Ed Sparkman, right, sells some of his wares to buyers Rina Bousalis, left and Angie Bousalis.
BELLEAIR – If you are going to drive from outside Belleair to spend a Saturday at the community-wide garage sale, you are going to want to know where you are going.
Diane and Irv Gaffield had the answer to that. When they left their home in Pinellas Park on Jan. 12, they were armed with both the detailed map of every address participating in the sale and a GPS programmed to each address. Diane wasn’t going to miss a thing.
“This is the best I’ve seen,” she said. “There are lots of people here; already we’ve been to 10 homes and we plan to hit them all. I love garage sales.”
It was to be a busy day for the Gaffields because more than 50 households in the town participated in the sale. In addition, several people who lived outside the community paid $25 for the privilege of setting up in the parking lot at the town hall.
On hand for it all was Belleair’s director of special events, Sara Borger, who seemed to have a permanent smile on her face as the crowds poured into her community for the sale. She had stories to tell.
“One woman called me several times to tell me that she owned two homes in town and was going to sell everything in one of them,” she said. “She kept saying what she had was an expensive storage unit.”
Just down the street from the Town Hall at the home of Ed Sparkman, people were crowding into his driveway looking for bargains on items they just knew they had to have. Sparkman was delighted.
“They should have this every year,” he said. “By 8:30 this morning more than 50 people had already been here. It is a wonderful opportunity for neighbors to get together.”
Sparkman’s son Terry came from his Palm Harbor home to help out. He too was impressed with what he saw.
“I drove around this morning and saw all kinds of people in town buying and looking,” he said. “There were 25 cars parked along our street, just here. Everybody has been pretty nice; they are a good group of people.”
Wherever you went in Belleair on Saturday there were people, buyers and sellers alike, who were effusive in their praise for the event. Patty Farrell was set up in her driveway.
“This is wonderful. It has been a good experience and a great opportunity for people to get outside and walk.”
Jerry Weis, his wife and their friends were doing just that, out walking from sale to sale.
“I have already bought a couple of things,” he said. “I got some golf balls and a small duck figurine. It is really great, and I’d do it again.”
Nearby was Michelle Boudreau, sitting with a cup of coffee in hand. She had come from Belleair Bluffs to help her friend sell some things.
“This has been great,” she said. “It is well organized. People were here early. I even had a dealer come and buy some of my jewelry and he gave me a good price, I’ll absolutely be back next year. It is too bad there isn’t a coffee truck making the rounds.”
The idea of having the community wide garage sale came to Sara Borger when her boss, Eric Wahlbeck, challenged her to find something that would be of interest to people in the 50 and older age bracket.
“I did some research online and discovered that the median age in Belleair is 55,” she said. “Further research showed that people in that age bracket like garage sales, so why not?”
Residents had to register and have a permit to participate but it didn’t cost them anything. The town produced a list of addresses of participating households and provided a map to buyers who dropped by the town hall before they began their buying spree.
Christine McDermott came from St. Petersburg to help her friend Kate Boyle set up. At 10 a.m. they were still bringing things from inside the house.
“I got here at 6:30 a.m. to set up,” she said. “But by 7 a.m. people were already coming and we had to stop setting up and start selling; it was truly wonderful.”
Her friend, Kate Boyle, was constantly running in and out of the house restocking her driveway. She stopped long enough to say the whole event was a good idea but she wondered why it was free.
“Last year I had my own garage sale and it cost me $60 to advertise it,” she said. “They could have charged us all $5, a bargain for us and some money could have been raised for the Rec.”
That, and the coffee truck, is something Borger and her colleagues may take into consideration as they plan for next year.
“We’re likely going to do it again,” she said. “We just have to make sure all the traffic didn’t inconvenience our residents too much, but I can tell you on the front end of it this has been really successful.”