo_from Australia

From Australia to Anaheim, Ashton is seeking the NEXT big thing. No worries mate. The Duggan Sisters are ready to rock the globe!

The last day is also about the women who empty the garbage cans all day long or maintain the convention center’s immaculate and enormous bathrooms. It’s about the UPS crew that will coordinate our booth’s safe return to Chicago. It’s the Union riggers who have the NEXT pavilion dismantled so fast that it’s hard to believe it was ever there. And we’re  no longer doing business any more. We’re preaching the Gospel again and dispensing as many little stinkers and lymphatic wellness messages as we can while undoing our booth and making ready to leave.

Expo_UPS team

Annie, our Queen of Operations, is never off-duty with UPS! She’s always moving product somewhere and making friends along the way.



The dirtier the work, the longer the days, the more folks love their lifestinks. Union Riggers rock their little stinkers!

Our bags are swollen with an avalanche of carmel sauce generously bestowed by the French caramel makers across the aisle that have kept us company for 3 days. For the life of me I don’t know how their product constitutes a Natural Product, or maybe I am just confusing it with a healthy product. What I wonder is how did I get stuck making deodorant when there is caramel cream needed on the planet. They are a darling and generous husband and wife team who are anxious to be lifestinkers for life. And I hear that they have driven home each night to the San Diego area, some 2 hours away, to tuck their children in for the night. I am overwhelmed by the stamina and commitment that working parents exhibit each and every day. I don’t know if anyone can have it all. I only know that everyday I see folks giving their all.


Has anything bad ever come from France?

And of course just as we are slow at set-up we are the absolute last to leave the tear down. As we get to the rented minivan I realize that my knee is so swollen from standing that I have to manually bend it and lift my leg into the van. Or what I refer to as the Medi-Van at times like these. Just as I am about to fold myself into the van Clare says, Mary look and points to the setting sun, a palm tree, and a simple gate and I am so glad that she is still young and observant and grateful and clicking a photo for later. I want to remember this moment.

expo_palm tree

We were not on vacation. This is the parking lot of a convention center. Really.


WISE DECISION: For all the years we have been selling our products other vendors have teased us about our frugality. About fitting our booth in the trunk of a sedan when others have popped for snazzy large vehicles. About always having a cooler beneath our table with our raw food supplies or our Tupperware full of  green smoothies on constant display in our booth. About always driving home at the end of the day, when a hotel room would feel so good. And about crashing on the floors of friends’ homes that are under renovation when out of town hotels are prohibitive. About always rushing home the minute a show is over because our old pets do not understand fair schedules and long weekends and our horrible absence. This time, we did it differently. We stayed the extra night, and woke up in Yorba Linda to a hot tub and a cold swimming pool and it almost worked, until Annie didn’t see the door coming as we were loading our bags into the hall for checkout and SLAM. It was awful and painful. Why is it that injury and exhaustion always go hand-in-hand for the sisters, despite our best efforts? The egg formation was instantaneous and enormous. But ever the trooper, Annie kept it together while the hotel staff ran for ice, which she wore with the panache of the Yogi warrior she is at heart.

expo_annie ice pack

Girls just want to have fun. Or at least get out of town unscathed.

ALL WE WANT TO DO IS HAVE SOME FUN: And so we drove to Santa Monica Boulevard and then to the Ocean. We had no energy for walking and the homeless population is so alarmingly large that we competed with them for time on a bench. So it was a quick stroll through the Promenade. And then on to our ultimate destination: M.A.K.E.

AND SOME RAW FOOD, AT LAST. If you know raw, then you know the name Matthew Kenney, a raw foods master and innovator and the creator of some of the best food on planet earth – raw or otherwise. When we were in New York working we could not make time for Pure Food and Wine, his first raw foray. But we were not going to leave California, the epicenter of all things raw, without making it to M.A.K.E. And we did not opt for take out, known there as MAKE OUT. We sat down and remembered what it felt like to eat  like this all the time. Annie is a trained raw chef and her energies used to go exclusively into food production. Kenney’s cookbook in our home is a worn out mess. Now that Annie is the Chief Operations Officer of the Duggan Sisters our tummies have suffered. I will let the photos speak for themselves. I never thought I would say it but I miss eating 100% pure raw foods, or what I prefer to call living foods. If Matthew Kenney were “living” right next door, I think I could again.

expo_raw ravioli

Annie got gnocchi.

expo_raw pasta

Clare went for noodles.

expo_raw lasagna

Mary took first prize with lasagna.

expo_raw apple pie

Apple pie was just one of our two desserts. Hey, when will we be back in Santa Monica?

expo_ciderOUR TRIP ENDED WITH ONE LAST NIGHT IN HOLLYWOOD and of course Maripat and the gang were all ears and encouragement as we told tall tales of our EXPO exploits. It was take out food and gluten free cider for toasting then off to one last night in the little house of happiness.

