Tents were already being erected in parking lots and grassy areas along Historic U.S. 21 Thursday as vendors were preparing for the Take a Break from the Interstate three-day road market sale.
The sale kicks off Friday with vendors set up along a 100-mile stretch of the historic Lakes to Florida Highway through Sunday, from Wytheville, Virginia, south to Harmony.
Ricky Roberts, co-owner of Elkin Antiques & Collectibles Mall, which sits beside the railroad tracks on Bridge Street in downtown Elkin, said last year’s three-day road market sale brought about 3,000 people through the store.
“It’s exposure for the store for us,” Roberts said of the benefits of the sale.
The mall will have 12 to 15 vendors set up outside this year, with some selling on Friday, some on Saturday and others all weekend. “The vendors draw more people into town, so it is better exposure for us.”
He said traffic through the store has been heavier throughout the week leading up to this weekend’s event, with some of their shoppers from last year already stopping in on their way to cabins in Independence, Virginia, where they’ll be staying for the weekend.
“The sales are great of course, but you can’t beat the exposure,” he said of just making the store’s existence known to people who may come back to shop later. “We’ve had people in today getting ready to do the market and were stopping here because they stopped here last year. So it brings people in all week long.”
He said there will be people set up along U.S. 21 in State Road near an antique store there, and typically a lot of people set up in Jonesville as well. The Elkin Farmers Market will be open for its weekly hours Saturday morning just two blocks from Roberts’ antique mall.
“The more you have at one time brings more people in,” Roberts said of the advantage of having so many people out selling on one weekend. “They are not going to come for just one small event, but this is 100 miles. Bigger is always better as far as getting people interested.”
The mission of the Take a Break from the Interstate initiative, founded by Sparta businessman Donald Miles Sr., is “to promote economic development through tourism along Historic U.S. Hwy. 21.”
Three years ago, the initiative kicked off with a three-day road market sale, which has grown to include communities, businesses and individuals from Wytheville to Harmony, with this being the second year Harmony has participated. This year’s sale is slated for July 29-31.
“The objective was to have a destination for people to travel Highway 21, not just for the three-day sale,” said Miles.
He said the road market sale gives the local communities a chance to get involved and make some money and boost the economy. “We’ve had some say they’ve earned enough to buy their back-to-school clothes.”
Miles said the Historic U.S. 21 route includes eight national and state parks along the stretch from Wytheville to Harmony, including the Yadkin River, New River, Stone Mountain State Park, Jefferson National Forest and Grayson Highlands. The route was known as the Lakes to Florida Highway at one point, before traffic detoured to Interstate 77.
“We want to make people aware we have a place to offer,” he said for those who like to travel.
For the road market sale weekend, there will be many yard sales, a lot of buyers on the roads, and Miles expected the restaurants and convenience stores along the route will be overwhelmed with those shopping and driving the historic route along 21.
“It’s been very rewarding from a personal standpoint to see it be successful and get so many compliments on it,” Miles said. “We’ve had very good support from the towns.”
For more information on Take a Break from the Interstate or the U.S. 21 Road Market, visit takeabreakfromtheinterstate.com or www.21roadmarket.org, or call 336-372-5646.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.