Live from Mass Street: J-W staffers search for deals

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Sunflower Outdoor and Bike mechanic Willie Stein announces deals from atop a makeshift lifeguard chair outside the bike shop during the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale.

Jon: Bizarre bargains, 7:30 p.m.

After taking a break to get out of the heat, I came across a booth outside of Wonder Fair, which had some locally made, hand-drawn comics. I thought my collection of purchases could use some reading material, so I picked up a hilarious comic called “Cat People” for $1.84. Well worth it.

With the temperatures being so sweltering, next thing I targeted was some kind of refreshment. I thought Cosmos, the new Indian goods store new to downtown, would have an unusual selection. I was hoping some kind of a curry soda would be for sale, but a spice soda was close enough. I also picked up a can of an ice cream flavored soda that sounded … interesting. Total: $2.

My last stop of the day was to be Urban Outfitters, which also happened to be my first stop over 12 hours earlier. No lines this time, so I got to sort through the bins of sale items earlier shoppers left behind. I picked up the mug I had my eye on earlier that you not only drink from but that teaches you how to do the robot. $3.49. With the sun setting and me already having a good-sized haul, I was still over $4 short of my $20 budget. I saw a pair aviator sunglasses with American flag lenses at Urban earlier that were $14. They would kill my budget but were tacky enough to be perfect for this project, so I had to have them. I decided just to pay the difference out of my own pocket. They’ll come in handy when rooting for Team USA come Olympics time.
If I learned anything today, it’s that it’s hard to spend $20 on cheap, weird stuff that’s not exactly for everyone. But it’s a challenge I’d love to take up again next year.

Ali: Post-mortem, 6:30 p.m.

Even though I had purchased my $20 worth of items, I decided to venture out one more time after work.

The crowds had calmed down for the most part, but there were still quite a few weathered stragglers.

After sitting in an air-conditioned office at work all day, the still-too-hot weather sent me cowardly sulking back to my car a mere 10 minutes later (Boohoo).

Overall, it was a pretty good day, and I got a quality outfit at a good price. I have to admit, though, I was expecting more bang for my buck as far as deals go. Maybe the discounts on clothing aren’t as steep as some other categories. In any case, I’m pleased will be putting off laundry for at least one more day.

Katie: The good sport, 4:25 p.m.

After a scouting run this morning, I headed back out shopping after lunch.

With only $20, I wasn’t sure I could get much in the way of sporting goods, so I was glad I had looked around.

Here’s what I ended up with:

* Pink sweatband and red and white star bandana, $5, MissFortune’s Creation Station. The bandana satisfies my search for something patriotic to wear during the Olympics.

* Kansas University shirt for $10 at Jock’s Nitch.

At this point, I didn’t think I could find anything else for just $5, so I bought a $10 long-sleeved T-shirt at Sunflower Bike and Outdoors. I also picked up $6 bike gloves for a friend there, but they didn’t have any in my size for that cheap.

But on my way back to work, I decided I to stay true to the $20 budget and picked one more thing, so I’m not counting the previous T-shirt and bike gloves.

* KU hat, $5, Lids. I spied a Kansas State University hat hidden on the $5 rack, if you’re into that sort of thing.

So, in total, I officially spent $20.39 for my work challenge, but with the bike shorts and tea I purchased this morning plus the extra T-shirt and gloves, I spent about $100 of my own money, most of which I would have spent sometime in the near future if not today.

Today’s sales, combined with my previous experiences, reinforced that the most plentiful deals at the sidewalk sale are usually on apparel and accessories, and that goes for athletics-related searches as well.

Sara: Same chair at Sunflower Bike, new guy in it

If you’ve been by Sunflower Bike yet today, you may have noticed that the guy on the pedestal-thingy isn’t the usual guy on the pedestal-thingy.

For the first time in more than 10 years, veteran megaphone-yeller Wade Veazy couldn’t make it. He now lives in Salida, Colo., where he owns his own bike shop, Sunflower owner Dan Hughes says. So, although he has made it the past several third Thursdays in July, it’s kind of a long hike.

But Sunflower still has the infamous chair, and as they do every year, they pulled it out of the basement for the sidewalk sale. This year, though, bike mechanic Willie Stein took the post instead.

“Somebody handed him the megaphone today, and the rest, I think, is history,” said fellow employee Joe Sweet, adding that Stein seems to be doing OK up there. “He’s got a shade umbrella and plenty of water — and he’s full of youthful energy.”

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Sunflower Outdoor and Bike mechanic Willie Stein announces deals from atop a makeshift lifeguard chair outside the bike shop during the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale.

Ali: Outfit complete, and only a dollar over budget, 1:55 p.m.

