Saturday will mark the final Mile Long Yard Sale for Jim Amero as the event’s director after more than a decade of organizing and conducting the popular event in Watertown.
“It’s a job. I enjoy my job, and I have enjoyed my job but it’s time for me to step back,” said Amero.
Amero ventured to Watertown about 25 years ago and started helping with the Mile Long Yard Sale, which had already been in existence.
Amero, born in Lewiston, Me., in 1947, said his passion for antiques started when he was a young boy spending time with his father. The Vietnam War veteran worked as an assistant librarian, bookmobile driver, a fruit and produce company truck driver and made telephone sales for a meat company after three years in the Army.
He opened Smiling Dog Antiques in Wilton, Me., after a forklift accident nearly ended his life.
He moved to Watertown and opened Jim’s Antiques in 1999 on the Watertown Square. Eventually, Amero took over as the lead figure for the Mile Long Yard Sale and oversaw the event’s growth to one of the more unique and talked about events in the state.
“It’s recognized all over the state,” said Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings, who said other city leaders asked about the upcoming event at the Tennessee Municipal League meeting recently in Chattanooga. “I get asked about it from officials in other communities. It’s a signature event for us.”
Putting the event together has become routine for Amero, who said he typically starts soliciting vendors about two months prior to the October yard sale.
“I asked him what time I needed to be there on Saturday, and he told me ‘4,’ and I said, ‘4 a.m.?’ He said, ‘Yep,’ ” said Chelsea Robertini, who will take over as the Mile Long Yard Sale coordinator following Saturday’s event.
Robertini has shadowed Amero since late June to become familiar with the Mile Long Yard Sale operation and said Amero has become a genius in his coordination.
“It is a lot more work than just ‘Oh. We’re going to have people come set up and do a yard sale,’ ” Robertini said.
Amero said he and volunteers begin each Mile Long Yard Sale morning about 3:30-4 a.m. by blocking off streets, setting up signs and directing vendors.
“Everything about this event is in his head. To try to make sense of it on paper is not really fair because he has it all just memorized — the people, what people sell, where people go. He has built this great event and relationships with the people that set up at this event,” Robertini said.
“I’m just happy to have been able to pick it up and run with it, because I could see it 25 years ago. People think it’s complicated and, sometimes, it is, but you just feel good about it,” Amero said.
The Mile Long Yard Sale typically draws about 15,000 people to Watertown, which becomes jammed with cars lined along and around Sparta Pike for miles. Vendors sell everything from typical yard sale merchandise and antiques to brand new material and food.
The event has also become popular for participating clubs and organizations for fundraising.
“It’s just unique and different. They’re stepping back in time,” Amero said of the event.
“A lot of things that are old school and old time-y are fading away. For us to be able to hold this event and for people to come explore what we have is great,” Robertini said.
Amero, 74, said he suffered a ministroke last year, which helped compel him to pass the reins for the event.
“We’re not giving it up. It’ll probably go on for another 25 years,” said Amero, adding his antique store on Main Street would remain open. “I’d like to be part of it by just being a participant instead of the guy with everything on his shoulders.”
“I hate to see him go, but I understand why he is. I’m sure that it will continue. He’s raised the bar for the person coming behind him,” Jennings said.
“He’s a man who’s been doing this for 25 years and it’s his baby. He knows all the ins and outs, so I feel a lot of pressure taking this on,” Robertini said. “I’m the one that will call the vendors and I will speak to them and get all of the event stuff sort of set up, so taking on this role, I already have an insight on some of the things I will have to do. I kind of have a little advantage in that, but I’m probably going to need assistance from Mr. Jim.”
Amero, who has volunteered or contributed to several of Watertown’s premier events, said he would continue to contribute to Watertown in any way he could.
“I hope Jim will stay active in community events and things going on because he’s been a good contributor to our community,” Jennings said. “Every town needs people like Jim Amero.”
“You just get involved when you’re in Watertown,” Amero said. “You can’t help but to get involved.”