Lava lamps, collectible coins, baseball cards, bagpipes, VHS copies of every “Young Indiana Jones” film ever made. If there’s any truth to the proverb about “one man’s trash,” then the Juneau Community Garage Sale was a treasure trove unlike any other in town.
“If you don’t touch something for a year, why keep it in your house?” said Steve Byers, one of 50 vendors who set up shop in Centennial Hall for the sale Saturday morning. “Sometimes it’s worth it just to see someone smile when they get a good deal.”
For 21 years, the convention center has hosted the annual community garage sale at which vendors — their wares displayed on foldout tables — and hundreds of shoppers fill the center’s main room for most of the morning.
“Garage selling is almost an organized sport in Juneau,” said James Wycoff, the event’s organizer. “There’s so much great energy here.”
A lot of that energy was attributable to Wycoff himself — a jovial man clad in a Hawaiian shirt, beaded necklace and a Greg Norman-styled golf hat with a cardboard sign reading “Boss” pined to it. His hat might as well have been a crown, though, because Wycoff is undeniably the garage sale king.
If it weren’t for Wycoff, Saturday’s community garage sale wouldn’t have happened at all.
Six years ago, Centennial Hall staff planned to stop organizing the event. When Wycoff learned this, he approached convention center staff and asked what he could to keep the sale around.
“I asked what it took, and they said they needed somebody to get her done, so I said ‘I can do that,’” Wycoff explained, and that’s what he did.
For the past six years, Wycoff, who recently retired from a 40-year career as a pharmacist, has been working as a volunteer to organize the garage sale. At first, organizing the event was difficult, he said. Making sure that all 50 or so vendors arrived on time and abided by the rules — “no fire arms, no whiskey, no live animals, no food” — was no simple task.
Now that he’s got a few years under his belt, Wycoff said putting the event together has become easier. And he certainly seemed to run it with ease.
From his booth, positioned right at the entrance to the sale, Wycoff sold jackets and fishing gear (nets and rods). Though he’d sold nearly everything he brought by about noon, he seemed more motivated to make conversation than sales. He’d frequently stop passersby simply to chat or exchange jokes, and when there was nobody near his booth, he’d stroll around the room visiting other vendors.
The way Wycoff sees it, the community garage sale is great for two reasons. The first, he said, is the event provides space for people who live in apartments or on boats to have garage sales, which they might not be able to do otherwise. Wycoff also likes that the event attracts nonprofits who use it to raise money for their causes.
Relay for Life, for example, had a booth set up Saturday morning, as did another organization raising money for Alzheimer’s research.
Bill Lomax, a vendor who sold glass pipes and bongs, fits into Wycoff’s other category — he lives on a boat in Auke Bay. Though he didn’t sell as much as he’d hoped Saturday, he said the event helped give his home-run business, Northern Lights Glass, some much needed exposure.
“This helps because I wish I could afford a retail space, but it’s just not feasible,” he said.
With this year’s sale now behind him, Wycoff said he plans to continue organizing the community garage sale for years to come.
“My main job is to allow everybody to be as happy as possible,” he said.