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Treasure hunt

Affordable ‘finds’ at flea market benefit the greater good

Created date

April 26th, 2011

Any seasoned flea market shopper will tell you the secret to finding the best picks is to get there early. The Treasure Sale at Charlestown, an Erickson Living community in Catonsville, Md., is no exception. Jewelry, linens, china, glassware, kitchenware, electronics, clothing, books, lamps, furniture, and collectibles go fast once the doors open. The saying the early bird catches the worm holds true for the Treasure Sale. That s when I always find the best items, says Rose Sands, volunteer coordinator at Charlestown. Sands collects birds, snowmen, and teacups and says her first stop is always at the collectibles table. You can really find some bargains, she says. I ve found some nice stuff like a 100-piece rose color china set, a La-Z-Boy recliner, toaster, vacuum cleaner, lamps, pictures, and lots more over the years. Mary Evans, community resources manager at Charlestown, agrees. You never know what you ll find, she says. I ve bought Sterling Silver objects, Limoges, Waterford, Lenox, and Belleek all for a fraction of what they re worth.

Price check

Leona Willard is in charge of collectibles for the Treasure Sale. Willard, a volunteer who is not a collector herself, recently purchased a laptop computer to help her research the prices of collectibles sold at her table. This is my first laptop, says Willard. I like the fact that I can take it anywhere. I ve been able to access websites like Lenox for price comparisons, which has been a big help. Willard says she can generally look at items and from experience get a good idea of what they cost retail. We try to make the price one-quarter of whatever it sold for originally, says Willard. When people find something they want or that they ve been searching for at such an affordable price, they get really tickled, she says. Run by an army of 180-plus community volunteers, the three-day sale, which runs three times a year, is similar in many ways to a flea market with one twist all of the items for sale come from donations, and all of the proceeds are donated to various clubs and organizations in the community. In 2010, the Treasure Sale made more than $160,000. For me, knowing that the money I spend goes back into the community is just the icing on the cake, says Sands. To help manage the large number of donations they receive, additional clothing sales are held throughout the year, as well as a dedicated furniture store located on the terrace level of Charlestown s Herbert s Run neighborhood. Tom Showe has managed the furniture store for more than a decade. When my wife and I first moved to Charlestown we began volunteering with the Treasure Sale and I ended up in the furniture department, says Showe. They asked if I would be interested in opening a store to sell the furniture in year-round. I said I would give it a try for a few months, but I really didn t think there was that big a market for used furniture. Twelve years later, here I am, he says.

As good as new

The store which normally carries an inventory of more than 100 furniture pieces, including sofas, dining sets, beds, and dressers, sells between $25,000 and $30,000 worth of merchandise each year. Since space is at a premium, Showe says he generally only accepts furniture in good condition. We get a lot of nice used furniture in the store and resell it at a good deal, says Showe. You can get a nice three-cushion sofa for around $90. But we re very particular about what we accept. I use the philosophy if I wouldn t buy it, we won t take it. The furniture store is open to the public every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Showe says they have a regular following of people who come in at least twice a month. I see people shopping for furniture for their sons or daughters who are going away to college or newly married couples just starting out in a new house or apartment, says Showe. They know they can come here and get nice things at a reasonable price. A space program retiree, Showe says he never imagined that he would be working in a furniture store after he retired, but says he enjoys knowing in some small way he s making a difference in people s lives. I m a person who can t sit still, says Showe. I was determined to get involved with something when I moved to Charlestown. I m happy to be part of this wonderful organization that gives back to so many people. All in all, if you could add up the number of people the Treasure Sale benefits, the numbers would be astronomical.