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Community garage sales a success

Brianna Johnson found a bargain early in Jake Fenner's garage at Saturday's Seventh Annual House-To-House Garage Sale in New Richmond.

In weather more befitting a snowball fight than a garage sale, hundreds of seasoned bargain hunters joined a steady stream of curious shoppers during the seventh annual House-To-House Garage Sale Saturday in New Richmond.

Shoppers were guided by a treasure map provided by the New Richmond News featuring 78 stops, while numerous other garages took advantage of the free publicity.

Veteran garage saler Laurie Cloutier summed up the weather, "First we used the snowblower, then we sold it!"

"This is the all-time coldest I can remember," said Melissa Gess, "Last year my neighbor brought me an iced coffee because it was so hot."

The cold temperatures and sporadic rain forced many folks to actually use their garages while others either with too much merchandise or not enough room in their garages employed tents and canopies to shelter shoppers.

It was Jake Fenner's first time joining the community wide sale. "At midnight last night, I realized we have a one-car garage and I'm going to have to figure something out. This is what I dreamt up," said Fenner pointing to a tan plastic tarp draped over his Jeep SUV and stretched up to the gutter over his garage door. "I've gotten more compliments on that than the sale."

Melissa Gess teamed up with her sister-in-law, Sarah Peterson, to manage a sale that featured items from five families besides her own. It was the fifth year they have participated in the sale and attribute a lot of their success to starting early.

"Wednesday night used to be only for friends and family," said Sarah, "but since she (Melissa) started listing it on craigslist, we're open to everyone Wednesday night and that's been our biggest night."

Melissa and Sarah agreed that using Facebook and sending emails has definitely boosted their sales the last few years.

"Our best year, we made over $2,000 the course of the four days plus Wednesday night. The more stuff and the more families that go in on it, the better because people want to see a lot of stuff," Sarah said.

Cloutier and her partner, Cheryl Boucher, specialize in kids merchandise, "99 percent of ours is kids' stuff and it sells."

Their sale represented their households plus several of their grown children, so five households in all, but Cloutier and Boucher do all the work. "We pick it up, we mark it, we wash and iron it if needed, and we hang it and we work it. We do it all," said Cloutier.

They too attribute a lot of their success to getting the word out, but Cloutier added, "We have really good quality stuff and it's marked reasonable and it's well organized."

It paid off, on Thursday the pair sold $1,300 in the first five hours they were open. "We have a lot of fun," said Cloutier. "Never had a garage sale that needed a heater before."

According to Ladies Auxiliary Post member Judy Ulm, cookies and hot coffee have to be part of a successful strategy under such trying conditions.

"Having everything neat and folded and a big variety helps," Ulm added. Post members and neighbors contributed to the large selection of items available at the sale in the Community Commons.

"We negotiate both days and now we've marked almost everything down to 25 cents," Ulm said. "What we don't sell. We'll give to the DAV (Disabled American Veterans). That way it will still help the veterans."

Vicki Derrick and Michelle Lorentz host one of the larger sales with eight families contributing.

"It takes us at least eight to 15 hours to get ready with the tables and pricing everything," said Derrick. "What we don't sell, we'll donate. So far this year, we've sold about half as much as last year, but there's still people out there, barring the rain and the snow, the professional garage salers, the diehards. We'll be here."