Kennedy: Yard sale devotee has set up shop on Highway 127

Staff photo by Mark Kennedy / Mark Turk poses Wednesday inside his office on Taft Highway. Turk recently moved to Walden's Ridge from his former home in Bradenton, Fla., where he owns a sound shop.
Staff photo by Mark Kennedy / Mark Turk poses Wednesday inside his office on Taft Highway. Turk recently moved to Walden's Ridge from his former home in Bradenton, Fla., where he owns a sound shop.

The funny thing about "Mad Mark" Turk, 60, of Signal Mountain, is that he isn't mad at all.

To the contrary, Mark Turk, who moved to Walden's Ridge a couple of years ago after falling in love with the annual Highway 127 Yard Sale here, said he is semiretired and living his best life.

(PHOTO GALLERY: The Highway 127 (World's Longest) Yard Sale)

Signal Mountain residents might be interested to learn that Turk is the answer to the trivia question: Who owns that place with all the green street signs down by the Dollar General store?

Turk and his wife, Susan, bought a nice house in a neighborhood on the mountain a couple of years ago, but Turk, a successful Florida business owner, thought he also needed a separate office-slash-man-cave.

"I call it my office," he said in an interview. "But you call it whatever you want."

Turk said he tried being fully retired, but that only lasted about 24 hours. The first night of his retirement, he decided to clean his toolbox. By the end of the job he was thinking, "This isn't really what I want to do," he said.

Soon, Turk bought the garage building with an attached apartment to convert into an office. Inside, he has a desk and a big computer monitor where he watches camera images beamed from inside his Mad Mark's Stereo Warehouse in Bradenton, Florida, more than 600 miles away. The store's T-shirt says, "If it's too loud, you're too old."

There's obviously work that goes on in Turk's office, but it's also designed as a place to relax — sort of an adult clubhouse. Turk said he has hopes it will be a spot where people on the mountain stop just to shoot the breeze with him, smoke cigars and share a soft drink or a cup of coffee — sort of like a general store 100 years ago. If the front gate's open, visitors are welcome to stop in and say hi, he said.

 

Let's call Turk's setup a "mantuary," a male sanctuary that is home to hundreds of vintage license plates, road signs, yard art objects, Mack Truck hood ornaments, novelty art and car-body sculptures.

To be clear, Turk isn't excluding women. It's just that the surroundings skew masculine. There's a space for rolling cigars, a pool table and a parked Harley-Davidson motorcycle inside his office complex. There's also a roomful of 1970s baby boomer-era artifacts such as a vibrating NFL football game, a set of Jarts (aka lawn darts), along with several vintage 8-track tape players and CB radios. Turk uses the '70s room as a conversation starter with visitors.

Turk is reasonably famous in Bradenton. The "Mad Mark" moniker was invented as an advertising hook for his store, he said, which is considered one of the premier auto and boat sound shops in the Sunshine State. He once installed a sound system in baseball great Bobby Bonilla's Corvette, he said.

Turk said he has held the record for producing the world's loudest car, actually an old hearse equipped with nine, 18-inch woofers that pumped out 157.1 decibels of sound. That's louder than a packed Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, which reportedly peaked at 125.4 decibels during the Vols' 2022 victory over Alabama.

(READ MORE: With win over Bama, Vols 6-0 (from 2022)

A friend in Florida found a 14-foot "Cigar" sign that a company there agreed to give away for free, and Turk drove down to bring it back to Tennessee. Ultimately, it didn't fit in his van, so he used a trailer to bring it home. Now, the sign hangs on the front of his office building. A cigar lover, Turk said sometimes people stop by just to ask about the sign.

"Since I put that sign up, lots of people come in to say 'hi,'" he said. "I had a group of people come in one night and just sit at (a) table and chat."

"I have an ambition," Turk added. "I'd like to start a cigar club where we sit here and roll our own cigars."

His street sign and licence plate collections also attract a lot of attention. Turk said he was fascinated with personalized license plates as a child — a trait he inherited from his dad, Homer Turk, who had a plate that read 5LHT, an acronym for "five little Homer Turks," a tribute to his family.

Mark Turk, who is originally from New Jersey, said his family owned a small resort in the Pocono Mountains before moving to Florida in the 1980s. His dad, now deceased, collected license plates, baseball cards and Matchbox cars, among other things, Turk said.

Turk said he spends lots of his free time searching yard sales and antique shops for signs, a hobby that brought him to the Highway 127 Yard Sale several years ago.

"I collect (signs) everywhere I go," he said. "I love antique shopping."

Turk said one day he might decide to open an extension of his Florida sound shop here, but if he does, he won't be installing big systems that could disturb the peace on the mountain.

"At this point in time, I'm not selling or installing anything," he said. "My goal here is to enjoy conversation and have people (come) in here to visit."

Life Stories is published Mondays. Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645.

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