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Thrill of the hunt at garage, vintage sale

Shoppers hit NW’s Largest Garage Sale & Vintage Sale in search of a come-up

By , Columbian staff writer
5 Photos
Shoppers at the NW’s Largest Garage Sale & Vintage Sale browse under a shaded stall at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds on Saturday. Organizers said there were 500 vendors there hoping to sell to thousands of shoppers.
Shoppers at the NW’s Largest Garage Sale & Vintage Sale browse under a shaded stall at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds on Saturday. Organizers said there were 500 vendors there hoping to sell to thousands of shoppers. (Nathan Howard/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

If one person’s trash is another’s treasure, then the NW’s Largest Garage Sale & Vintage Sale turned up on Saturday as a bargain hunter’s El Dorado.

Knick-knacks and tchotchkes piled across the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds for the NW’s Largest Garage Sale & Vintage Sale, a regularly held haven for people who love to take the long way home if it passes by an estate sale.

“I’m a junker at heart,” said Dorice Hambly, a 59-year-old vendor whose large booth was nearly picked clean by noon. “I’ve always loved garage sales, so I’ve turned it into this little fun business.”

Hambly was one of 500 vendors at the event, which is held every April, July and November. The vendors hawked handmade goods and old junk alike, hoping to make even a few more dollars rather than giving it away for free.

“You never know what kind of treasure you might find,” said Hambly, herself an avid visitor of garage and estate sales. “I’ll bop along and see things my mom or my grandmother had for years and find really good bargains.”

Is that your final offer? Haggling tips

Garage sale shopping is not like going shopping at the grocery store. You can negotiate. Some vendors are happy to haggle.

“We’re here to sell things, and we don’t want to take stuff home with us,” said Kristi Gaffney, who helped out at her mother Dorice Hambly’s booth.

Still, many shoppers — especially newcomers — can be hesitant.

“We’re kind of intimidated,” said Chad Zandi of Longview, who shopped with his fiancée Leticia Camba. “If I do haggle, I’ll have a window of what I’ll pay for, and if they’re willing to meet me there, I’ll buy it.”

One vendor, who referred to himself as an “All-Pro Haggler” yet asked to remain anonymous, laid out some tips.

First, ask the vendor, “Are you negotiable?” If so, proceed to haggle.

Start low. Try to not be the first person to name a price. You can ask, “What’s the lowest you’ll go on this?”

It’s OK to bundle items for a lower overall price.

Don’t point out something’s flaws to try and reduce the price. Garage sale vendors already know, he said.

• Always be respectful. Walk away if you can’t settle on a deal.

— Troy Brynelson

Attendance numbers were not known at the time, but organizer Kim Buffum said the event has grown consistently since it was first held 10 years ago. Vendors flock from Seattle and Southern Oregon for the chance to put their goods in front of thousands of visitors.

“It’s work, but you’re never going to get 5,000 shoppers at your house (for a garage sale), and none of these people are going to use your bathroom,” Buffum said.

Kathi and Rob Hall hauled their goods from Roseburg, Ore., because the event usually lands them a tidy profit. They sold everything from small windmills for the lawn to iron bells and anchors.

“We’re just lucky enough to know what people are shopping for,” Kathi Hall said, then rapped her knuckle against an unsold red, wooden tote. “I always knock on wood.”

Shoppers likewise hunted for good fortune. They cut between booths like expeditions, peering into a jungle of old guitars, clay pots and vintage toy cars for the light to catch some kind of treasure to take home.

Or they were just browsing.

“We’re just looking for something to do today,” said Chad Zandi, an attorney from Longview, walking with his fiancée Leticia Camba. Zandi said he was looking for something for tools, fishing equipment or something for the house. “Nothing too target-oriented,” he said.

Lindsey Campbell, 27, had just moved to Portland and said she was looking for stuff for her new apartment. She said she needed “pretty much everything.”

“That’s why things like this are great this time of year,” she said.

Columbian staff writer

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