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Bargains and Personal Stories Found at City Wide Garage Sale

Bargains and Personal Stories Found at City Wide Garage Sale

Standing in the driveway of her childhood home on the corner of Santa Cruz and Cabrillo Streets, Niamh Conlon stood behind display tables arranged with margarita drinking glasses, stacks of dinner plates and cookbooks. All were for sale this past Saturday. She said it took her two hours to set up.

But, really, she’d been preparing for the garage sale ever since her recent move back to Santa Clara after spending a few years in Seattle and Saratoga. The Santa Clara native, a former Aquamaid and alumna of Santa Clara University, admitted that while it was hard to get rid of things. “You always have an emotional connection”, she said. Moving into a smaller space, forced her to let go of “what I didn’t need.”

While she didn’t mind selling off the set of champagne flutes that commemorated the first $100 million quarter at the tech company where she worked–she was asking for a mere quarter each – it was harder to part with a childhood Minnie Mouse puzzle that she said she actually tried putting together before the sale.


According to Lina Prada-Baez at the Santa Clara Department of Public Works, Conlon’s was just one of the 237 households that registered for the now biannual city-wide Garage Sale, which took place on August 13, also National Garage Sale Day.

Longtime residents Mary Ann and Ruben Sotelo held their sale on the driveway of their home on Monroe Street, near Wilcox High School. The Sotelos are regulars at the Capitol Flea Market in San Jose, where Ruben said he’s known as the “Bike Man,” because he collects and resells vintage bikes from the 1930s and 1940s.

On Saturday, Ruben was on his driveway hawking vintage Schwinn pedals ($40) and bullet headlamps ($25). But the inside of his garage was a strict “Not For Sale” zone. It’s where he keeps a bike he built for his wife more than twenty-five years ago and a vast collection of scale models of vintage cars, old soda pop machines, and sci-fi action figures, including one of Mexican cinema icon Cantinflas.

A regular at other garage sales, Ruben said, “If all I see is clothes,” he then turns to his wife and says, “Let’s go.” His wife agreed that he’s more of a collector; and when forced to go through a box of items to sell off, he’ll take out one thing and insist on keeping the rest.

At the citywide sale two years ago, Mary Ann said she bought a basket from a neighbor. When asked what she planned on using it for, she mentioned her backyard vegetable garden. The neighbor offered to pay Mary Ann for some of her produce, but she wouldn’t hear of taking any money and generously presented their neighbor with the corn, tomatoes and other vegetables they had grown that year.

Conlon said she and her family have participated in past city wide garage sales. This past weekend, among the cookbooks and Janet Evonavich bestsellers, they set out a pair of costume wigs in both blonde and black, baseball caps and a box of candles, which were free. “Some of them have been used,” Conlon explained with a shrug. Not that it mattered to one customer who said, “You never when the power is going to blow out.”

When another customer asked about the price for the tins that Conlon used to pack with holiday cookies she made with her mother, Conlon offered them for twenty-five cents each.

“Now that’s a sale,” the buyer said, digging for change in her pocket.


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