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Published: Sunday, 7/27/2014

Store braces for yard sale crowds

Mary Alice Powell. Mary Alice Powell.
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Yard sale lure is never stronger than it is on U.S. 127 every year in early August for the World’s Largest Yard Sale. The date this year for the 690-mile, four-day event is Aug. 7-10 and David JoHantgen will be ready for the deluge of customers.

“Each year it seems to get bigger,” Mr. JoHantgen said at MoJo’s Grab-N-Go food market that he and his wife have operated for five years. He was administrator of the Montpelier, Ohio, Moose Lodge for 16 years.

“Just be real careful if you are on the road that weekend,” said Charlene Franks of Pulaski, Ohio, a MoJo employee. “The traffic is terrible on both sides. Semis are lined up and people dart across the road in the blink of an eye. You can’t get through Pulaski.”

Michelle Smith of West Unity, who works at her parents’ store, observes the approaching big weekend otherwise.

“It’s so much fun,” she says. “We have repeats that come from Michigan, Texas, and New Hampshire.”

MoJo’s, named for Dave’s wife, Andrea, who is called Mo by the grandchildren, and Jo, from JoHantgen, is on U.S. 127 between West Unity and Pulaski. I have driven past it several times on the way to Pulaski, Bryan, and Archbold when it was named Chubby’s.

When I decided to stop three weeks ago it was hunger and not the cute name or all the promotion signs on the building that prompted me.

I have returned twice to try other products that meet the taste and fresh qualities of homemade foods. MoJo’s is open seven days a week with ample food choices, but for the big sale weekend, some production will move to the parking lot with grills to cook salmon burgers, pork chops on a stick, and brats.

Potato salad, coming up. Dave JoHantgen and his staff at MoJo's Grab-N-Go will make 700 pounds of potato salad in preparation for U.S. 127 Yard Sale travelers next month. Potato salad, coming up. Dave JoHantgen and his staff at MoJo's Grab-N-Go will make 700 pounds of potato salad in preparation for U.S. 127 Yard Sale travelers next month.

The potato salad is the hallmark in the refrigerated food case and is claimed to taste the same as when it was Chubby’s big seller, thanks to two former employees who are now at MoJo’s.

For the yard sale weekend, 700 pounds of potatoes will go into salad. You know the potato salad is made fresh when Dave pulls out 100 or more pounds of 60 count— the largest — Idaho russets that were cooked and peeled before being refrigerated. While some potato salad makers believe the salad is best if the dressing is added to warm potatoes, it is the opposite at MoJo’s. The potatoes should be cold before being mixed, they believe.

The potatoes are cooked with skins on and peeled by hand, but the next step of cutting them for the salad is done by machinery. The chilled potatoes are shredded, not cubed as we do at home.

The dressing is made from scratch in large quantities and used in the pasta salad as well with the potatoes. Andrea steps up to the plate in the business by sharing the family’s favorite recipes for baked beans, pickled beets and eggs, and cucumbers and onions in sour cream.

My choices were a roast beef sandwich on soft whole wheat bread, marinated carrots, six deviled eggs, raspberry-filled cookies, and peanut butter pie. Those were in addition to potato and pasta salads on the three visits.

Thursday through Sunday is the best time to buy both fruit and cream pies that are sold whole and in slices. More than 100 strawberry pies were made during strawberry season and about 75 pies will be made for the Bryan Barn Fest in September.

Featured regional products include Stony Ridge wines that are made just down the road near Pulaski, Cork’s Winery, from Fayette, Ohio, and Pettisville Meats specialties, including lemon pepper pork chops and oven-ready glazed meatloaf.

The yard sale corridor spans six states from Michigan to Alabama. A brochure advises: “Drive a large car. You never know what oversize treasures you may find.” But experienced yard sale scouts make sure they don’t have to leave a good buy behind. They drive trucks and haul trailers.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com

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