SELMA — Small-business owner Tommy Abdalla envisions a day when vendors line U.S. 301 from Virginia to Georgia, hawking everything from secondhand clothing to antique furniture. For a few days each year, it would become an endless yard sale similar to one running along U.S. 127 from Michigan to Alabama every August.
But for now, he’ll have to start small.
Johnston County officials are planning a 30-mile yard sale along U.S. 301 on June 14 and 15. They plan to help vendors set up booths from Kenly to Benson, hoping to capture some of the magic of the 690-mile sale along U.S. 127.
Abdalla, who has been going to the 127 Sale the past eight years, said it’s a great place to find cheap, rare and occasionally exotic items. In addition to the furniture, clocks and assorted knickknacks you’d expect to find at a yard sale, he’s stumbled upon diver’s helmets and vintage airplane propellers.
His best find was a casket with a viewing window from the 1800s. He sold it to Bentonville Battlefield, and it was used in one of their annual Civil War re-enactments.
“It’s really kind of exciting because you never know what you’ll find there,” he said. “It’s kind of like a treasure hunt.”
He brought it to the attention of Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver, who’s now leading the charge to bring it to Johnston County.
It seemed like a natural fit for Selma, a local antiques hotspot and for U.S. 301, Abdalla said.
“We just thought it would be great for this area, especially since it’s like an endless yard on 301 anyway,” he said.
But there are a lot of loose ends to tie up before organizers can make it happen. Oliver said she’s been working with town leaders, law enforcement and the Johnston County Visitors Bureau on logistics.
Work to do
First, they’ll need to work with property owners along the route. In Smithfield, for example, their permit will depend on property owners’ consent.
Oliver said she has organized a series of community meetings, held the third Thursday of each month in the Lampe Building in Smithfield, to talk about it.
“I’ve received only positive feedback,” she said. “Everybody’s saving up their goods to put up.”
The mayor said she’s looking for property owners who will lend or donate space to vendors. Organizers won’t set rates, but they’ll help the two sides get in touch.
Oliver said she isn’t worried about traffic or parking, either – U.S. 301 runs parallel to Interstate 95, offering an alternate route for most drivers. Side streets and open land could provide parking.
The idea still has to go through the town of Smithfield. The planning department will present it to the town council next month.
Town Planner Paul Embler said he sees no problem with it, as long as property owners will cooperate. Traffic shouldn’t be a problem on a weekend, he said.
“We’ve got basic services we’ve got to maintain, but I wouldn’t think the traffic concern is any worse on any workday,” Embler said. “301 is heavily trafficked during the week, and during the weekends it backs way off.”
Abdalla and Oliver are already dreaming big.
Abdalla said U.S. 301’s proximity to I-95 makes it the ideal location for a multistate megasale.
“The potential is limitless,” he said.
Oliver has her sights set a little lower. She’s hoping to spread the idea to other counties along the highway and make it statewide. Either way, it would help put Johnston County on the map.
“I hope years from now, we can have the claim to fame to being the birthplace of the 301 yard sale,” she said.