Saturday morning does not exist for many students. Save
ambitious morning-person types, weekends tend to undergo a temporal
shift that pushes morning into afternoon, allowing space for the
sweet indulgence of sleeping in. But another type of indulgence
— super-affordable shopping — is operating in Ann Arbor
at, and only at, this cherished time. Some students are sacrificing
their Saturday morning winks to join other Ann Arborites at the
Kiwanis Club’s weekly rummage sale.

Janna Hutz
Patrons, like Carrisa Wilder, search through boxes and shelves of goods to find their perfect match at the weekly Kiwanis sale. (ASHLEY HARPER/Daily)
Janna Hutz
Jud Branam enjoys the sales at Kiwanis on Saturday morning. (ASHLEY HARPER/Daily)

Next door to the Blind Pig, the Kiwanis Club sits at the corner
of First and Ashley streets. Once a week — Saturdays from 9
a.m. to noon — the building is transformed into the site of
Ann Arbor’s largest garage sale. The front doors open to a
periphery of stacks and shelves of books and records on the right,
men’s pants and winter coats on the left, and bargain
shoppers and yellow-clad volunteers all over. The shoppers are
digging through boxes of sweaters, examining strands of pearls and
trying on ice skates; the volunteers are wrapping wine glasses in
tissue paper and ringing up purchases.

And everybody is talking. It’s not just the early time of
day that makes such communication and enthusiasm striking —
discourse between customer and clerk, or even customer and customer
or clerk and clerk, has lately become so reduced to businesslike
politeness that it is rare to observe genuine interaction in a sale
situation.

This level of friendliness makes sense when considering the
concept of the sale. Essentially a recycling center, Kiwanis
collects items from donors who want to get rid of old stuff, sells
these items at very low prices, and contributes whatever profits
are generated to organizations around the community. So, the sale
provides a service to the donors, the buyers and the city.

It is this concept of community that attracts, and keeps, many
volunteers. Upstairs in an electronics area, a newer volunteer
— he’s been working at the sale for six months —
is standing behind a huge shelf of turntables and 8-tracks, but the
item catching his fancy today is an early-’90s white boom box that
also functions as a mirror. As he tries to sell this $5 item he
explains that, a frequent shopper, he finally decided to sign on as
a volunteer when he learned that the profits are donated.

Adelaide Laetz is standing toward the back of the first floor,
pricing an order. There are four large candles, the two biggest
ones in glass holders. The total is 65 cents. As she wraps up the
purchase, Laetz, who has been working at the sale since 1982,
explains, “We like it here. We find it very rewarding. All of
our funds that we make go right back into the community …
We’re helping people to get things that they need at a very
economical price, and we make wonderful friends here.”

Volunteers like Laetz who have been at Kiwanis for a long time
have witnessed the evolution and success of the rummage sale. The
sale began in 1927, nearly 80 years ago. At first, the sales
occurred just three times a year and lasted a few days. The sales
took place in the old Armory until this building was purchased in
1970, and huge success prompted weekly sales.

Although many of the volunteers have been working at the sale
for many years, some younger faces can be seen peeking out of the
yellow shirts. Students from Pioneer and Huron high schools
volunteer with Kiwanis through Key Club, and Circle K involves
University students with Kiwanis.

Board of Directors member Dick Bignall encourages relationships
between Kiwanis and local students. “We have a lot of senior
citizens like myself and we tend to think in terms of giving back
to the community, and we’re trying to get schools —
juniors and seniors in high school and University students —
interested in community service some way in their life. Maybe not
today or tomorrow, but down the road somewhere they’ll look
back at their experience working with us and want to be
involved.”

The demographic of the shoppers is changing along with the
volunteers. Spanish and Korean make distinct additions to the
general chatter of the building. Laetz observes, “We have met
people from all over the world. Some of them are here working at
the University and come here to get their apartment
outfitted.”

Fellow volunteer Maryanne Hennigar adds that the concentration
of Russian speakers that she used to notice years ago has been
replaced by Asians, many of them married.

Volunteer Don McEwen, former counselor and track coach at
Pioneer High School, is working at the loading dock. He is not only
loading customers’ furniture into their cars but also unloading
donations for next week’s sale. Bignall had said that prices
have to be as low as they are because there is simply too much
stuff, and now it is clear that he was saying absolutely right.

Already the loading dock is half-full with clothes, furniture,
toys and gadgets that need to be sorted and labeled. McEwen talks
about the economic achievements of the sale — each year,
about a quarter million dollars are donated, and Kiwanis gives
scholarships to students at Washtenaw County schools.

Inside the building, Mary Vonne is looking at puzzles. Another
regular, Mary Vonne, found a puzzle last week of a caste from her
hometown in Germany. She’s back at the shelves this week
because, “there’s always another one, you know. One
that I could send home.”

Kneeling, she pokes around at the different cardboard boxes and
offers her opinion on the sale. “It is completely
nondiscriminatory and you can get everything.” Still
crouching, she suddenly finds a wooden puzzle that will be perfect
for her grandchild. “Look at this!” She stands up and
displays the puzzle. “What is there not to like about this
place?”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *