We made our first stop on Wednesday, the day before the official sale began, in Dunlap, Tennessee. A small town of about 4,000 on the Cumberland Plateau in Sequatchie County, Dunlap was a coal-mining town from the late 1800s to the mid-1920s. One of the more popular attractions in town is The Dunlap Coke Ovens Park and Museum, which houses a large collection of coal-mining photographs and artifacts.
An estimated 5,000 additional visitors were rambling about Main Street, which is lined with stores, small businesses, and homes. Many of the homes had tables set up on their lawns.
One house had a dozen tents and at least 100 tables on the lawn. We absolutely had to stop.
Michele shopped; I talked with the man in the apron with the dollar bills stuffed inside – John, the owner.
John told me that he lives in Florida year-round. He purchased the small bungalow along 127 about 10 years ago solely for this event. John’s wife has an online business, and this house gives them an auxiliary means to sell their wares to treasure hunters.
Some sellers pick up junk from along the side of the road and restore it, creating unique treasures. They’ll talk you through the whole process.
Other sellers have accumulated their goods from family and friends.
For many, the 127 sale week is a mandatory vacation for buying, selling, and socializing.
I soon discovered that buying and selling is only a part of the reason to visit. Along the way, there were memorable characters and interesting stories. This is socializing in the rural south – family and friends hanging out and swapping stories and stuff.
Along the Tennessee section of 127, there were a number of vendors gathered together in a single location within a community. The Cumberland Mountain General Store in Clarkrange – a genuine, old-fashioned general store dating back to the 1920s – is one such gathering place.
The store carries antique furniture, glassware, quilts, lamps, candy, fudge, souvenirs, and more from what’s referred to as “the good ol’ days.” This is where Michele found her first treasure – a handmade basket.
We met a Mennonite man and his family from Kentucky who were selling beautifully woven baskets handmade by the children. The weave on these baskets was tight, and matching colored reeds were used to coordinate them. They were signed by the child who made them, along with the dates they were weaved. Michele loved meeting the daughters who made the baskets that we purchased.
We also met Hayes, a friendly, recently retired U.S. postal worker. Hayes was selling homemade flavored honey that he and his son have made together for more than 30 years. After a taste test, we settled on the smooth Tennessee Mountain Sourwood Honey.