The cancellation of Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club’s annual auction due to COVID-19 created an even more successful alternative in the Rotary Barn which brought in more than $100,000 as of June, most going to local nonprofits.
Co-chaired by Rotarians Deb Graves and Laurie Zimmerli, the 40-foot by 80-foot barn has become such a cash cow that this year the club funded an annex at the back of the building, creating a “boutique” space.
“July sales were more than $30,000,” said Graves. “On Saturday (Sept. 4) we sold over $5,000 worth of items in two and a half hours.”
Rotarians see the transition from auction to barn as a definite improvement. Graves explained that the annual auction in 2019 generated $63,000 in sales, but $13,000 had to cover event expenses. Given the barn’s success as a venue, “It was a no brainer,” she said.
That success is due to a lot of hard work by Rotarians. The barn, at 66 Montgomery Road, is open from 8:30 to 11 a.m. each Saturday until Christmas and staffed with volunteers. In addition, a “pick up captain” in each town is responsible for arranging to bring donated items to the barn. Zimmerli manages the furniture, Graves the flea market and Mike Pollard the boutique.
Graves said the increase in area home sales has contributed to the inventory with local realtors calling to ask about donating items sellers left behind. Shoppers can find upholstered furniture, needlepoint pillows and crystal along with tools, framed artwork and lawn mowers. Graves sees people from Portland coming back on a regular basis to make purchases, as do antique dealers.
Asked about unusual items, Graves said someone donated a zebra skin which sold for $400 in the barn boutique.
Zimmerli said the most unusual item she sold was “the stairs off the loading dock” during a construction project. “Someone asked if they were for sale and I sold them for $30.”
Rotarian Irene Fowle explained that funds raised by barn sales go right back into the community. The Food Pantry, Rebuilding Together, a local workers bicycle program, Camp Knickerbocker, Boothbay Region YMCA, Hometown Heroes, BRCRC and the Veterans Appreciation Dinner are among the local nonprofits that benefit every time an item is sold. Last year this included making 1,500 pints of soup for the Food Pantry.
The barn does not accept beds, electronics, or large appliances. To donate, call Graves at 380-3550.