In the 1980s the Kiwanis Club of Carefree decided to try selling used household goods as a special fund raising event. Probably a simple multi-household yard sale. No one then dreamed what it might evolve into more than thirty years later.
The first sales were held in a parking lot at Pima and Cave Creek road. Later the sales were held in the old “Studios of Dick Van Dyke.” Annual sales grew from a $1,000 to over $4,000 in those first few years – a very healthy growth rate that enabled the Club, through its Benefit Foundation, to substantially increase the funds it invested in the community and its children.
Early years, the donated merchandise was stored in members’ garages, but this became a problem with continuing sales growth. So, the American Legion in Cave Creek allowed the Club to build a storage shed behind its building around 1990. At the time, some couldn’t imagine ever filling so much space, but it was outgrown.
In 1999, the Club struck a deal with the Town of Carefree that allowed Kiwanis to build a 3,000-sq. ft., $100,000 building on city property. Kiwanis was given a 20-year lease on the land. At the end of 20 years Kiwanis was obligated to return the entire building to the Town of Carefree. The new Flea Market opened in 1999 and had a lease restriction that only allowed the club to have 6 sales per year.
With so much space, it was possible to use gondolas to display small goods and space to work to test, clean and repair donations. Within two years’ women joined men as volunteers and pricing, preparing and merchandising improved. The Arizona Republic even published that this new flea market was “the Nieman Marcus of flea markets.” Sales continued to improve.
Kiwanis Members worked on Wednesdays and Saturdays receiving and processing donated merchandise until the day of the sale. On the day before a sale members would show up at 2 pm on Friday and unload the building where furniture was stacked over 12 feet high into the parking lot. They were ready for Saturday sales outdoors. In later years, a loft was purchased along with a large lift so that more furniture could be stored between sales.
As time passed, volunteers made increasing use of the internet to help price and to sell worthwhile items on eBay. Book experts were used to review books for significant value before the public sale. Continuing evolution enabled continuing growth.
By 2012 it was clear that the City of Carefree wanted the building in 2019 when the lease was to expire. Alternatives were needed to keep the income flow into the Club’s Benefit Foundation. Sales were still growing, but there was just not enough space for storage needs. The city would not allow extra days for sales, so the club rented the old fire station building just north of the city property where the old flea market was held. The adjacent location facilitated exposure and trial by those loyal customers of the flea market. The new store was called the Kiwanis Marketplace.
This experiment renting retail space was conducted to reassure club members that we could continue to increase the sales even more by successfully operating a retail store was open 4 days a week from 9 am to 1 pm. Business quickly built faster than the Club could sell in the small 2,000 sq. ft. rented space.
This success gave the club confidence to buy land to build a new store. The land was purchased. A fund-raising effort was started to build a new store for the Marketplace. The plan was to collect the needed capital and then start a new construction to get out of the old location before 2019.
The Building Fund Committee raised over $1,200,000 in cash and pledges over three years from the membership. The extra funds generated from operations at the new Marketplace test store would be saved for the project.
Things changed in the spring of 2014 when the current building (Old Epicurean Palate Store) in Cave Creek became available for the same amount as was planned to build the new building. This store was bigger and had more parking compared to the land that was purchased a year prior. And, the operation could be moved into immediately after some fast renovations.
The store was a perfect fit for the Kiwanis Marketplace store. It was purchased in July and then all the volunteers worked to move to the new location in just four days. The store opened in August of 2014. Sales have been better than expected. There are over 150 volunteers, most of them are new. Eighty percent of the volunteers are not Kiwanis Members. They are community volunteers who want to contribute to the many projects that Kiwanis supports in the community that focus mainly on children’s programs.
Volunteer hours have increased by four times and sales have increased by three times in comparison to the old locations. The building is now paid for including the new parking lot. The volunteers love the working conditions at the new store.
A General Manager was hired to manage the growing new operation. In 2016 an additional Assistant Manager was hired as sales were still growing at the new store.