The 110-mile route of the second annual Highway 21 Road Market Sale kicked off this weekend, drawing crowds to the Elkin/Jonesville area in search of bargains and rare finds.
The event, which began on Friday morning, drew crowds of sellers and buyers from surrounding counties just to participate in the event. Retired Navy soldier Eric Mullinex displayed several of his items just off of North Bridge Street in downtown Elkin. Specializing in knives, flags, and many other items, Mullinex typically operates his booth at surrounding flea markets. “I just do it to have something to do since I’m retired military,” said Mullinex, a native of the North Wilkesboro area.
Other attendees that opted to set up their makeshift shop for the weekend include area residents Carolyn and Gilbert Everhart. While the couple are regulars of the weekend markets, they chose to take the opportunity to set up a day early, hopefully welcoming customers they may not typically see. “It feels good out here now, but we’ll see after 2 o’clock,” said Carolyn as she anticipated the heat from the day under their shade tree.
The parking lot and areas surrounding the Antiques and Collectibles Mall was packed with vendors and shoppers eager to see so many items in one place. Store employee Doug Berry and owners Rickey Roberts and Teresa Houston planned ahead for the event, inviting vendors from local flea markets to set-up shop on his property, ensuring large crowds would visit the downtown area. “I’m hopeful this will be a good year because last year the town wouldn’t allow it,” said Berry.
Berry, who has worked many years as a picker of antiques, was able to share stories about several items that are outdated by modern standards, including a particular bottle-cap re-sealer made from metal at the tent belonging to Mullinex. “We were out picking one time and these guys told me how they used one of these to put moonshine in bottles, add coloring and then put the cap back on,” said Berry. “No one ever knew the difference.”
All along Highway 21 were rare finds, having been stored in basements for years. As shoppers drove down the road, yard sale signs and items were sporadically littering the yards, often with four to five cars parked out in front from those who arrived earlier. Clothing, furniture and many other items were available during the yard sale.
Planning for the event went on for weeks prior to the weekend sale, with yard sale buyers and sellers having been waiting eagerly for the Road Market Sale. The sale, which began in Wytheville, Virginia, at its northern end, continued 110 miles to its southern end in Harmony.
Elkin and Jonesville town officials have been working for the last few months to help promote the event, a longtime dream of D.W. Miles of Alleghany County. Started as part of his “Take a Break from the Interstate” endeavor, the Road Market Sale began as a multi-state cooperative spearheaded by tourism leaders in North Carolina and Virginia.
Miles said he hopes people traveling the highway for the Road Market Sale will decide to travel it more all the time. “After the interstate was built, we lost a lot of traffic,” he said, “and our small businesses suffered because of it.”
“It says a lot about our town when there’s always something to do when you come in looking for some entertainment,” said Laura Gaylord, Elkin’s Main Street and community manager.
Jonesville Town Clerk Lynn Trivette, who had been promoting the event for the town and counting down the days as a returning shopper, said Wednesday that she couldn’t wait for the Road Market Sale to begin. “People in Jonesville seem to be excited about it,” she said. “We have given all the posters out.”
“We like to stop and chit-chat so sometimes we get caught up in places longer than we plan to.”
Though she loves shopping, Trivette said the Road Market Sale also offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the beauty along Highway 21, discover neat places and meet new people. While she and her husband were planning to pack a picnic lunch to eat along the way, Trivette said they want to return to a country store they discovered on the route last year, where people sit out in their parking lot and eat hot dogs.
“That’s definitely one place we’re going back to,” she said. “We didn’t know it existed.”
Trivette said the Road Market Sale is a win-win for everybody involved. Shoppers have 110 miles of yard sales and festivals, businesses located along the route benefit from people stopping by and people get to discover the tourist offerings along the route.
Karen Holbrook may be reached at 336-258-4059 or on Twitter @KarenHolbrook00.