birdflapWatertown’s Sunrise Drive Rummage Sale started in the 1980s, or so we believe.  If anyone knows of the first sale date please let me know so I can update this.  In 2016 we had a customer who told us that she had been coming to the Sunrise Rummage sale for “at least 40 years”.  I have wanted to refer to our sale as “Watertown’s longest-running rummage sale” but haven’t researched this.  I may take a day and visit the Watertown Public Opinion archives to see if I can track down the first advertised sale ad.

When I first started participating there were two sales, one in the Spring and another in the Fall. Somewhere along the way the Fall sale was discontinued.  I have been administrating the sale since the late 1990s which is when the website was first created.  Here is what the site looked like in 2013.  I did a complete facelift of the site in 2015 including the new logo featuring the sun in something that to me looks like a spoon with a butterfly and a ladybug on blades of grass in the forefront.

And here I’ll ramble on… (2016) There are only two items that create out-of-pocket expenses: running the copies of the flyers and the ads in the Coteau Shopper and PO.  I found that UPS runs a pretty good deal of printing and folding 175 flyers for just over $11.  The PO’s Thursday ad containing all the listings is based on column-inches so it works out to be somewhat proportional as we gain or lose participants.  The total PO advertising cost this year was $116.40 so including the flyer printing my outlay was $127.53.  A few participant’s “tipped” me a dollar two so at 21 total participants (counting our own sale) it came out pretty much break-even.  I told of few participants yesterday when I distributed the “Garage Sale” placards that I lost a few bucks this year but it looks like $6 is still the right number so I’ll probably do the same next year.  One year when we had a small surplus I used it to buy professional signs I place at the intersections of 6th Ave and 19th St; 3rd Ave and 13th St and 6th Ave and 11th St.  If we have another surplus some year I will probably buy a fourth sign for 5th Ave and 11th St or some other key location.  One of our signs was stolen in 2010.  I posted up a “please return” plea but never heard what happened to it.

More ramblings:
When we first moved to Watertown in 1985 we HATED rummage sale weekend and would arrange our out-of-town trips to avoid being home during it.  I’m not sure of the exact year where things flipped around and we stayed home and later actually (gasp!) taking part in it but I believe it was in the 1990s which is when I set up the first website.  In 2014 I gave the site a nice makeover and updated the logo.

My son has been hosting the site for free on a server that he wants to decommission so this year (2018) the search will be on to find a new, low-cost host.  I don’t think there are any hosts who allow partial-year website hosting so I will no doubt have to pay for a full year.  In theory I could set up new hosting each year but the amount of work involved isn’t worth the cost savings.

In 2018 I paid for our first ad on Facebook.  I couldn’t find a way to restrict the area of coverage so I had to pay for the ad to be run throughout all of South Dakota.  This didn’t seem right to me but I was in a hurry to get the ad placed so I did it anyway.  As I write this the first day of the 2018 sale I can’t tell if the Facebook ad did any good.  I may take a straw poll of some of our customers to see if they saw the ad.  Facebook’s ad metrics that I downloaded show a lot of data about views but don’t really tell me how effective the ad placement might be.  If anyone reading this knows more about Facebook advertising than I do (which isn’t very much) and is willing to help please contact me.

The Process

The process starts in March when my annual reminder pops up that I need to start considering dates for the upcoming sale.    I usually send out a ‘feeler’ e-mail in early March to see if anyone knows of conflicts for the chosen dates.  We usually try for the first Friday/Saturday in May but also avoid having the sale on the weekend of Mother’s Day which is the second Sunday in May.  In 2016 this meant having the sale the last two days of April, which in my recollection is the first time that has happened.  The weather does what it wants but I always feel responsible somehow if it turns bad.  One year we had rain and sleet so many (most?) of our participants held their sales over for the following weekend.
Once the dates are set I create the flyer to get it ready for distribution.   With DeAnna driving like a half-crazed letter carrier and me stuffing mailboxes it takes us 45 minutes to deliver 170 flyers over the four miles of streets in the area shown on the map.  We had a printing error in 2018 whereupon the previous year’s flyer was printed and distributed, although I had sent the correct PDF to the printing company.  They graciously printed the correct flyer but my son and grandson had already distributed the wrong one.  This was as much my fault as the printing company since I should have proof-read the flyers before handing them out.  DeAnna and I did the drive again and handed out new flyers a couple of weeks later.  This may have actually netted us a few additional participants.  If so I guess it was worth the extra trouble.

A few years ago we extended the area to include a portion of 7th Ave based on a request from a person who wanted to be included on the north side of Harper Park.  A participation fee of $6 per household puts the break even point of the sale at around 20 participants.  The ad placed in the Watertown Public Opinion is the largest cost driver at a little over $100.

We also drive around to distribute posters at as many convenience stores as possible which ends up being around 15.  A few other businesses allow posters so we put those up as well.

The above writings are a work in progress.  I’ll continue adding when time permits.

Dave LeVasseur