WARRENSBURG, N.Y. (NEWS10) – This weekend, you’re going to have a hard time driving through the town of Warrensburg. Over 500 tables and tents will be set up along Main Street, spanning over a mile of collectibles, curios and curiosities, for the World’s Largest Garage Sale.
As of midday Friday, though, things weren’t so bad. Many vendors were still setting up tables along the Warrensburg riverfront, by the bridge into town, and up near the churches and local businesses of the community. More were out with their wares already, though, from used vinyl records to plush characters from “Pokemon” and other animated shows. Some of the earliest starts on the weekend go to the local Main Street businesses that take part – which is good when you have to set thousands of books out in your driveway.
“Last time I counted – which was about 12 years ago – we had around 16,000 books, so I would imagine it’s well above that now,” said Thomas Duffy, owner of Maple Tree Books, sitting in front of rows of John Grisham thrillers and harlequin romance. “It’s nice seeing people finding the book they’ve been looking for for years – like, ‘Oh, here it is!'”
Those books run all the way alongside the store, into a garage behind the small building that Duffy has operated since 2006. Stephen King novels are always a top seller, along with romance authors like Nora Roberts. There are also writers like John Dickson Carr, author of “The Hollow Man,” who still have their fanatics decades after their death.
When you’re a year-round local business, an event like the World’s Largest Garage Sale is a huge part of your year. Duffy estimates that as much as a third of his business for the year comes from the weekend alone. Warrensburg isn’t a tourist destination in the way that nearby Lake George is. Year-round traffic passes through, on its way to and from the further reaches of the Adirondacks, but the Garage Sale is just about as busy as things get.
While some sellers specialize, others generalize. Peter Cassidy has been coming to sell in Warrensburg for around 20 years. In front of an old row of defunct motel buildings rimming a gravel parking lot, he and a friend sell antiques, records, old video games, silverware, and just about anything else you could imagine. And how does he maintain the variety?
“One of the other things that I do is I clean out houses and do estate sales,” said Cassidy, who lives in the Westchester County village of Ossining. “They’re like treasure hunts. You really get to know the people, and the house, and the history, and everything else.”
A fair share of that “history and everything else” winds up along Cassidy’s quarter-circle of tables. Vinyl records have become his biggest seller in recent years, as interest in record collecting has grown in general. Another popular category is paper – everything from framed artwork to loose sheet music.
Not everyone in Warrensburg this weekend is selling secondhand goods. For a select few, the World’s Largest Garage Sale is a place to show off their own hard work, through handmade goods that use skills honed over years. Artisan Lyle Coolidge was set up on Friday with a full display of his crafts, which use a mix of tile, wood and hardware, all under the business name “Tile By Lyle.” It all comes from a 12-year bank of expertise, and a constant desire to keep trying something new.
“I really enjoy doing the Adirondack thing,” Coolidge explained, while standing in front of a handmade bathroom vanity decorated with deer antlers and colorful pieces of tile. “At a place like this, I feel like I’m coming in and bringing something new.”
And new he brings. On the wall of his display, handsaws hung, decorated with scenes made out of tile. A set of cabinets stood framed with pinecones, decorated in the center with a holographic wolf that looks you in the eyes from almost any angle. That’s one of his favorites.
Cooldige stopped to speak with a woman browsing his wares. She asked for his business card, and he directed her to his website and contact info. For someone like Coolidge, those interactions are as important as onsite sales – a market like this is half a networking event. Sure, someone may come by and be ready and willing to buy a large, handcrafted table adorned with tile and feathers on the spot, but many customers benefit from seeing his work live, and then going home to think about how it would fit in their own space.
“That’s how I sell my work,” Coolidge explained. “If you see my work online, you can envision a backsplash of my tile work in your home, but if you come here and see these, and how one-of-a-kind they are, it’s a whole other story.”
The World’s Largest Garage Sale runs from morning to sundown, from Friday, Sept. 30, to Sunday, Oct. 2. For those coming to visit town and shop, free parking is offered at the nearby Warren County Fairgrounds, with a shuttle running from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. between there and downtown.
Cassidy started selling at flea markets when he was just 10 years old in Ossining. He’s been in the game for over 50, and in the 20 years that he has come to Warrensburg, he says the “World’s Largest” is a bit smaller than it used to be. That’s not because of COVID-19, as you may be quick to guess. He says that changes in what people are interested in, and where they go to get it, have changed the scale a bit. But that doesn’t change the energy as he sees regulars who have come to visit year after year.
“As long as the weather holds, it still attracts a lot of people. It makes a lot of difference.”