By Gari Voss
Anyone driving down 108th Avenue near M-40 on summer holiday weekends notice wagon after wagon of “treasures”. Many people anticipate the appearance of wagons at 3333 108th Ave., Allegan on Memorial Day weekend, the 4th of July weekend, and Labor Day Weekend.
The final sale of the 2023 season, Labor Day, will begin Wednesday, August 30, 2023, and end on Monday, September 4th. Each day, the wagons will be available from 8am-6pm. About 47 wagons will be available on Wednesday, but each day, the number of wagons decreases quickly.
Where do all these treasures come from?
Rich Porter has been the master of these wagons for 57 years. He explained that he began having yard sales when he was 7 or 8 years old. Since that time, the sales have turned from tables to wagons, and do not forget the 2-story barn and the house that keeps expanding.
“I grew up next door, and I would have tables. Then I went to wagons, then more wagons and more wagons. I think it is up to 47 or 48 wagons. Plus, the 32×64 ft. barn out in back with 2 floors, with furniture and décor, and the house,” explained Porter.
The house has continued to expand as Porter has used Laraway House Movers to add whole houses to his already rambling structure. “It’s a sickness,” chuckled Porter. “I’ve got my eyes on another one that no one has lived in for a number of years. I just don’t know where I would put it.”
Calls come in asking Porter to empty a structure because the people must move in a hurry or relatives have passed but they do not have time to empty the house and/or barn then prepare it for sale. Porter will pay for the contents, gather his team and an appropriate number of trailers, then move the treasurers from the house to his barn. Once at the farm, Porter organizes the plunder from the trailers to wagons in preparation for the next sale.
Over the years, sales have changed. “What used to sell and bring big money is worth almost nothing now. Victorian furniture is only worth 25-30 cents on the dollar from what it was 35-40 years ago. Dishes are the same thing. The young kids hang little on the walls, so they do not want pictures, many just throw mattresses on the floor so bedroom sets are not in demand. Few want dining room furniture. It is a challenge to sell stuff,” reflects Porter. “Even antiques are pretty cheap right now.”
What do shoppers want? “Kitchen items still sell well. Little trinkets and some furniture sell slowly. Twin or double beds are not wanted while queens or kings are, but many houses won’t take a king because the rooms aren’t big enough,” reflects Rich. “Yet on any given weekend, I will sell 25-30 wagons to stuff. Bedding, towels, and soft articles will sell if you don’t put too much on them. Tools sell good, but not the electric tools because everyone wants the cordless styles.”
On any holiday weekend, the field to the east of the wagons is packed with vehicles. Porter shared that many of the items on the wagons are pieces you might not find at a sale, so there are still some neat finds because these are things that people do not want any more.
A memorable job garnered 19 or 20 trailer loads from a house and barn. The man was never married and had a good job. When he wasn’t working, he was shopping. If he ran into something on sale, he would decide to purchase it. Then, he would figure that he should get half a dozen of them. He had numerous sets of Craftsman tools. He had 4 or 5 sets of screw drivers. He would bring the article home then pile them in the barn. The tools were never opened or used.
The man had 50 or 60 VCRs that he purchased when they were being replaced by DVD players. They were brand new and in their original boxes. He had like 200 brand new furniture clamps or wrenches.
“It took me two or three years to go through all the things I got from that job,” chuckled Porter.
“After every sale, I will go through what is left on the wagons. Many pieces, I put on a wagon or two. I pull those wagons out next to the road and they are emptied off in a couple days. I do not even need to place a Free sign on them,” interjected Porter. “Before I get out of sight, cars are stopping to take items.”
Approximately 8 to 10 wagons will be put out with free articles after this sale. Porter knows his business. He already has two houses to clean out in the near future. Many of the items chosen for the free wagons will be replaced by items he will bring home from the jobs. It is best to pass off the items and replace them with fresh pieces.
A key to what sells depends on knowing what people will buy and how much they will pay. So many individuals want to pay $10 or $15 for a piece that sells in stores for $100.
As a high school graduate, Porter worked at Harding’s for 11-12 years then quit. He spent time getting auctions ready for Tink Brown, doing odd jobs, and farming a little bit. The house cleanout jobs keep him busy cleaning out, sorting, and organizing wagons. Porter’s response to a question on retirement is, “Depends on when I die.”
In the meanwhile, treasurer hunters are welcome to come to 3333 108th Avenue, Allegan, MI. Wander the yards and examine the wagons, enter the back barn and investigate the 2 floors of furniture and decorations, or wander through the 19-bedroom house to discover the many articles on display.
For the last 57 years, Rich Porter has proven that “one man’s junk is another man’s treasurers.” Those attending the Labor Day sale may just find that treasure that has eluded them in the past.