Big Grab Brings Big Bucks

You’ve Been Grabbed –
John Davis, a Fairfield County Museum volunteer, helps Janet Spires of Lexington carry her Big Grab $35 purchase (a mid-century vanity that she plans to refurbish and use as a desk) to her truck. Pelham Lyles, director of the museum, reported that the museum’s ‘back yard shade tree’ sale was a huge success.

On Shoestring Budget, Event Gives Local Merchants Shot in the Arm

BLYTHEWOOD/FAIRFIELD – Friday and Saturday were good days for the shops, restaurants, service stations, hotels and other merchants in Blythewood, Winnsboro and Ridgeway. Long lines of cars and trucks began snaking into the towns early Friday for the annual Big Grab Yard Sale. The vehicles’ occupants arrived with large amounts of cash for two days of non-stop bargaining and buying . . . and bargain and buy they did.

“It was two of the best days of the whole year for us,” said Kristen Stratton, owner of Bits and Pieces Consignment Shop in Blythewood where everything in the store was 25 percent off with some items marked down to half price.

“Us, too,” echoed Liz Humphries, owner of Blythewood Consignment. “Our store was packed both days. It was great.”

“We were slammed on Friday,” reported Christine Fair, owner of Winnsboro’s Cornwallis Tea Room. Tina Johnson, owner of Over The Top in Ridgeway, said she had multiple lines at the checkout counter most of the time both days. “It was way more than I expected. Two great days!”

One church that had a sale booth on Congress Street in downtown Winnsboro reported sales of $4,000 before the booth closed on Friday.

Louise Ruff, 10, cashed in big on the home-baked cookies, brownies and breads she sold at her little sidewalk booth in downtown Ridgeway.

“I made about $200,” she said. “I sold everything my mom and I had baked by noon on Friday, so we had to bake more that evening. And on Saturday I sold everything by mid-afternoon. It was a good day,” she said, quite pleased.

Blythewood’s hotels and fast food restaurants as well as service stations in all three towns reported a significant uptick in business.

Larry Sharpe, owner of three Sharpe Shoppes and the Bojangles in Blythewood said his business during the two days was up 25 percent more than when the Rodeo comes to town.

“Until this, the rodeo gave us our big sales days,” Sharpe said. “But there was lots of foot traffic from The Big Grab, lots of people buying snacks and Bojangles. It’s a good thing for the town’s merchants.”

The Big Grab was advertised online, on radio and in newspapers. Vendors came from as far away as Alabama, and shoppers from as far away as Ohio and Florida.

But for all the business it brings the town’s merchants, it doesn’t get the big bucks of support from the respective town governments that other events do. The Blythewood town government donates $15,000 to the rodeo and similar amounts to the Band and Baseball Tournaments each year. But merchants say those events do not bring as much business to the town during shopping hours as The Big Grab. The Town of Blythewood, which had the greatest number of vendors and shoppers over the two days, donated $1,000. Winnsboro Town government donated $300 and Ridgeway, $175. Vendors paid from $20 to $50 for sponsorships.

Terry Vickers, one of the organizers said the event’s no-frills budget is a little more than $3,000, small for such a large event.

“That has to cover insurance, advertising, portable restrooms and other expenses,” she said.

While he agreed that The Big Grab could benefit from more hands on deck to help with the planning, Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross said, “if the town gets all this and the organizers only need $1,000 from us, I think that is the way we want it to work.”

He said he is going to get some numbers from the restaurants, hotels and merchants for the weekend to see how much the event might have generated over regular weekends here in Blythewood.

“If the numbers come back with increases, we would certainly entertain increasing the amount if they need it,” Ross said.

The brainchild of Blythewood’s Denise Jones who co-owns the Cottonyard Market in Ridgeway, the sprawling yard sale now in its third year covers 43 miles encompassing Winnsboro, Blythewood and Ridgeway. All but the long stretch on Highway 34 from I-77 to the bypass in Winnsboro was fairly solid with yard sales. Vendor tent cities cropped up in several locations between Blythewood and Ridgeway, at times bringing traffic to a crawl.

“But when it slowed down,” said shopper Nadine Branham, “we just got out and shopped!”

Jones expressed her gratitude to the shoppers, the vendors and the sponsors who signed on with financial support.

“It’s a volunteer effort and we are dependent on volunteers for things to run smoothly,” Jones said. “The organizers try to think of ways each year to improve on the previous year.

“The Big Grab provides a big financial boost for our businesses as well as our church and resident vendors,” Jones said. “Plus, it brings a big selection of bargains for shoppers. It’s a win-win for everyone.”