Geri Reichgut has always had an eye for a good photo op. As she was driving past the Sea Cliff Village Library one Saturday morning last year, she couldn't help but notice adults and children browsing the large wooden dressers, floor lamps, couches and assorted odds and ends -- from a cast-iron stove to an old gate -- displayed on the green in front of the building.
"I was intrigued by the age group," she recalled. "Children with their parents, older people, dogs. And the things were very unusual."
Reichgut started clicking away, and she and her camera have come to every Offbeat Artifacts Sale since. Proceeds from the event, which is held one Saturday each month, go to the library. Since the sale started in 2012, $25,000 has been raised and has gone toward new furniture and iPads for the children's library.
Now the Offbeat Artifacts Sale and Reichgut's images are the subject of an exhibit running through Oct. 31 at the library, a collection of about 25 photos capturing all four seasons of the Offbeat Artifacts Sale over the past year. In addition to the displayed photos, 300 more of Reichgut's images will be available for viewing on the library's computers.
Pieces with 'history'
The sale is the brainchild of Mike Lennon, a former New York City firefighter, who now runs Compassionate Cleanouts, a Sea Cliff-based estate clean-out business with his wife, Gwynne, and a neighbor, Lisa Harir. Lennon, 59, admits to being a picker, one of those people who loves searching for treasures at tag sales, yard sales or even curbside.
"People throw things out at a rapid rate, and there's always stuff on the sidewalk," he said. "I was thinking how cool it would be to make it free and have people make a donation to the library."
About 75 percent of the sale's items come from Lennon's estate cleanups, and often go from one home into another.
"Almost my whole house is furnished from here," said Holly Shaw, a trauma specialist who lives in Sea Cliff. On a recent Saturday, she bought a 1950s-style semicircular couch that had been at a local pub for years. The price was $90.
"The idea of using something that has a history is great," Shaw added. "My favorite thing that I've bought here is a gorgeous dresser with a mirror that is really old. I paid $35 for it."
Though Lennon is the driving force behind the sale, what started as a one-man show has mushroomed. Each week, a group of about 10 volunteers helps him transport pieces, set up the display on the green, carry pieces to customers' cars and collect sale proceeds. Most of his helpers are from the Friends of the Sea Cliff Village Library.
"I volunteered a fiberglass outdoor set and that's how I got involved," said Cathy Pickering, 78, of Sea Cliff. "I saw Mike was doing this by himself, so I asked if I could help and now I help collect the money."
Lennon and his "muscle men" usually arrive at the green between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. to set up the items for sale. A resident who lives across the street from the library lets Lennon store items on her porch several days before the sale. "When people come to help on Saturday, it makes it a lot easier that they only have to move the stuff from there to here," Lennon said.
At about 8 a.m., the three women who handle sales start tagging the items, and by then early birds arrive, looking for treasures. Most of the items are sold by the time the sale ends at 1 p.m. By noon, Lennon said prices start getting slashed even further, and some items are just given away so they don't have to be stored.
A very social sale
The sale has also become something of a social hub for the Sea Cliff community. Neighbors run into each other, people bring their dogs and young families bring their children, who are always given a small toy. In addition, a farmers market has opened up next to the sale and there's often live music.
Despite its success, the sale was halted for a few months last year when the Sea Cliff Civic Association voiced concerns about possible accidents on the green. The issue was resolved by taking out a $1,000 rider on the village's insurance policy, said Mark Miksic, 81, vice president of the Friends of the Sea Cliff Village Library.
The sale, which had been held every other Saturday, has been cut down to once a month because Lennon said it's just become too time-consuming. He said he is hoping some of the younger families coming to the sale will start helping to organize it.
"It's absolutely zapping me, but I have to keep it alive," he said. "It's like if you put your heart and soul into a business. You can't just let it go."
FROM THE OFFBEAT TO THE ORGANIC
It's not just about finding oldies but goodies at the Offbeat Artifacts Sale in front of the Sea Cliff Village Library. There are plenty of fresh goodies ripe for the picking at the Sea Cliff Farmers Market, which has set up shop next to the sale and offers organic-only produce.
"The idea for the farmers market is independent of the sale, but it's fortuitous that it happens at the same time because it brings people out for both, so we get a little cross-pollination going on," said Amy Peters, 52, who runs the farmers market in conjunction with Grassroots Environmental Education. The Port Washington-based nonprofit has operated an organic farmers market on the dock in its hometown for 11 years.
Peters -- who lives in Glen Cove but describes herself as a Sea Cliff wannabe -- started the farm stand about a month ago to fill a void in the community. "There used to be a farmers market in Sea Cliff about seven years ago," she said. "Everybody was really missing it, so I felt like the time was right for another one."
All produce is locally grown and comes from farms in Westbury, Old Brookville and Oyster Bay. A portion of the proceeds goes to Grassroots, and unsold items will be donated to local food pantries and soup kitchens.
SEE AND BUY: Offbeat Artifacts Sale Photo Exhibit
WHEN AND WHERE Through Oct. 31, Sea Cliff Village Library, 300 Sea Cliff Ave.
INFO Free; 516-671-4290, seaclifflibrary.org
NEXT SALE Oct. 11. For more information, visit nwsdy.li/OBartifacts
UPDATE: This story was changed to reflect a change in the date of the next Offbeat Artifacts Sale..