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Northland's Junk Hunt turns 10, kicks off Thursday at DECC

“We like all things rusty and chippy and peely paint," said event organizer Emily Broman.

Gayle Healy Shirley Johnson
Shirley Johnson, left, and Gayle Healy showcase works from Duluth business Serendipity during the 2017 Duluth Junk Hunt at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
Contributed / Gayle Healy
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DULUTH — This will be Gayle Healy’s first Junk Hunt as a shopper only. The retired owner of the Lakeside neighborhood's vintage home furnishing store Serendipity had been a Junk Hunt vendor since it sprung in the Northland. But things have changed for the Duluth woman.

“My mom and I did this together for the last 10 years, and my mom passed away this spring," Healy said. “Emotionally, it’s too difficult. Everybody at the Junk Hunt knew my mom. Now, I’m excited to just go and shop. I can support that way."

092421.F.DNT.YESCHEESEc5.jpg
Calley Kohlhagen, left, and Kimber Johnson are behind Wisconsin business Yes, Cheese, which is among the 140-plus vendors during this weekend's Junk Hunt.
Steve Kuchera / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune

The three-day indoor market features more than 140 Minnesota-made and beyond vendors, including Moose Lake’s Junktique Chicks ; Superior’s Yes, Cheese ; Duluth’s Schaefer Design Co. ; and Minneapolis’ Villa Villa Vintage .

Expect repurposed and vintage goods, artisan-made jewelry, treats and much more.

For folks who want a first look, early-bird hours are 4-7 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $15 online and $17 at the door, which covers weekend-long admission and a complimentary tote. Friday-Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is $5 online and $7 at the door. Ages 12 and younger are free, and parking at the DECC is $10.

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Colorful vintage chairs are lined up in rows, as the blurred image of a woman moves past them.
Emily Broman, right, helps price vintage wooden chairs in preparation for the first Duluth Junk Hunt in 2012. A decade later, the biannual event kicks off Thursday, Nov. 3, at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
Bob King / 2012 file / Duluth News Tribune

Healy was one of the handful of vendors during Duluth’s first Junk Hunt in 2012. When event organizers Emily and Jay Broman approached her about the event, she was over the moon.

Healy, who has frequented such shows as the Junk Bonanza in Shakopee, Minnesota, The Elephant's Trunk Flea Market in Connecticut and the Round Top Antiques Fair in Texas, was thrilled the Northland would get its own.

A coral and tan jester lamp rests on a platform while other vintage items are seen in the background.
The jester lamp being sold by Vanessa and Ted Osborn, right, was crafted in the mid-1950s, showcased during the 2012 Junk Hunt. The Osborns own Mattie's Menagerie in Bemidji and were setting up for the start of the 2012 Duluth Junk Hunt at The Encounter. This year's spring and fall events are at the DECC.
Bob King / File / Duluth News Tribune

Healy’s drawn to the history of antique items, picking something up and wondering where it has been, she said. Her go-tos are vintage holiday goods, old German sleds, children’s rocking horses and blow molds.

“The pieces from the past were made so well and they lasted,” she said.

Serendipity, which operated for 16 years, started as a vintage store and slowly grew. Participating in the Junk Hunt gave her business a boost, so she encourages new businesses to become a vendor.

“It's a huge opportunity to get your name out there, it draws in thousands and thousands of people,” she said.

Numerous vendors fill a convention center room, with hanging lights dangling from the ceiling and people walking the aisles.
More than 100 vendors and participants move through the DECC's Pioneer Hall for the spring Junk Hunt. The next event is Thursday-Saturday.
Contributed / Emily Broman

Becoming a vendor may be easier said than done.

The Junk Hunt sees artisans, collectors and visitors from the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota — and there’s currently a waitlist to show your pieces, Broman said.

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In fact, Junk Hunt demand is why the Bromans increased the event to twice a year. In the past decade, it’s come a long way.

The first event had a half-dozen vendors and drew about 500 into The Encounter in downtown Duluth. "We told the vendors to spread out," Jay Broman recalled in a 2015 News Tribune story. By the second event, attendance had tripled.

A woman peeks out of the window of a single vintage truck door. It's painted red and it reads Duluth Junk Hunt.
Emily Broman launched the Duluth Junk Hunt in 2012 with her husband, Jay Broman.
Contributed / WhisperWood Cottage

In 2016, the Junk Hunt moved to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center’s Pioneer Hall, where it has been ever since, “hopefully, bringing some tourism dollars to Duluth,” Emily Broman said.

She said she likes the “quirkiness” of antiquing, and finding that one-of-a-kind piece that’s not available at a big-box department store.

Most of the furniture in their home is from the Junk Hunt — a kitchen table, a dining table, an old workbench now serving as a computer desk, orange lockers that are now shoe storage.

The Bromans themselves are business owners, who operate the Bridgeman’s restaurant.

They enlist the help of willing restaurant staff to serve as “junk hunks,” available to help haul big buys during the event, free of charge. You can spot them in bright-orange T-shirts, said Broman.

Part of Junk Hunt proceeds are donated to a nonprofit. Past recipients are Duluth Harbor Mission and Head of Lakes Youth for Christ foundation. This year, it’s Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank.

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Asked about the Junk Hunt name, Broman said it harkens to that old saying, "One person’s junk is another person’s treasure."

“We like all things rusty and chippy and peely paint, all of that is appealing to most of us in the junk world," she said.

If you go

  • What: Junk Hunt
  • Where: Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, 350 Harbor Drive, in Pioneer Hall
  • When: 4-7 p.m. Thursday; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Saturday
  • Cost: Thursday admission $15 online / $17 at the door, includes a free tote and weekend-long admission; Friday-Saturday single-day passes $5 online / $7 at the door; ages 12 and younger free; DECC parking $10.
  • More info: duluthjunkhunt.com , email duluthjunkhunt@gmail.com or call 218-348-5333.
MORE BY MELINDA LAVINE
“Watch out for your fingers,” said Dan Krisak, part-timer at Litchke Farms. “We haven’t lost any yet, but every one of us gets a Band-Aid and keeps going.”

Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346, mlavine@duluthnews.com.
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