look at Durango's yard sale culture
|A multicolored yard
sale sign in the yard of Becky and Jay Shipps, on
West Second Avenue, beckons garage salers Saturday
morning./Photo by Todd Newcomer
Looking for that special gift for the guy who has everything?
How about something for that hard-to-shop-for mother-in-law?
The solution may be may be right under your nose –
or at least buried in your neighbor’s garage.
Despite a recent clamping down on violators of the city’s
yard sale sign ordinance – which requires a permit
for posting a sign anywhere other than your own yard –
the business of do-it-yourself junque retail is thriving
Last Saturday morning found Durango bustling with easily
more than two dozen yard sales, garage sales, tag sales
or whatever name the purveyor bestowed upon the event.
On lawns and in garages across town, fervent shoppers
eagerly descended, snapping up and haggling over everything
from used lipstick to Neil Diamond 8-tracks.
|Jay Shipp’s treasured but
forgotten Honda 65
waits for an offer./Photos by Todd Newcomer.
And as any yard sale host can tell you, the things people
buy never ceases to amaze.
“The things you think will go quick are still here,
and the things you think wouldn’t sell were the
first to go,” says Becky Shipps, as she turns excitedly
to her cohorts to tell them of a recent sale. “We
just sold the bride doll,” she said, as a woman
walks off with a 3-foot doll dressed in a frilly mini
Shipps was holding a sale on West Second with her husband,
Jay; her daughter, Sarah; and her friend, Tobey Ellis.
What’s even more surprising, says Ellis, is that
she hung on to such things for so long.
“It’s amazing the things you keep around
– absolutely amazing,” says Ellis.
Among the astounding items Ellis and the Shipps have
lugged around are an old vinyl club chair (free) and a
1960s-era Honda 65 motorbike (make an offer).
Curiously enough, this is not the first yard sale action
the chair has seen.
“We bought it at a garage sale when we moved here
25 years ago,” says Jay. “It belonged to an
old lady across the street.”
He also lays claim to the motorbike, which he admits
will be harder to part with than the chair.
“I was 15 years old when I got it,” he says,
more than a little wistfully. “It was the very first
thing I ever bought.”
And while the emotional tie is tight, Jay says he simply
doesn’t have the wherewithal to fix it up.
|What’s your shade? Lipstick
one of the many items awaiting
Saturday morning bargain
hunters./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
“I just don’t have time to do anything with
it,” he says, pointing out the rusted drive train.
“I imagine it would run; it wouldn’t take
And then as if to stave off any seller’s remorse,
he pipes in, “Besides, I got my Harley in the garage.”
Ellis and the Shipps said the most popular items of the
day are books, books on tape, cross country skis and frames.
“Gilded, ornate ones,” says Becky, using
her hands to exaggerate the various sizes and shapes.
Several blocks away on the south side of town, Kim and
Bill Lynch have found that kids’ stuff has been
the hot ticket.
“Everyone wanted the swimming pool, which wasn’t
for sale,” says Kim, motioning toward an elaborate
blow-up kiddie pool in the front yard. “I keep telling
people they can go to Wal-Mart and get one for $35. I
feel like a spokesman for the store.”
Among the for-sale items at the Lynches are a “Pink
Panther” suit, top-coat included, and the unofficial
Brad Pitt biography. One item that was given a last-minute
pardon from the sale table was an accordion, given to
their son when he was 6.
“I told him I’d buy it from him for $6,”
says Bill. “He owes me $8, so now he only owes me
Bill says he didn’t get much of a fight, perhaps
because he’s the father, but more likely because
– just as in love and war – all is fair in
“Everyone bargains, it’s kind of fun because
it’s the only time you can do it,” says Becky
And while no diehard saler would think twice about haggling
over a nickel, Kim Lynch says the toughest customers come
in the smallest packages.
“Kids are the real hagglers,” she says.
However, at least one hostess says she likes to skip
the haggling and get down to business.
“I purposely mark my prices so low so I don’t
have to haggle,” says East Third resident Liz Harper.
Even though no one would argue that the spirit is all
in fun, make no mistake: There are those who take their
garage saleing very seriously.
|Zophie, one of Carolyn
Smith’s three poodles patiently, waits while
his master peruses a sale on East third
“There are definite styles,” said one anonymous
reforming garage sale-aholic. “There’s the
pushy and aggressive types who get there before it opens,
and then there’s the polite ones.
“It’s a whole scene out there,” she
said referring to the more cutthroat of shoppers. “Most
of those people shop to put stuff in stores and make money.”
Indeed, by 6:30 a.m. (the sale didn’t start until
7), one well-known proprietor of a used-goods store had
already come and gone, say the folks at the West Second
“There was a little rush at six,” says Becky.
“I was out here in my pajamas making my first sale.”
And although they may be caught unawares, none of the
sale holders seemed to mind what’s known in the
biz as “early birds” – saying it’s
all just part of the package.
“You always get them; it’s all right,”
says Harper, who says she holds a sale every other year.
“It’s not bothersome,” she adds, before
abruptly switching gears to hawk her wares. “That
TV works fine,” she calls to an elderly man.
The Lynches also were visited by an early bird with a
“We had a guy come at 6:30, but all he bought was
anything he could find on the military,” says Kim.
Carolyn Smith, a downtown resident and East Third garage
sale patron, explains the phenomenon.
“If they say they’re opening at 8, they’re
really opening at 7,” she says.
Smith says of the two camps, she falls into the latter,
preferring to shop at her leisure while walking her three
toy white poodles.
“Every other week I go to the sales,” she
says. “I only go where I can walk – the dogs
absolutely love to shop.”
|Gloria Crites peruses
the clothes rack at the
Lynch yard sale Saturday morning. A
weekly regular on the garage sale circuit,
Gloria refers to her outings as “goin’
junkin’.”/Photos by Todd Newcomer.
And if the early morning hours are a seller’s market,
they quickly give way to a buyer’s market.
“We’ve already gone through and repriced
everything,” said Sarah Shipp, as the clock approaches
10 o’clock, near quittin’ time in garage sale
terms. “It gets to that point.”
Nevertheless, they’ll all hang on till at least
noon, lured by the promise of big money, a lighter load
and a less cluttered garage.
“We made $2,500 off a sale in California,”
said Jay Shipp.
And besides, they’re having fun.
“We’re getting to see a lot of people, neighbors
are stopping by to say hi,” says Becky.
And what of the stuff that doesn’t sell? Has the
whole experience been fun enough to consider doing it
The answer is an unequivocal no, phrased perhaps most
succinctly by Kim Lynch: “If this stuff isn’t
gone, I’m taking it to the thrift store.”