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Story Last modified at 7:07 p.m. on Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Smooth garage sailing

Alaska Star


Garage sale customer Isaac Krainis hauls off a rug and table he bought while Linda Wiliams, left, helps Krainis with another table on Saturday, June 11. Though he was looking for motorcycles, Krainis said he couldn't turn down the deal he got while shopping at a sale held by Williams and her two friends at Williams' home on Birchwood Loop

Nearly home after participating in the Alaska Women's Run, longtime Birchwood Loop resident Zona Dahlmann found her leisurely Saturday drive home interrupted by a string of bright orange signs. Suddenly, Dahlmann turned off Birchwood and onto Klondike Drive, following the signs as they drew her like beacons into the driveway of Wayne and Debbie Hughes.

"I have a hard time resisting a garage sale sign," Dahlmann admitted, moments after forking over a couple bucks for some arts and craft supplies and a box of garden spikes.

In an Internet-obsessed age, the world of garage sailing has not been immune to change, and advertising on Craigslist is now pretty much a must for any respectable yard, garage or moving sale. Over the weekend of June 10-12, at least 20 sales were advertised in the online message board's garage sale section for the area.

But no amount of online advertising can compete with a good, solid piece of orange construction paper and a black permanent marker, the formula the Hughes' used to draw attention to their home.

"Signs are everything," Debbie Hughes said. "You've gotta get the people here."

Garage sales are a big deal in the Chugiak/Eagle River area. On a recent weekend, signs were posted at almost all the major intersections and interchanges along both the Old and New Glenn. And business on a sunny Saturday, June 11 was brisk. Most people hitting the sales said they were looking for a good bargain.

"Just lookin for other people's junk," said Chugiak's Mike Nylund.

Nylund and his wife, Stacy, said they like to hit the garage sale circuit between Chugiak and the Mat-Su with a couple friends and make a day of it.

"We go out about every weekend together," Stacy Nylund said.

And it's not just junk. Earlier this year she got an expensive, minus-30 sleeping bag for 30 bucks.

"It was still in the packaging," she said.

Debbie Hughes said the sales benefit both the buyer and seller. She and her husband plan to move in a couple years, and are slowly parting ways with stuff they no longer use – but someone else might.

"You never know what people need," she said.

Further down Birchwood, three women – Linda Williams, Kris Hamann and Joyce Sheppard – teamed up at Williams' home as a way to combine forces with a three-in-one sale.

"We just decided to get all our stuff together and have a joint garage sale," Sheppard said.

Sheppard, of Wasilla, said garage sales are sometimes vital to keeping a home from becoming overrun with old, unused items.

"It just goes from one closet from the next," she said.


Chugiak's Mike Nylund surveys some of the items for sale at a garage sale held by Wayne and Debbie Hughes. Nylund said he and his wife like to make garage sailing a social event, usually going with another couple. "It's a good way to kill time," he said.

Sheppard managed to sell a rug and some small tables to Isaac Krainis, a college student who recently got out of the Air Force. Though he left with the home décor items, Krainis left with a pocket full of cash in search of other sales further down the road.

"I want to find motorcycles and dirt bikes," he said. "Usually garage sales are good for those kind of things."

Williams, who only recently moved to the neighborhood, said an unexpected side benefit of having a garage sale was it gave many of her neighbors a chance to introduce themselves.

"There's been a lot who have come over," she said. "It's been fun."

Closer to the heart of downtown Eagle River, another multi-family sale was happening on Jackson Hole Court, where next door neighbors Whitney Brewster and Perri Gerharz were using their homes to double-team potential customers.

"You attract more people when you're a multi-family one," Gerharz said.

Brewster's daughter, ElleMarie, 8, even set up a refreshment stand at the foot of the driveway, while her 2-year-old, Brody, served as the official sticker monster.

"As fast as we put 'em on, he takes 'em off,' Brewster said with a laugh.

Gerharz said having a garage sale does have one big pitfall. Because your home is open all day long, she said, you've gotta be sitting there, too.

"It sucks up your whole weekend," she said.

But, the work's not hard. She said she spent most of her down time reading a book, keeping an eye on the constant stream of kids running about and chatting across the lawn with Brewster.

"I can sit here, read my book and talk and kind of relax," she said.

Gerharz also shared a secret for the real bargain hunters out there.

"The second day is better for the hagglers because they know you have to get rid of it," she said.

Most sellers said they planned to take their unsold items to goodwill, advertise online or box "the junk" back up and put it away for another weekend. You never know who might need it.

"I don't need a darn thing," said Zona Dahlmann after paying 50 cents for some used garden stakes. "But I can never resist."

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, June 15, 2011.