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Roscoe Village Community Garage Sale

Principle: Money is not the issue

By Meg MacIver

May, 2009

At first it seems like just another sunny Saturday at Roscoe Village. Under the thick trees that shade the streets of this residential Chicago neighborhood, the sidewalks are covered with chalk-drawn flowers and the sweet burn of a hot grill hangs in the breeze.

Meg MacIver

On this day, though, a glance down the neighborhood’s normally quiet side streets and alleyways reveals surprising scenes: groups of people gather to talk and relax in spaces that would otherwise be empty.

Today, for the annual Roscoe Village Garage Sale, participating families scattered throughout the community open their homes, yards, and garages to their neighbors and invite them in to shop, meet, and talk. Following a map made by organizers, shoppers walk from house to house, down alleys and narrow passages, and trace a path through the neighborhood.  It is a day to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones- and maybe even find a bargain or two.

“It’s really a great walking tour of our neighborhood,” said Heather Collins, who hosted a sale at her house. As a Placemaking approach, the Community Garage Sale is a lesson in the power of using unconventional, cost-effective programming to enliven otherwise vacant public spaces and unite a community. 

Unlike other initiatives that may require permits or drastic changes to traffic patterns or street-scapes, the Community Garage Sale creates a more subtle transformation. The event is kind of like a marketplace with stalls throughout the community:  the Sale strings together many little “places” into one, cohesive neighborhood. 

“It’s always nice to have people in the community coming out to shop together,” said Mila Hoekstra. “We do it every year.”

Meg MacIver

As community building events go, the garage sale has a relatively low operating cost shared by all participants. Roscoe Village Neighbors, a community group which organizes the day, collects $25 from each participating family and then puts that money towards ads that run in the Tribune and Reader. 

The event can actually be quite profitable.  “I was surprised,” said Collins, “we actually made a lot of money, especially in the morning.” For those who host the sales, it’s also a way to reduce clutter and live more simply.  “It’s been great to get rid of some of the things we don’t use anymore, and to teach my kids to say goodbye to their old toys,” says Liz Shirley, a Roscoe Village resident for the past 6 years.

The event is affordable for shoppers, too, who are able to find good deals on things they need.

The annual Garage Sale is just one example of the many events in Roscoe Village that forge strong connections between neighbors and nourish a thriving community all year round.  Throughout the year, Roscoe Village Neighbors plan several events that bring their streets alive, making it one of Chicago’s many great places:

  • Roscoe Village Neighbors Pub Crawl
  • Spring Brunch
  • Annual Roscoe Village Halloween Parade
  • Roscoe Village Clean and Green Day
  • Roscoe Village Garden Walk
  • Retro on Roscoe

For more information, visit Roscoe Village Neighbors: