Picking local

Becky Vargo • Jul 24, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Pat Tober decided against a second garage sale weekend when she found out about Muskegon Picker Lloyd Behnke.

Lisa Gean grabbed $500 of her savings and started reselling when she realized that her federally funded teaching job could be in jeopardy.

Both women said the benefits of picking turned out to be better than the alternative and was a good way to go about the next steps in their lives.

Tober, a Spring Lake Township resident, was already in the process of downsizing when her husband, Erich, died in January.

She decided to continue on with a move from her 2,400-square-foot home to a condominium, so it was time to clear almost everything out.

Family members helped her put together a garage sale and she sold a lot, but there was still a lot left. 

“You accumulate a lot of stuff in 56 years of marriage,” she said. 

Tober planned to do a second garage sale weekend until a friend told her about Behnke.

The “picker” stopped over, offered her $300 to take everything that was left and loaded up his trailer. It still took him two trips to gather up the furniture and other household items left over from the first sale.

Behnke, who works fulltime as a salesman at Betten Baker in Muskegon, works his Muskegon Picker business on the side.

He said he started in 2009 when he was trying to get enough funds to send his son to a school out of state.

“I bought my first storage unit for $100 and sold it for $1,500 profit,” Behnke said.

It doesn’t always work out that well, he said. “You never know what you’re going to find.”

An acquaintance bought a storage unit in Muskegon for $700, and all he ended up with was a bunch of empty totes.

Behnke said he quickly became addicted to reselling.

“I wouldn’t call myself a picker,” he said. “I take the whole bunch.”

He also said he does it more for fun than to make a living. 

His reselling is primarily online through JNJ Auction. He takes the items to the auction consignment center. They sell it and pay him what it sold for minus a commission.

Behnke said he quickly learned what kind of things not to take, like mattresses, bedding, clothes and pressboard furniture.

Leftover items are taken to his parent’s home in Dowagiac for a very large, annual garage sale. This year the sale will be held Aug. 4-6 and it will require 15 family members to work on the first day, he said.

The best things he’s ever found were a one-carat diamond ring that he initially thought was a fake, a coin collection and a box that he thought was full of ashes, that actually turned out to be full of jewelry.

Bobby and Lisa Gean, originally of Davison, reconnected at a high school reunion a couple of years ago, eventually married and decided to move to the Grand Haven area.

Here they opened Grand Resale, a pickers and thrift store located at 17234 Robbins Road (back in behind Pizza hut and a little strip mall on the south side of Robbins Road). 

Bobby is a disabled veteran with a service dog. The former Army mortician noted that their mission was to support the K9s for Warriors organization.

“We’re not money driven,” said Lisa, pointing to the clothing room. “I have given lots of stuff away to people who need it.”

Lisa is just as likely to give you something or sell it at a heavy discount if you need it.

Once the store’s overhead is covered, most of the rest of the funds go to charity, the couple said.

The store is also home to 20 vendors, but 75 percent of the items are treasures that Bobby and Lisa have unearthed.

It comes from “everywhere,” Lisa said. “I bought out yard sales.”

“We buy storage units at auction,” Bobby said.

The couple said their best finds are usually gold and guns.

They also find lots of containers of human ashes, which they turn in to local funeral homes.

Bobby said he bought a storage unit last year for $47 in Lansing. It did not look promising because it was full of garbage bags, he said. But in the back were 12 boxes of Dungeons and Dragons books.

“I have made $8,000 off that so far,” he said. Most of that was by selling online.

Probably the most unique find for Bobby was a box of sliced dinosaur bones from a storage unit in Michigan City, Ind.

Bobby said a scientist authenticated the find. The couple uses a lot of local experts to value items like guns and musical instruments.

Grand Haven Resale is also the location for weekly free flea markets.

Lisa said that anyone is welcome to come and set up a table every Saturday morning during the summer between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. 

Bobby said they’ve had from 6-15 vendors each weekend so far, but there’s room for lots more. There’s no charge for using the space.

“It gives back to the people, but also draws people into the store,” he said.

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