In the morning I had a few precious moments to chat with Maripat, no script writers buzzing about, no phones ringing, no race to the food truck with a needed ingredient. Just two old friends who rarely see each other having a chat. And so of course we talked about burying our mothers, and the joy and wonder and difficulties of their final months. And how it went down. And of course there was rock solid business and manufacturing advice dispensed from a woman who has created tremendous wealth from her exceptionally creative brain. And before I knew it the girls had joined us in the big house, all showered and shiny and made up and fresh and it was time to leave for LAX. But not before Maripat said, looking at Clare and Annie queued up for a good-bye hug.  “I want to stop for just a minute and take this in,” she said looking at them, and they were all smiles. “I want to be able to always remember this moment. This moment when you are on the verge and nothing will ever be the same again.” And then it was hugs and photos and we were gone.

expo_MPD and friends photo

LEANING IN: The plane ride home is so different from the exhausted ride there. My sisters are high on life and it shows. While Clare indulges in her beloved cross word puzzles for the first time in a week, Annie reaches into her satchel and pulls out a bag of Skinny Pop popcorn, my absolute favorite treat, and grinning from ear to ear says “gluten free snack anyone?” And before I know it I am leaning in to Annie’s shoulder and sound asleep and in what seems like a moment we are back in Chicago.

expo_welcome to chicagoThe long awaited get away and California’s innate glamour are far behind us. It is cold and snowy in Chicago and our employee is so sick and undone from handling all the pet care while we were gone that she announces immediately, “I will not ever be doing this for you again.” Crash. Land. But not for my sisters. I am behind them, hobbling along as I always do. And we are walking the length of the airport. But it’s different. I can see it. The lengthening of their stride, the jaunty pull of the rolling luggage, the straightness of their shoulders and spines and they are moving fast and sure and I think, I am seeing joy. And strangely enough, I find myself moving along pretty well myself, able to keep up much better than usual, as I follow their lead into the promise the future holds.


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4 Responses to “EXPOsé: Conclusion – Lean, Learn, Leave”

  1. Sheila Saccomanno says:

    Mary…I just loved the story of your travels to LA. I hope it was a great success. My cousin lives there & I told her about you. She had a friend going to the Expo who had some media connection and was going to try to see you guys while you were there. I don’t know if that happened or not.
    It was amazing seeing Maripat through pictures & I’m so glad that you had the YouTube link about her degree from Loyola. I don’t often think back to high school, but seeing the last picture of you guys with her brought memories flooding back to I think was my senior year when there was the student council elections, and what a great time we had. I am so proud of you guys! Much love…Sheila

    • Mary says:

      Sheila, it is lovely to hear from you. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Indeed, a “rep” of the Caddigan clan did come by, at a wildly busy time I am afraid. I vaguely remembering directing her to Annie; but I am not sure how much happened after that.

      I have to agree that it is a matter of AMAZING when one is talking about or in our very fortunate case actually seeing Maripat Donovan. Clare had the good sense to link to the Loyola award. I watched it sitting in her home and I wept like a baby. What amazing things she has done: sponsoring the education of 20 young women; building a well for an African village; building a school and all on top of millions of dollars of fund-raising for the old nuns. I am proud to call her friend.

      Hope your Mom is fully on the mend. Keep in touch. Much love to the C-gang and you especially, Mary

  2. Kim says:

    What, you ask?
    The no-holds-barred blog entries, serial literature style! Love this! But also, the team work that it took to the Expo and back, Janet holding it all together in your absence (if not just barely), being there for a FACETIME grovel from WFM higher-up, the food (even if it seems you must have left M.A.K.E still hungry!), the rejuvenation this trip afforded you as a business….but especially your obvious love and respect for your sisters/business partners/friends. Thanks for letting us all take such an honest peek into your world.

    • Mary says:

      Kim, thanks for the kind comments. But guess what, by the time we left M.A.K.E. we were stuffed. The great gift of raw food – so filling. And remember, we only photo-highlighted one dessert. We actually ordered two. Okay, there I’ve admitted it. Thank you for your enthusiastic reading. Mary

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