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Junks sells at West Valley swap meet

Paradise for bargain-hunters, eclectic collectors

WEST VALLEY CITY — Junk sells. Just ask "Cowboy" George — he makes a living hawking the stuff.

Every Saturday and Sunday vendors of all stripes set up shop at the Drive In movie theater in West Valley at 3700 S. Redwood Road for "Swap City" to sell or swap anything and everything they think will turn a profit. Jet skis, vases, sinks or summer hats are just a few items shoppers could expect to see, but with a keen eye Cowboy George said, a buyer could leave with just about anything.

"To sell you have to have a variety of stuff and don't be afraid to put junk out," Cowboy George said. "Sometimes something that is broke will sell … people collect everything."

A resident of Pioche, Nev., Cowboy George is a weekend warrior on the swap circuit. Off and on for the past 30 years the grizzled veteran has crossed the West helping people connect with items that some treasure and some never thought they needed.

On Fridays, he loads his truck with an eclectic assortment of goods and drives to swaps. He expects to sell upwards of $1,000 every time, he says.

"If you do this you've got to have a variety; you've got to," Cowboy George said. At his plot he features wares such as deer and elk antlers, bells, a fishing reel, antique coins and cookie jars. "A lot of people bring household junk, like clothes, and they're only gonna make maybe $200 dollars on a good day."

It is important to remember that swap meets don't operate like any Wal-Mart or local grocer. Sellers are looking to get all they can for what they are offering and buyers are looking for the best deal around. Cowboy George says bartering is an important skill and any good vendor is going to know what the right price is, but the buyer has to talk them down to it.

Yet tough economic times have pushed many buyers to offer prices that are not economically viable for sellers, and as a result, Sunday's swap wasn't a success for everyone.

Juno Choi, a resident of Salt Lake City, has been frequenting swap meets for the past 20 years and he described Sunday's business in one word: "bad."

"Everybody is scared to spend money and no one has jobs," Choi said. "We feel the economy isn't recovering and everybody is frustrated. If business (at the swap) is good, outside it's good. If it's bad here, it's bad out there. That's how it's always been."

With his wife, Choi sells shoes, socks and purses at their plot, but because people expect such low prices the sellers are having trouble turning any sort of profit, he said.

At her booth, Marylee Olmedo, a resident of Ogden, said business wasn't great Sunday, but if people are looking for a good deal the swap beats any retail store.

"Just have fun and look for stuff that can work for you … things you can use," Olmedo said. "You can find a lot of things for cheap at the swap."

e-mail: cnorlen@desnews.com