Being the third and final installment of my history of stoop/yard/garage/street/sidewalk sales, with photos, illustrations, near-disasters, psycho killers, and more.
2001 (June 9)
Brooklyn — Not even officially resettled in New York, I’m nonetheless ready to sell my junk! Fortunately, wjcohen (also relocated to Brooklyn) has just as much Jewish merchant blood as me and he’s more than willing to host the sale, which becomes our first official annual stoop sale (seeing as he’s got a stoop!). With significant others Sari and Alison (and 9-month-old baby Lila) joining the cause, we pull off a good one.
2002 (July 14)
Brooklyn — The 2nd Annual Multi-Family Multi-Generational Stoop Sale (wjcohen‘s idea — nice touch!) and our first Sunday (as opposed to Saturday) sale. Despite the fears that Sunday’s crowds won’t be as copious, the day is a rousing success.
Pet Peeve: The early birds too impatient to wait for us to officially set up. As I’m still unloading crap from the back of the Gusmobile (my late lamented ’88 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera), some of these unscrupulous types are already going through the boxes. Shoo!
European Bargain Hunters: Starting a new trend, a trio of attractive Swedish women show up early, grab all the best stuff, and haggle mercilessly, making off with a treasure trove of silverware, jewelry, fancy shoes, and one of my prized items, a set of commemorative coins celebrating the Prince Charles-Princess Di nuptials and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, a gift from my great aunt back in the early 1980s. (Don’t worry, I’m not that unsentimental — I had multiple copies of both of those ridiculous items.)
wjcohen is shocked and disappointed to discover that a collection of his aunt’s fancy shoes remain mostly untouched. He had been looking to a windfall from those stompers and the interest never materialized. This confirms my observation that clothes don’t sell well in the heat. It being a typically hot/humid New York summer day, our many samples of colorful and stylish fall/winter clothes are left to bake in the sun, only to end up as part of the many boxes of stuff we end up donating to the thrift store on Smith Street.
2003 (June 14)
Brooklyn — the 3rd Annual Multi-Family Multi-Generational Stoop Sale brings more sellers to the arena, as we’re joined by pals Stinky & Betsy, and Joy & Rob, plus assorted others. Though not matching us in volume, the newcomers contribute a fine collection of high-end items, bringing up the overall quality of the merchandise. The newcomers have such nice stuff that I break my own cardinal rule and buy a couple of things. Betsy sells us a bathroom scale for the bargain price of $5 which we still use today.
Challenge Item: Used mop, $1. Sari swore I wouldn’t be able to unload the thing, but late in the morning a scruffy slacker type walked up, grabbed the beaten-up mop and bought it for his new apartment. And he didn’t even try to talk me down from my sticker price. Another satisfied customer!
Early Birds: Once again they were waiting for us when we pulled up, undeterred by our attempts to fend them off by pointing out that the sale had yet to begin. Their presence illustrates the fact that most of the day’s sales happen in the first few hours, at which point the afternoon becomes basically dead. I refused to admit this, however, and gamely oversaw the merchandise until the early evening.
Painful Purchase: A handsome pair of leather sandals from Stinky. When I wore them later, they bit mercilessly into my feet, causing my toes to bleed. I end up trying them a couple of time after that before finally giving up. (I’m not one of those guys who wears socks with sandals — even if it would offer a layer of padded protection!)
Near Disaster: It being 4:30 or so, we decided to give away all the clothes (how do we keep generating so much clothing to get rid of every year?). Unfortunately, Joy misinterpreted the decision and started offering everything for free. Luckily, I was there to avert a travesty, as my perseverance was rewarded:
Big Ticket Item: the extremely late sale of a complete bracket shelving set. I had held onto it for years, thinking it would come in useful but always keeping it stuffed in the closet. Finally I decided to part with it. But I had spent a lot of money over the years, what with the wooden shelves and the wall brackets and support brackets. So I didn’t think it was crazy to ask $50 for the whole set. Well, that’s a lot for an impulse purchase. Fortunately, just I was preparing to admit defeat, a working class Hispanic guy and his two kids walked by. He went right for the shelves and didn’t blink at my asking price. A deadline sale and I was $50 richer!
