Seventy-four-year-old Jackie Conroy stood in her garage Wednesday off the frontage road near South Sixth Street in Brainerd looking at all the antique furniture and other vintage collectibles.
And not just a few collectibles. A person could hardly walk through Conroy's garage because there were so many items that fill the entire garage floor, shelves and the walls on three sides. It was a big chore to organize it all. It usually takes three days with her husband, Leo, 79, to prepare for another garage sale.
If you're an active garage sale shopper and you've been in south Brainerd, you most likely have stopped at the Conroy home. They have between five to six garage sales a year, depending on how much merchandise they have. The garage sale they're having through Saturday will be their fourth sale this year.
Currently, not only is the garage full of sale items, but the Conroy's basement also is full. Once the items at a garage sale sell, the couple brings up more stuff for the customers to look at.
Jackie Conroy of Brainerd has purchased boxes upon boxes of linens over the years to resell at garage sales. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"Many times someone will ask us what else we have or what we have stored in the basement," said Jackie. "Or they'll ask us if we have a certain item because they know we most likely may have it."
Having garage sales started out as a small hobby for the retired couple. The Conroys began collecting antiques and collectibles in the early '80s to fill their own home. They went to auctions and garage sales for the vintage treasures and began refurbishing the ones that needed work. By the late '80s, the Conroys had so many antique treasures they began selling them. They started out by having one or two garage sales a year and it progressed from there.
The Conroys, who moved to Brainerd in 1999, said the fun part of their hobby is the people they meet at the garages sales and the auctions. The Conroys go to auctions in the Brainerd lakes area and other parts of the state and the area auctioneers know them from their frequent visits.
"One time we were just about to leave an auction because we were tired and didn't want to wait," Jackie said. "Then the auctioneer said, 'Hey Brainerd, don't leave yet, we're doing the furniture next.'
"Then at our garage sales we have a lot of elderly who come in just to see the old stuff to reminisce and others just stop by to say hello."
Leo and Jackie Conroy of Brainerd have been refurbishing antique furniture since the late '80s. It started as a hobby and now the Conroys have a house and garage filled with their collectibles that they sell at garage sales during the summer. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
The Conroys, who have been married for 55 years, mainly sell antique furniture, but they began selling newer furniture for younger families.
The Conroys keep busy all year restoring their antiques. They do everything from refurbishing an antique dresser to replacing a chair's upholstery. Leo's in charge of stripping the antiques and Jackie refurbishes them. They said some items take longer to refurbish than others, but they enjoy the work. The couple learned how to do the work through hands-on experience and with help from an expert.
"Today it's a lot easier to strip something then it was back then," Leo said.
Once the Conroys are finished restoring an item they mark it right away so they don't forget how much they paid for it. The couple said they base their prices off how much they paid for the item and how much work they put into it.
The Conroys don't have any plans to retire from the garage sale business anytime soon.
"If we didn't have these garage sales to keep us busy we'd go nuts," Jackie said.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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