At 5:30 this morning, my best friend and I walked a bit bleary-eyed into The Gap, which was bumping the Black Eyed Peas over the intercom. Ladies, fresh out of bed and on their first cups of coffee, shook their hips side-to-side and nodded their heads while shuffling through rack upon rack of discounted clothes.

We buzzed through the store quickly with wandering eyes to see if anything immediately jumped out as a “must have.” They had some cool shoes on sale for $10, but this was my first stop! I couldn’t snatch this deal yet.

We made our way down the street and stopped at Miss Fortune’s Creation Station, Sunflower Outdoor and Bike (friend bought some hiking boots for 30% off), Brown’s Shoe Store, Sharks, Third Planet, Arizona Trading Company, Urban Outfitters and Kieu’s.

Urban Outfitters takes the cake for most dedicated shoppers. There was no way I was going to wait in an hour-long line to pay.

Kieu’s was our final stop, and there, I found both of my treasures: some tight, red pants and a green/blue color-blocked tank. Both items were $9.99, so with tax, I ended up spending $21 and some change.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Ali's just-over-0 outfit from the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale

All this shopping and I was still able to get to work by 8 a.m.!

Nick: Lessons learned on a hot day, 1:53 p.m.

As I sit here, sipping a chocolate martini at the Bourgeois Pig, reflecting on the day thus far, I have a few hints to share.

The DVD selection at Liberty Hall is far smaller than that at Game Nut, but priced the same and if much higher quality. They are also witty conversationalists. Their sale caused me to go over-budget by $1, but when you’re getting Black Dynamite for $3, budget be damned.

A quick, easy, and novel lunch idea is to grab two samosas and an imported soda from the Indian shop next to Arizona Trading Company. Two samosas for $1.99, and you can get Thums Up cola, a spiced soda, or something that supposedly tastes like ice cream for a buck. The chutney that comes with your samosas is pretty deliciously spicy.

Lastly, stay away from the alleys. The only smell worse than garbage is hot garbage.

Sara: 1 p.m. home decor report, great finds but bring more than $20

If you’re in the market for statement stuff rather than odds and ends like candles or paper coasters, $20 won’t get you a lot of home decor items, or anything really big. But I did find a handful of tempting things this morning — and the two I bought (for a total of $28, oops) are unique.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Home decor finds from the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale: vintage tablecloth from Blackbird Trading Post (6) and 8-by-10-inch buffalo print, by Austin-based artist Leah Duncan, from Wonder Fair (2)

Thing 1: An 8-by-10 Leah Duncan print from Wonder Fair. At 40 percent off, it was $12 plus tax. I like it because it’s a little bit western but also a little bit weird. Duncan is an Austin-based illustrator and textile designer.

Thing 2: A vintage floral tablecloth — red, green, pale yellow and gray, 1940s-ish — at Blackbird Trading Post. At 20 percent off, I paid $16 plus tax. I have a small collection of these I never use, so naturally I figured I should buy another one.

A few more household items that may still be out there for the taking:
• $12 bar tool set at Sweet. But last time I found myself in want of a bar tool, it was a zester. This set didn’t include one, so I left it there.
• Celadon-colored ceramic bowl at Phoenix gallery for $14. If it had been a vase (useful) or a larger (more color), I would have taken it home.
• Pink McCoy pottery vase with a bird on it. Also vintage. Only $15 at Blackbird. So cute! So something I don’t know what I’d do with!

photo by: Sara Shepherd

This pink McCoy pottery vase was marked down to 5 at Blackbird Trading Post during the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale.

As far as practical items at great prices — Weavers is where it’s at. Quality (even luxury, you could say) sheet sets marked down, plus bath towels and mats half off. They even had a few sets of extra-long twin sheets if you’ve got dorm-bound teens.

Nick: Music lovers’ paradise at Love Garden with 3000 LPs for a dollar

It’s odd being on both the retailer and customer sides of the sidewalk sale. Hopefully, it makes me a better customer. As it was, I popped out on a break to attack the 3000 LPs Love Garden had dropped down to a dollar. Should anyone be looking to add some classic rock to their collection, it’s a gold mine. Some diamonds hidden amongst the coal included the Del Fuegos’ Boston Mass, as well as a healthy number of Blondie and Lords of the New Church records. Everything in the store is also 15 percent off (12 percent with debit or credit), for those not willing to dig.

Katie: Sporting update, 11 a.m.

I was out for two and a half hours this morning and didn’t break into my $20 budget for sporting goods. Not to say I didn’t buy anything — I got bike shorts for 10 percent off at Sunflower Bike and Outdoors, which were way over my J-W-granted budget but sorely needed (pun not intended but appropriate). I also got some tea at Au Marché, which was not on sale, but I’ll need it to stay awake this afternoon.