2004 (May 22)
Brooklyn — The 4th Annual sale once again features Stinky, Betsy, Joy, and Rob, in addition to regulars wjcohen, Alison, and Lila, and me and Sari. Our signs now hold a warning to all early birds that they’ll pay double. But none of us has the nerve to enforce it.
Alison and Lila add a refreshment component to the activities with a homemade cookie & lemonade stand. Their plans are thrown out of wack when the day’s first customer buys the entire supply of cookies. A nice chunk of change, sure, but it doesn’t leave Lila with much to do (or anything for me to eat). Lila, who was about three-and-a-half at the time, is upset about the whole cookies thing — despite the six dollar bills stuffing her dress pocket — but we get her to work hawking the lemonade. I’ll never get her robotic, monotonal pitch out of my head: “Lemonade for sale. Lemonade for sale. Lemonade for sale.” Repeat 100 times. Cute kid!
Challenge Item: Broken stereo receiver, $10. Well, it wasn’t completely broken; it just had a volume balance problem. And it was pretty old. Sari was offended that I didn’t just leave it on the street, but I thought someone might have a use for it. Sure enough, a hipster tinkerer bought it — no haggling — and I was proven right again!
Painful Purchase: I confront Stinky about the sandals from last year and he admits that they made his feet bleed too. Yet he sold ‘em to me! What a pal, eh? (He’s probably still mad about the whole “Stinky” nickname thing.) So we put the sandals back in the sale pile and quickly unload them on a tall, sturdily built black gentlemen. Hopefully with indestructible feet.
Near Disaster: Lila is upset to see some of her toys on the sale pile. Even though she hadn’t played with them in years and had earlier agreed to get rid of them, she had acute seller’s remorse as soon as another kid grabbed the toys. How well I understand (see 1992 sale, Madman comic).
Big Ticket Item: Stinky unloads his old color TV for the whopping price of $20! With this sale, Stinky officially advances two levels to Expert Stooper.
2005 (June 25)
Brooklyn — The 5th Annual sale had slightly fewer “families” this time due to other engagements, but we inadvertently joined forces with the couple next door, who had a smaller but admittedly classier collection of items. I thought it made a good contrast: we were the dollar store to their Ikea’s.
Cookie Monster: The same guy who bought the whole cookie inventory last year came by and tried to do it again. Fortunately, I stepped in to enforce our new one-bag-of-cookies-per-customer rule and thus preserved our supply for the rest of the day. Then I rewarded myself with two cookies. Before breakfast. With a Yoo-hoo.
Challenge Item: Shower caddy, $1. This year I got too cocky. I mean everyone needs a shower caddy — you know, those wire things you hang from the shower head that hold the shampoo, conditioner and soap? After all, I had cleaned off all the caked soap scum and polished it up a bit. Well, this year I was stymied, and at the end of the day was forced to leave the thing on the curb in the vain hope that a passing vagrant would take it and maybe resell it for scrap.
European Bargain Hunters: French (or French Canadian) females: they came early, they conquered, and they made off with some choice stuff.
Near Disaster: Menacing schizophrenic neighbor, eventually carted off to the hospital where he can’t threaten to cut the throats of women & children. But that’s another story.
Big Ticket Item(s): wjcohen pulls in a whopping $50 for a jogging stroller. I unburden myself of a set of wine glasses and a trio of couch pillows for a grand total of $20.
What with my (at that point) newly broken finger and the ungodly heat, I almost collapsed from heat prostration at the end of the day. Too much adrenaline. Ultimately, I ended up using a good portion of the day’s profits to pay for a car service ride back home.