City-wide garage sale brings neighbours together

When the city put on a Coquitlam-wide garage sale, The Tri-City News went out looking for junk — and found community

It could have been a picker’s dream — street after street of antique lamps, old hockey gear and used tools, all mapped out in a city-wide garage sale. Then came the rain, and it came hard.

“If we’d known it would be like this, absolutely no bloody way,” said long-time Coquitlam resident Jari Vuorensivu, peering at the low clouds from underneath his deck.

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He added, somewhat cheerfully, “For the miserable weather, we’ve had a surprisingly lot of people.”

When I arrived at his door, a hockey stick that once belonged to former Canuck defenceman Jyrki Lumme had just gone for a dollar.

“I don’t have a good use for it,” mulled Vuorensivu. “Why not?

Earlier in the day, he had sold off some automotive parts and camping gear, but the old leaf shredder, stacks of DVDs and CDs, and two leg-press machines sat idly by as the day came to a close. 

“My daughters moved out last summer to share a shoe-box-sized apartment and, big surprise, left these behind,” he said, shaking his head.

His biggest victory on this gloomy day came in the form of an antique lamp.

“Thank God we sold that — straight out of Frankenstein’s castle,” he said. “It was ugly like hell.”

Coquitlam resident Jari Vuorensivu holds former Canuck defenceman Jyrku Lumme's stick one last time
Coquitlam resident Jari Vuorensivu holds former Canuck defenceman Jyrku Lumme's stick one last time before selling it for a dollar - Stefan Labbé

The garage sale was a first for Vuorensivu, a developer building a low-income residence for Finnish-Canadian seniors near the corner of Johnson Street and Guilford Way. 

The Vuorensivu’s were one of five households on the block that had banded together to join in the Coquitlam-wide garage sale promoted by the city to reduce clutter, recycle and — at least on this cul-de-sac off Mundy Street — offer an excuse to bring neighbours together.

Just a few doors down, 40-year resident Nick Dominelli stood under a canopy surrounded by garage sale stalwarts: an outdated Trivial Pursuit game, cassette decks, and rusted but functional hand tools. 

“It’s good to get together with the neighbours,” he said, displaying an unsold set of Periss Clayton Weirs paintings: a bald eagle and osprey locked in flight, and a timber-wolf lurking under the canopy of a snowy forest.

“Esther is the one who really got us out here,” he added, pointing across the street.

Nick Dominelli shows off his set of Periss Clayton Weirs paintings kept safe from the rain under the
Nick Dominelli shows off his set of Periss Clayton Weirs paintings kept safe from the rain under the eaves of his house - Stefan Labbé

Esther Barber is all smiles, tall from this reporter’s perspective, but likely average among her lofty Dutch peers.

She moved to Canada with her Canadian husband a decade ago and five year later bought a house at the end of the block.

“It’s our first time,” said Barber pointing to the neatly filed toys on display and watching her 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, try to hawk 50-cent cups of hot chocolate.  

“I smell like dog, Oma and other people’s perfume,” said Sarah after a few visitors filed out.

Sarah Barber waits for the next round of hot chocolate customers during the Coquitlam city-wide gara
Sarah Barber waits for the next round of hot chocolate customers during the Coquitlam city-wide garage sale Saturday, May 25

Making friends with neighbours is nothing new for the 11-year-old.

When the family first arrived, the Barber’s were shocked to find the streets empty. 

“You have to be careful, but everyone is afraid here,” said Barber, thinking back to the vibrant street-level community in the Netherlands. “It squeezes out the curiosity.”

Frustrated with an omnipresent stay-inside culture, she decided to do something. Sarah was way ahead of her. 

With most of the neighbours’ kids now adults, Sarah started by getting to know their pets: Pita the dog, Bear the cat, and Jeff the dog. 

“They talk about the stories when their kids were younger, playing in the ravine,” said Barber. “Even if there are no kids, Sarah finds a way.”

Slowly, the neighbourhood of Norwegians, Italians, Fins, Koreans and Brits are getting to know each other again. 

The Barber family recently threw a city-funded block party, and after the garage sale has plans for a potluck. 

Even the rain can't stop that, she said.

"I think we'll do it again tomorrow."

There were nearly 200 garage sales listed on the city's website Saturday, May 25
There were nearly 200 garage sales listed on the city's website Saturday, May 25 - City of Coquitlam

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