Downsizing: Rummage sales sprout up around Tahoe |

Downsizing: Rummage sales sprout up around Tahoe

Jeff Munson / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jonah M. Kessel / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE ” The garage sale tradition that comes to life every spring at Lake Tahoe now appears underway, with yard signs sprouting up from Stateline to Meyers over the weekend.

But with a recession that has gripped the nation and much of the region especially hard, the typical rummage sale this season may be more than just a spring cleaning of the closets to get rid of unwanted clothes, VCR tapes, end tables and chairs.

Recent layoffs and downsizing around the region had some selling off their belongings this weekend as families contemplate moving away, coming to terms with layoffs or both.

“Any other time I probably would have given away some of this stuff ” but now, with the economy, every little bit helps,” said Arcelia Melendez, who held a rummage sale at her Al Tahoe home on Saturday.

Melendez and her husband, a casino employee who was recently laid off, have decided to move to Louisiana for jobs. Money raised from the sale will help pay for the move.

The couple have lived at South Shore for 19 years and, with only one of the two with a job right now, long-term employment prospects look better elsewhere. Melendez’s husband has employment experience in payroll and accounting, she said.

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With more people out of work and not many good paying jobs in town, Melendez said there are better prospects around the New Orleans region. With federal money continuing to stream into the state in the aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the prospects of finding jobs in the Big Easy may be better than around Big Blue, she said.

The couple visited New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina and were impressed by the cost of living there and affordable homes outside the city in the suburbs.

“And then Hurricane Katrina happened and so we stayed back hoping things would change here,” she said. “But the thing is that even though housing prices have gone down here, it is still hard to find something nice and affordable.”

A friend told the couple that it would be easier to find jobs in and around New Orleans than in Tahoe because of the construction going on there.

And, more importantly to the couple, they will be able to buy a newer and decent size affordable home.

“We decided to give our notice and move there,” she said. “We love Tahoe but we have to go to where the work is.”

Friend and neighbor Kathy Rodriguez, who was one of 43 people laid off from Barton Memorial Hospital recently, brought items to sell for herself at the Melendez home.

While she said she’s set to receive unemployment benefits, “it doesn’t hurt” to clean the closets and collect a few bucks where she can.

“It’s not like I’m doing this to pay the rent but, yes, when you’re out of work you are faced with questions like, ‘do I really need this any more?’ and ‘what can I part with'” said Rodriguez, who worked at the hospital for four years as a certified nursing assistant.

As of Saturday afternoon, the pair made about $100 to $150 from the sale.

A few blocks over in the same Al Tahoe neighborhood, Valerie Swope was selling an assortment of books, electronics and and gadgets as she and her husband prepare to move. The couple have lived at South Shore for about 15 months and said they are preparing to either head to Tahoe’s north shore or Florida, where both hope to find work in the yachting industry.

For the Swopes, the move is just part of their business, going where the work is. They remain upbeat and happy to have spent time at South Shore where they met some “truly wonderful” people, Swope said.

Like Melendez, any other time the couple would have taken the stuff in their closets to the Goodwill, but, with the economy the way it is, they chose to sell off some of the stuff they don’t use anymore.

“I know there’s a lot of people out there who are struggling, and, that’s why these garage sales are good. You get to meet your neighbors, and, in the process you may be giving them something at a discount that they may not have been able to afford otherwise,” she said.

Between Saturday’s sale and a similar one the couple had last week, they’ve made nearly $400.

“We use it all for the move,” she said.

Even secondhand stores such as Bargains Galore in South Lake Tahoe are seeing more customers and repeat customers, in large part, because of the economy.

Many customers are folks who are directly affected by the economy and are choosing to save money by buying used clothing and furniture instead of new, said store owner Lynda Shaver.

The store doesn’t buy its goods but instead relies on donations, which they turn around and sell at discount prices.

As part of a Greater Good community service, Shaver works with the South Tahoe Women’s Center and Christmas Cheer to provide vouchers for families in need.

“We’ve seen a lot of people come in and we’re seeing them come in more than once,” Shaver said. “There are so many people without jobs, who are looking for work, and still need to find clothes for their kids, or coats for themselves.”

The store occasionally offers “Stuff a Bag Day” where anyone can fill a bag provided by the store for $3. The idea is to do things like the bag day to keep their prices low and keep people coming in the doors, either buying or bringing in merchandise.

And the community has been receptive, both by the number of givers and bargain hunters.

“We get stuff that people aren’t selling at their garage sales that they want to get rid of; and we have a number of people who will bring in name brands that have only been worn a couple times, but that they no longer wear.

“This is a place for the community, where people can be able to afford things,” Shaver said. “If someone comes in and only has $6 for a coat and the price says $8, and they really want that coat, my attitude is, what’s $2 anyway if they need and want it.”

Bargains Galore is located at 927 Tallac next to Napa Auto Parts.