By Patrick Winderl
For many people, Saturday morning is a great time to take a walk, cook breakfast, mow the lawn, or even sleep in. For others, it's also a great opportunity to go shopping - at garage sales. Long before the vendors at the mall have opened their doors, people turn out in droves at strangers' houses in search of the perfect bargain. They come to pick through the trinkets and treasures that have lost their novelty or their owners' affection, and maybe - if the price is right - make them their own.
During any weekend, there might be dozens of garage sales in Havre. Last Saturday, there were more than 30 of them advertised in the Havre Daily News alone.
Go to any garage sale and there's no telling what you might find. It may something of questionable value - a giant, multicolored stuffed parrot, a black-and-white TV, a pair of orange vinyl cowboy boots, or even a rusty belt buckle. But, hit the right sale at the right time, and you might land puzzles, books, posters, telephones, stereos, furniture, lawnmowers or something else you might actually use. All of those and pretty much everything else are for sale - cheap - if you can find them.
Last Saturday in a shop behind 1313 Boulevard Ave., Marvin Turner was keeping an eye on what he called "a man's garage sale." There were no children's toys, picture books or clothing. Here, Turner tried to unload things like tools, speakers, electronics and charcoal grills.
His pricing strategy? Simple.
"I put two or three bucks on everything," he said.
The items were selling, and selling fast. By 10 a.m. Saturday, more than 30 people had stopped by, Turner said.
"It's been real good so far," he said.
Turner said he planned to keep selling his wares until about 4 in the afternoon. Those items that had not been sold by then would likely be taken to the Salvation Army, he said.
Just then, a man who seemed mildly interested in an olive green barbecue offered Turner half the amount it was marked at.
"Sold!" Turner said.
The trick to unloading inventory is being willing to barter with customers, he explained.
"You got to deal on everything," he said. "If they want it cheaper, you have to give it to them."
Nearby, on Wilson Avenue, Shannon Vaughn and Michelle Mariani held a garage sale of their own. The two, who live across the street from each other, decided to have a joint sale. Vaughn brought items from her house over to Mariani's, where they filled a garage full of clothing, children's books, videotapes and CDs.
"We decided it was time to clean up our house and get rid of things we didn't use anymore," said Mariani, who lives with her husband, Shawn.
Each woman put a color-coded tag on her items, so that they could keep track of how much money each was earning. When a customer made a purchase, the money was placed in a cash box. If the customer purchased an item that belonged to Vaughn, the sticky tag was removed and placed on a notebook page. The same was done for Mariani.
The two said that at the end of the day they would add up all of the tags on their respective notebook pages, and distribute the appropriate sum of money from the cash box.
Vaughn and Mariani started their garage sale at 8 a.m. Less than 3 hours later, they said they had had plenty of business.
"We've had a good turnout," Vaughn said. "We've sold a lot of kids movies and toys."
"The women and men's stuff never sells," Mariani added. "The kids' stuff always goes really fast."
Such was the case at the residence of Bruce and Lisa Kudrna off Old Post Road. There, just before noon, more than a dozen people browsed their extensive inventory, which included a collection of Barbie dolls and accessories, including a pink dollhouse, a toy boat and a convertible Barbie Corvette.
"I'm too old for them anymore," proclaimed Cassie Kudrna, 11, who worked as the cashier along with her sister, Lindsey, 7.
In addition to toys the girls have outgrown, the garage sale included items like furniture and a lawnmower, which was among the first items to go.
"We're just selling a little bit of everything," Bruce said, adding that he was amazed not only at how many people turned out for the sale, but also how early some of them showed up.
"We had it in the paper (starting) at 7, and we had people here at 20 minutes after 6," he said.
The comment drew a laugh from Havre resident Jody Manuel, who was standing nearby.
"When we used to have garage sales, we used to advertise it at 8 so people would show up at 7," he said.
Among the customers at the Kudrna residence was the man who bought the barbecue from Turner.
"It fell over on the way here and I got charcoal all over my truck," he said sheepishly.
Two miles away, Chad Finneman and Heather Bergstrom carefully examined some books at a yard sale on 10th Street. The two had hit four or five garage sales and made several purchases, including picture frames, books and a bean bag, Finneman said.
They used the list of garage sales published in the newspaper to help plan their route.
"We've been going from closest to farthest," Bergstrom said.
They said they do not often go to garage sales, and had no special reason for deciding to on Saturday.
"I just got the day off," Chad said.