Nancy Laugesen still laughs about the time she hosted her first garage sale in Dubuque.
Hoping to sell a few things, she set up shop in the yard of her apartment building. Her garage sale was nothing extraordinary. But it caught the attention of a city bus driver.
The driver pulled over the bus, with passengers in tow, to lay dibs on a souvenir Laugesen bought in Florida – a coconut that had been decorated to resemble a mouse. The driver bought the coconut-turned-mouse and drove away.
"I just remember the whole bus pulling over for the garage sale," Laugesen said. "I thought it was the craziest thing."
A veteran garage-saler, Laugesen has been perfecting her buying and selling skills since her childhood days, when she helped her grandma with her patio sales.
Laugesen, assistant vice president of business partner services at Dupaco, loves a good deal. She's turned to garage sales to furnish her children's college dorm rooms, score deals for friends and family, and pad her vacation fund by reselling her finds.
She once bought an antique file cabinet for $50. Her husband, a woodworker, gave the cabinet some TLC and later resold the piece for $800. Laugesen's husband has a knack for finding a good deal, too. He once bought three pieces of Roseville pottery for a quarter apiece. He resold one of them alone for $140.
"We're such a throwaway society," Laugesen said. "There are so many things you can find at a garage sale that are brand new, that were never even taken out of the package."
That's why Laugesen is proud that her employer continues to host the popular Community-Wide Garage Sales, which bring communities together in the name of thrift, reuse and fun.
The Community-Wide Garage Sales will be in Dubuque and Manchester, Iowa, on April 27 and in Platteville, Wis., on May 11. With several garage sales already registered, shoppers can find everything from an accordion to a new wedding dress to an old-school Atari game system.
"It's awesome that Dupaco does it, because we're very much a community player and it promotes thrift," Laugesen said. "People don't have to pay for the advertising, so it's a nice way that we give back to the community."
In honor of Dupaco's upcoming Community-Wide Garage Sales, Laugesen has some advice for those preparing to score some deals in the tri-state area:
- Don't be late: If you’re on a mission to buy an advertised item, be there when the sale opens. "If it's something that's advertised, you might have a bunch of people going for that same thing," Laugesen said.
- Don't limit yourself to one part of town: "There are a lot of nice sales throughout town," she said.
- Make an offer: If you aren't willing to pay the asking price, make another offer. It doesn't always work in your favor, but you might be glad you asked. "Sometimes bartering is part of the game. It's kind of fun," Laugesen said.
- Be a considerate patron: Take dollar bills and small change with you. Garage sale hosts will appreciate not having to break a $20 bill at the beginning of their sale.
- Keep trying: Try not to get discouraged if you're striking out. No two garage sales are alike. Check out a few more, and you might find what you're looking for – or something you didn't even know you were looking for. "It's all part of the adventure," Laugesen said.
By Emily Kittle