This fall we celebrate our 10th Junk Market event. There are few people who know the full story of how (and why) Junk Market began. I thought it might be fun to share it with you today, because you are part of the story. If you have ever attended Junk Market, you have contributed to improving our lives and the lives of all the amazing vendors who work tirelessly to bring you this unique and fun shopping experience. So here it is, The Junk Market Story.
I remember the day well. It was May 19th, 2012. The day was sunny and crisp, and I was SCARED OUT OF MY MIND! I hadn’t slept for a few days because of the nerves, and I was running around like an over-tired toddler who had just had M&Ms for breakfast. I didn’t know up from down, there was some yelling and a few tears. (Sorry Tate)
I had never hosted an event like this. To say I was “winging it” was an understatement.
All I knew was there were 33 vendors in my parking lot (who had arrived at 5am to setup) and they were counting on me to bring them customers.
The entire idea was born out of necessity to save our business and to answer the call I had gotten from so many other women. After we started selling re-purposed furniture and local made items in the store it seemed weekly I would get a call from a local DIYer who would ask if they could sell their goods in Eco Chic.
I was struggling to pay the bills and keep the doors open and was looking to add something to bring in new customers (and some money).
Ok, we weren’t just struggling, we were sinking. We were THREE months behind on rent and the bills on my desk were piling up. WE WERE DESPERATE!
I had recently heard about a few “junking” events around the region and thought “why don’t we have one in Fargo?” This would be a place for those women to sell their items. I scribbled out the math and realized if we could get a couple dozen vendors to come and pay us for booth rental, we could maybe catch up on a bill or two….maybe even pay some rent.
Our landlord Sam Skaff had already been so kind and patient with us, and I was about to ask yet another favor. “Could we host it in the parking lot in front of Eco Chic (for free)?” I couldn’t afford to rent a building and this would help draw attention to the store, along with give us the space we needed for the vendor booths. I wasn’t surprised when Sam said yes. He had given us so much grace, that this additional grace wasn’t a surprise (just because it wasn’t a surprise doesn’t mean we weren’t overflowing, and sometimes still are, with thank-yous). One day I will tell you the entire story of how the Skaff family saved Eco Chic. Without the kindness of Sam Skaff, there would be no Junk Market, Design Conference or Eco Chic Boutique. Period. He could have evicted us many times, but he never did. He supported and encouraged us every step of the way. Thank You Sam!
So now the day was here, and I was scared. What if nobody showed up?! All we did was make a few posts on our Facebook page about this “Junk Market” thing we were doing and prayed that people would come.
I had heard stories of other shows where the customers lined up hours in advance to get in. I prayed they would come…this was our Hail Mary and we needed it to stay in business.
Tate was of course helping outside, my friend Laura Egland had agreed to run the cash register inside the store so I could be outside at our booth. My mom, sister and sister-in-law had come with my nephews and they had set up a cookie and lemonade stand so there was “concessions.” But where were the customers? It was 8:30 and the gate opened at 9am and still NOBODY was here.
I had pulled Tate aside, and the drunk on M&Ms toddler appeared. I was freaking out with worry that it was all going to be a flop. The always calm, not a care-in-the-world Tate told me it would be fine.
NOT FINE! I remember thinking… this was it! Nobody would show up, Eco Chic would close, and we would be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, with four years left on a lease we couldn’t pay. The embarrassment alone would kill me, if the debt didn’t get to me first.
The clock ticked on and only a few lonely souls had wandered into the parking lot.
I got called away and had to go inside the store to take care of something… I wandered outside about 10 minutes later to the call of my name to handle another “emergency”…. as I was facing east looking towards the vendor booths, there was a tap on my shoulder.
It was Tate.
He said, “look,” as he pointed west over my shoulder.
And this is what I saw…..
The line was so long it had started to wrap around the building. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Where had they all come from? It was like they appeared out of nowhere. I started to cry.
It was then when I heard “We’re going to be ok.” I don’t recall which one of us said it, or if it was just my imagination, but I remember right then, knowing it was true. We would be fine. There was lots of work left to do, but this was the sign I needed to know it wasn’t all in vain.
(Full disclosure, this photo wasn’t from our first event, but the view engraved in my mind was very much the same.)
That night Tate and I ordered Chinese food delivered to the house. It was the first time in a LONG time we had splurged on such a thing. The wear and tear of being so broke and struggling for so long, combined with the exhilaration of a successful event, created a tiredness that I hadn’t ever known before.
We could barely keep our eyes open, but there was one thing left to do. We opened the cash box from the days sales and began to count it. The relief of a good day in sales was overwhelming…the urge to cry was strong but I was almost too tired to do so. There, on the living room floor, I counted it out and the final number was an undeniable sign from above.
After deducting the $25 for the Chinese food we were within a dollar of what was needed to pay ALL three months rent.
The signs were all there.
The vendors had had a great day and begged for us to do it again come fall.
The people (the lovely lovely people) had shown up with smiling faces and shopped like crazy and had fun.
Sam Skaff was rewarded for his kindness because rent was getting paid on Monday.
And I slept a full night’s sleep for the first time in a long time.
Yes, the signs were all there and Junk Market was born.
So, if you get a teary eyed welcome from me next weekend, now you know why.