There are some deals to be had out there, certainly. Sunflower Bike has kayaks on sale for 20 percent off. Their sales crier said that makes them about $300, which he claimed was about the same amount you’d pay for an Xbox, but with a kayak you get to enjoy the outdoors. Everything inside the store is 10 percent off, including bikes. Outside, there are cycling shoes for 50 percent off, winter coats and clothes, Smartwool accessories, helmets, women’s swim suits and more. The stuff outside is 30 percent to 75 percent off.

There is Jayhawk gear aplenty up and down Mass. Street. Lids has KU hats and visors for $5, and KU shirts for as low as $2.50, which was the cheapest I saw.

For apparel you’d wear while being athletic, Francis Sporting Goods has plenty of shirts, both regular T-shirts and the sweat-wicking kind. Garry Gribble’s Running Sports has a lot of women’s clothes on sale, including sports bras, which is a great deal if you need one. The clothes were $15 for the first item, $10 for the second item, and if I recall correctly, that was the same for the sports bras.

I wanted to get something related to the upcoming London Olympics but didn’t find much. Brits says their Olympics shirts are stuck in customs, but they hope they will be in the store sometime before or during the games. Garry Gribble’s has some USA shirts for $30, but that was over my budget.

I’m taking a break from shopping to cool off in the News Center and get some work done, but I’ll head back out this afternoon to spend the J-W’s money. Now that I have an idea of what’s out there, I hope it won’t take me long.

Stay cool, shoppers. There are free water bottles at Ninth and Mass. streets in front of US Bank, and 3 Spoons, in the 700 block of Mass., is a designated cooling station with free water and air conditioning.

10:52 HQ update:

Photographer Mike Yoder was out early this morning taking pictures of early risers. He posted a photo gallery of his work. Were you one of these brave souls?

Nick: Budget busting vinyl

While I wasn’t able to be out and among the throng at first light, I managed to steal off to Urban Outfitters at 8:00 a.m. I wanted to get in before the 50% off ended at 10, and also snag some vinyl before the sun warped it beyond playability. For the princely sum of $16.23, I walked off with LPs by the Phracyde, the Big Pink, and Thurston Moore. My budget was strained due to assuming everything was the same price.

Line inside Urban Outfitters.

Jon: Weird science

Finger-puppet friends from Miss Fortune's.

Sidewalk Sale day has gradually become one of my favorite days of the year since I moved to Lawrence full-time nearly six years ago. I live downtown, so whenever there’s a major event (4th of July, KU Final Four celebrations, etc.) I feel like I have a home-field advantage as it’s all happening literally around the corner from my apartment. I never have to worry about parking, and I never have an excuse not to check this stuff out.

In Sidewalk Sale days past, I enjoyed checking it out and being amongst the masses but never really bought anything. Until last year. I gave myself an assignment to make it more fun and to motivate myself to actually buy something. So I decided to buy the cheapest, weirdest stuff I could find. Before I set out, I thought up the most bizarre thing I could think of that some vendor might actually have: A Snooki doll. And after a whole day of searching, I actually found one at Urban Outfitters. And it TALKS!, saying such Snooki gems as “pickles are my thing” and “I’m not trashy… unless I drink too much.” I was giddy, and I decided I wanted to do the same thing this year. The Journal-World is giving me $20 to find the weirdest, most bizarre things I can find, and I don’t plan to disappoint.

Coming off an all-nighter and fueled by Red Bull, I set out Thursday morning at sunrise on my mission to find the most-unusual. I started at Urban Outfitters, expecting a massive line inside and out and that’s what I found. I spent a few minutes checking out their selection of ugly tank tops and mugs that have instructions about how to do the Robot. The line was at least an hour wait, so I’ll go back later in the day when there is no wait (and things are marked down even more).

I headed down Mass. and stopped at Game Nut, where they have their usual tables of hundreds upon hundreds of used DVDs and video games. For some reason, a (brand new!) Blu-ray of a Matthew McConaughey movie I’ve never heard of called “Surfer, Dude” stood out. It looked awful. I had to have it. And I’m still trying to wrap my head around the tag line: “Love and waves, that’s what we need in these dark days.”
$3 spent on my first bizarre purchase.

I made my way down to Miss Fortune’s Creation Station where a bowl full of monster, zombie and narwhal finger puppets caught my eye. Only 50 cents each. I bought four and have have some tiny new friends.

