From the Editor: Garage sale signs have lost their charmEach spring I used to look forward to two things in particular: the gradual greening of the oceans of trees between Cloquet and Duluth and the arrival of the garage sale signs in Cloquet.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Each spring I used to look forward to two things in particular: the gradual greening of the oceans of trees between Cloquet and Duluth and the arrival of the garage sale signs in Cloquet. Like spring flowers, the sale signs would start timidly, with just a few daring to brave the still unpredictable weather at first. Soon enough, their numbers would multiply as summer arrived in the Northland.
It was a special thing, those garage sale corners at the intersections of 14th Street and Carlton and Washington avenues – one of those things that makes you feel at home in a world dominated by chain stores. Locals knew exactly where to go when devising a plan of attack for Saturday morning bargain hunting. The family who owns the home at the corner of 14th and Washington “made lemonade” of a potentially irritating situation by writing down all the addresses each weekend, photocopying them and selling them for a suggested donation of $1. I bought one from a young girl once; another time I remember seeing a jar atop the papers, a touching reminder that we can still trust one another in this small northern Minnesota town.
Yes, there were also negatives about those two corners. Parked cars sometimes made the four-way stops difficult to navigate. People getting out of those parked cars to copy down addresses often failed to look both ways before crossing the street. Irresponsible entrepreneurs didn’t always return to pick up their signs after the sale ended, leaving them to litter the street and sidewalks.
“I’ve been here 22 years and it’s been a long struggle with those high visibility corners,” Assistant Police Chief Terry Hill said at the time. “We received a number of complaints and there have been near misses, because people will pull over or even stop in the traffic lane to look at the signs.”
Therefore, when officials decided in June 2011 that it was time to enforce the ordinance on “postings” –prohibiting signs of any description “in any street boulevard [the grass between the sidewalk and the street] or public alley of the City” – I adopted a wait-and-see attitude.
I’ve waited. I’ve seen. And it ain’t pretty.
Each weekend during the warmer months since then, signs advertising sales perch on top of and inside vehicles parked on the main thoroughfares of Cloquet and Scanlon. Now, rather than pulling over to write down addresses, people simply slow down and read the sign before deciding – usually without signaling – whether or not to follow the trail to that particular sale. These signs are often enormous, brightly colored and secured with swathes of masking tape … and they offer no charm, no sense of community.
I would like to propose a compromise.
Let’s designate the city-owned parking lot west of US Bank and across from the fire/police station as the new “garage sale corner.” People can come and stick their sale signs in the grass between the trees and the parking lot at the west end of the lot (rather than someone’s front yard). Garage sale hunters can safely park their cars and write down – or photograph with their smart phones – the addresses. Because it is a parking area, traffic should not be impacted. Because it is city owned, no homeowner will be inconvenienced.
Nights are colder now, and the days shorter. Rummage sale season is winding down fast. That gives any fellow rummage sale activists at least six months to convince the city council to make an exception to the city’s postings ordinance.
It won’t happen without public input, however, so do your part. Write a letter to the editor, like Bonnie Wallace did this week. Call or email a city councilor or the mayor (see contact information below). Attend a council meeting. Express yourself.