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Trudging through a parking structure to find treasures galore at Royal Oak’s annual garage sale


Royal Oak was a hot spot for treasurer hunters at its 38th annual garage sale. Great stuff! Great finds! Great fun! I just had to go. So I headed out for the Center Street Parking Structure in the heart of the city.

019_19Now this was a garage sale … of humongous proportions. Held near the very heart of the city it has become a tradition for people to spend two days in July patronizing the more than 200 artisans, vendors and even local businesses in the multi-level parking garage. It’s one of the largest garage sales in the Metro Detroit area and a great way to get that one-of-a-kind homemade piece of jewelry, craft or amazing piece of artwork at a bargain price.

I found a fortune teller, statures of gargoyles, Depression era glass, sewing machines, sports memorabilia lamps, fudge and a young entrepreneur who guarantees his new product will stop those burns you get taking things out of the microwave.

Between 12,000 -14,000 people trekked through the parking structure over the two-day event … and they stopped by shops in the area or ate at nearby restaurants, which also boosts the local economy.

This garage sale is used by the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce to raise money for its work in the community.

Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shelly Kemp (center) and friends

Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shelly Kemp (center) and friends

“I love the fact that the Royal Oak community comes out to support this very Royal Oak event,” said Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shelly Kemp while reflecting on the impact of the event. “We were the first garage sale in a parking structure in the entire area.”

Over the years many regulars have shown up. They sell many different things, ranging from deer foot lamps and used nuts and bolts to comic books and sports memorabilia to specially designed objects.  Even a palm reader has showed up in the past few years.

Todd Bauswell and The Cool Grip

Todd Bauswell and The Cool Grip

One of the best examples of how successful this annual happening has gotten is the story of entrepreneur Todd Bauswell.

The Cool Grip

The Cool Grip

Bauswell took this year’s sale as an opportunity to introduce the world to his invention, The Cool GripThe Cool Grip is a microwave tray that does not heat up when cooked in the microwave or when hotter items are put inside it.  Aside from the preventing burns it also has basin surrounding the place where the bowl, plate or what have you is placed in case of boiling over.  Bauswell says it is easier to handle … a person with a cane can even carry it.

Bauswell decided to unveil his creation at the garage sale after a friend and regular attendee told him how good business was at the event.  Aside from just starting to sell the item in the area this Southeast Michigan local also manufactures it here.  That’s right, this up and coming Michigan native actually built it in our state.  The Cool Grip is available at

Of course it is the long timers who help keep the event going.   Most who can boast a decade or more of history with the sale praise the relations made and people watching done.  And, of course, the extra money made.

One of the regular dealers is Joe Mann, who comics and collectibles, but most notably comics.  Mann certainly seemed to make a point of enjoying it, while talking to several patrons.  He also likes to share the wealth, as it were.  Mann doesn’t own a comic book shop. All the comics he sells are from his personal collection so sometimes he runs short. When this happens he is sure to tell people looking for specific issues about comic stores in the area they may want to try. That’s the Detroit way!

Mann also tells those looking to unload older and perhaps pricier books about where they may be able to get a fair price.

One big thing for Mann is trying to bring in new comic readers through cheap pricing, which helps grow the area’s fandom.

Larry Willenborg and his sports memorabilia

Larry Willenborg and his sports memorabilia

Larry Willenborg, who sells sports memorabilia, is a 10-year-veteran of the sale. With such a long history with the show he has developed a relationship with those the running event and says they are all great people.  While taking part in his hobby of watching the crowds he sells items (some common, some seemingly less so) with the sports teams of Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Ohio State, the Lions, Red Wings and Tigers.  And he always makes sure to have at least one or two new items.

From the beginning there has been Beth Kolman, who, by her own admission, sells a little bit of everything.  She searches out unusual things and sets out antiques, movie magazines, furniture, some toys, and plenty of other things at the sale.  Kolman truly represents the traditional meaning of garage sale.

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And the fortune teller

This sale seemed to go beyond the traditional garage sale.  There were a wide variety of businesses, including a fortune teller who was on their fourth year involved with the sale, and said that the constant foot traffic and large numbers really helps her find those interested in a reading.

One of the longest running supporters of the event has been the Kiwanis Club, which has been setting up shop at the sale since the very beginning.  The Kiwanis give money made right back to the community, which has taken many forms over the years. Most recently the dollars went to the public library’s Reading Is Great program to provide books for the child-based reading program.

The Chamber of Commerce also provides discounts for non-profits that set up shop to raise money.  Among the ones that showed up to help raise funds was the public library.

As I said … Great stuff! Great finds! Great fun! Great fun!

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One comment on “Trudging through a parking structure to find treasures galore at Royal Oak’s annual garage sale

  1. I missed the event, but I think it would have been a sad experience for many onlookers who ever went to the garage.

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