Christmas ornament/neck wear/nightmare fuel from Hobbs.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Crowds of young shoppers fill the sidewalks outside Urban Outfitters for a pre-dawn start for the annual Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale, Thursday, July 19, 2012.5

Hobbs was my last stop of the morning, and they have a reputation for selling weird stuff every day of the year, not just on Sidewalk Sale day, so I had high expectations. Their selection didn’t seem to be as big as in years past, but they had a whole table of cheesy Christmas ornaments — a goldmine for anyone who celebrates Christmas in July, I suppose. One of the sellers was wearing a large one around his neck — something that looked straight out of a nightmare episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It was $10, a little steep for my budget, so I settled on a blingy gold watch ornament and Pink Panther ornament. $3.27.

With half my budget spent and the Red Bull wearing off, I’m calling it quits for the morning, but I plan on going back out there to scope out some more places in the afternoon.

Katie: In a sporting mood

Today I’ll be checking out the sidewalk sale looking for outdoor, athletic and sports-related items.

That means I’ll definitely be at Sunflower Bike and Outdoors, one of the downtown retailers that goes all-out for the sale. I’ll also stop by Garry Gribble’s Running Sports and Francis Sporting Goods.

I’ve decided that this category also includes the Olympics (because I love the Olympics), so I’ll check out Brits to see if they have anything related to the upcoming London summer games. I’ll also peruse the many stores selling Jayhawk gear.

I’m not sure what I’ll be looking for. I do want bike shorts and a new lap-swimming bathing suit, but I doubt I’ll be able to get those for the $20 I’m allotted. So I’ll probably try to find sporting accessories, such as bike gloves, swim paddles or sunglasses. I could also use a new KU T-shirt to support my alma mater.

I’m going into the sale pretty open-minded this morning, so I’m looking forward to finding out what I end up with.


Original post

Comfy shoes? Check.
Bottled water? Check.
Complaint about the heat? Check. (Also, thanks for the rain!)

OK, we’re ready.

It’s a few hours until the Downtown Sidewalk Sale officially kicks off, but we’ve been mentally preparing, scheming, plotting and planning for weeks. We gave five staffers and freelancers $20 with the mission of buying as much cool stuff as possible.

Go! editor Katie Bean is on the prowl for athletic and outdoor gear; fashion writer Ali Edwards is scouting style steals; Pulse editor Jon Ralston has made it his mission to find the weirdest miscellany (can he top last year’s Snooki bobblehead doll?); features reporter Sara Shepherd is looking for the best in home decor, and our newly minted music writer Nick Spacek (look for his Live and Local blog on next week) will be hitting up vinyl vendors for the best deals in rock ‘n’ roll.

Along the way they’ll be tweeting their finds, so give ’em a follow…or just look for the #swsale hashtag.

So, here’s our staffers’ pre-sale previews:

Ali: Wanted: One affordable outfit

I’m not a morning person. I manage to peel myself out of bed at around “the-last-possible-moment-before-being-late ‘o clock,” and even then, I’m downright mean up until around 9:30 a.m.

But I do like sales. And for that reason alone, I’m going to hop out of bed at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday to hit up the Mass. Street Sidewalk Sale.

I’ll be spending $20, and $20 only (must drill this into my head), and stretching that money to buy the coolest clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories, whatever.

To be completely honest, I’m a Sidewalk Sale newbie. For a couple years, I participated in the Sale as an employee at a downtown store, but never have I ventured out as a consumer.

Now that I get the chance to spread my shopping wings on this infamous day, I hope to find some real deals. I’m not talking about the sales I can find around town every day. I mean some real steals.

My goal is to find a pair of shoes, one piece of an outfit (pants, skirt, shorts, shirt) and an accessory all for under $20. Can I do it? You Sidewalk Sale veterans out there know best. Let me know if I’m shooting too high (or too low!).

Sara: Working off the rust

So, I’m new to the Journal-World this summer and — don’t judge me — haven’t been to the sidewalk sale since college. Even then, I don’t remember making a day of it (too hot/no money), and I guarantee I didn’t arrive before sunup.

It turns out — I realized while reporting this story for Go! and planning #swsale coverage with my co-workers — that a lot of people actually do that, and apparently I’m going to be among them this year. The J-W is giving each reporter covering the sale 20 bucks (I’m in!), and we’re tweeting and blogging as we shop. My assigned category is “Home Decor.”

Knick-knacks sort of annoy me, and I’m not sure anything I really NEED right now (large bookcase, area rug, authentic mid-century modern accent chair … wait, did I say need?) can be had for $20, even at the sidewalk sale, so the plan is to be on the lookout for useful items or accents. I’m thinking Urban, Made, Phoenix Gallery, Weaver’s and Hobbs. Maybe a cute vase, throw pillow, wall art — hopefully I’ll know it when I see it.