Bargains Galore on 64 kicks off 160-mile garage sale

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 116 views 

story and photos by Marla Cantrell
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Just outside Alma, a fiberglass lemon the size of a garden shed stands beside a black and silver ski boat. Nearby, a catering wagon waits for its first customers. The owners fan themselves beneath an awning attached to a blue and white RV.

This menagerie is just part of the glory that is Bargains Galore on 64, which officially opens tomorrow (Aug. 12), and runs through Aug.14.

For 11 years, 160 miles of roadway from Fort Smith, past Conway, to Beebe, have been transformed into a treasure hunter’s Mecca during the hottest month of the year. The savvy vendors don’t wait for an official opening date; they are already open.

“I had my first sale last night at about 9:30,” Marla Keady, who lives near Dyer, said. “We’ve done this for a long time. I just box up the kids clothes, and the other stuff we want to sell. Then we put up this tarp and these tables and we’re ready to go.”

Keady is also selling cans of soda, iced down in the blue chest by her cash box. Her drink business is brisk. She makes between $500 and $1,000 every year just by selling things her family has outgrown, or no longer needs. A mile down the road, where the giant lemon is drawing in lemonade customers, dozens of vendors are setting up in the 103-degree heat.

Gail Cook, from Muldrow, has a spot near the highway.

“I work for an auction service in Van Buren,” Cook said. “And my dad, who’s 80, goes to garage sales all year. They’re old, my parents, all they only have a little income, so I help out this way. … I love to mess with old stuff. I rebuild old furniture.”

In just two hours, Cook had made $100.

“It’s my first year,” Cook said. “The lady who owns this land is so good and she takes the money we give her for rent and gives it to a children’s hospital.”

As Cook priced old furniture, dinged-up lunch boxes, and antique glassware, a man in a Hawaiian shirt stepped out of a pickup with California tags. He spotted an air compressor, just past a 1950s table covered in deer antlers, and headed toward it.

“This one is a great find,” he said to the man traveling with him. “Here that hum?” he asked and reached for his wallet.

There’s no concrete way to know how much money the thousands of little stands bring in. However, Linda Hines, the coordinating director for Bargains Galore on 64, does have some idea.

Hines said a 2004 economic impact study by University of Ozarks Professor Robert Wofford studied the effects of the annual event in Ozark.

“At that time, his research concluded that the 3-day event in Ozark netted approximately $71,634, originating from direct vendor performance sales, local hospitality services, and miscellaneous sundry services,” Hines said. “From a modest multiplier of 2.67, it was concluded that the real value created approximately $191,263 for the confines of Ozark. That’s big money for a town of 3,600 people.”

Hines said the study also estimated 30,000 people shopped in Ozark during Bargains Galore on 64, and approximately 10% made purchases.

Add to that the restaurant traffic, hotel reservations, and trips to local stores, and Bargains Galore becomes a cash cow for the multitude of towns along the 160 route.