Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another one bites the dust

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about our local Family Dollar store closing its doors.  Today, I visited Kmart on the second day of its going out of business sale.

Yes, my beloved Kmart, where I got several cart loads of $.99 toys, a buggy full of $.99 Wrangler shorts, and no telling how many clearance bargains over the years, is calling it quits.

Signs are up on the outside, and the store even has an employee whose sole job is stand out by the road and spin a sign to attract attention.

Prices currently are marked down 10 to 30 percent, which really isn’t a bargain compared to Kmart’s normal sale prices on a good day.   So many shoppers are snapping up these perceived bargains, though, that I doubt much will be left when the discounts get deeper.   From what I read, the store will be gone by October.

Retail arbitrage, at least for me, will never be the same, or as easy.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday already?

On Friday night, Ella and I attended the last auction being held in the auction house on the main drag in the little town of Eatonton, famous for the Uncle Remus Museum, and author Alice Walker of The Color Purple fame.  The auction house is being transformed into an antique mall, and the auctioneer, in the future, will be conducting only on-site auctions, free from the overhead that owning an old building brings.

It was raining cats and dogs when we arrived, and several small buckets caught the steady drip from the leaky roof.  Thankfully, the leaks were away from the merchandise, but attendees were subjected to an occasional drop of water.

It was the last hurrah, and merchandise was limited to various odds and ends; tables; giant fans; and the concession stand.  With no room in the truck for the bigger bargains, we bid on and won an antique school desk, a round display table, and assorted small items, all bound for The Big Booth (TBB) at our local antique mall come August 1. Ella still hasn’t settled on a name, but is leaning toward Ella’s Emporium to continue the alliteration started with Barry’s Books, our online venture, and Barry’s Bonanza, our smaller antique booth.

Saturday morning had us up and at 'em for a host of estate and yard sales. Ella was industrious on Friday, not only creating a list of sales to attend, but also using Mapquest to plot the best route to get us to the sales without going around in circles.  She also programmed our GPS with all the addresses, so all we had to do was hop in the truck and hit the road at 6:30 a.m.

I bought this 50's rocking horse
and several vintage cameras for $50

We had more than 20 sales on the list, and managed to get to most of them.  Along the way, we picked up some good books, DVDs, toys, several old cameras, a wooden high chair that needs some TLC, and a vintage 1950’s rocking horse, obviously bound for TBB.

Earlier in the week, someone advertised both a collection of Elvis memorabilia and an estate sale in separate ads on Craigslist, and I made it a point to get that sale on Ella’s list.  We pulled up late on Saturday morning to an older, semi-rundown house, in a less than desirable neighborhood, with a makeshift “estate sale” sign out front.  There were no other cars around, and after making sure that every lock on the truck was engaged, we wandered up to the front of the house, only to find a very locked porch door. 

We heard a dog barking around back, so we followed the sound to find a dog on a leash on the back porch.  Not wanting to antagonize the dog, we stood there for a few moments, debating our next move, when the door opened, and a man appeared, pulled the dog in, and shut the door, ignoring us. 

Feeling brave, I knocked on the door, and the same man opened it.  I inquired about the estate sale, and he ushered us in, and told us to wait.  As I was mentally debating the wisdom of our situation, a pleasant woman approached from the back, and told us to come on in.  She proceeded to talk about the Elvis collection, and showed us a few home-made Elvis VHS tapes.  Obviously, we weren’t impressed, but then she took us to a room in the back of the house that had more, including a four foot Elvis statue, a large record collection, and some movie posters.  I still wasn’t impressed, but pretended to be so. 

I asked about the price on the statue, and she said the she had a buyer on Ebay for $130, but had to cancel it because she didn’t know how to ship it.  I then asked her about the price on the record albums, but she said that she was still going through each album (there were a least 100 albums, maybe more), and wanted to price each one individually.

Figuring that it was time to leave, I promised to email her later to give her time to price her treasures.  I think the statue and record albums would be nice for TBB, but I’m not sure that I really want to deal with her. 

Later Saturday, we went to the auction in Byron.  It was sparsely attended, with little worthwhile to purchase.  We did bid on and win a few things for our booths, though.

I had a couple of good Ebay sales for the week, including vintage tools for $40, and a Yu-Gi-Oh Dungeon Dice Monsters Game for $99 that shipped via Ebay’s Global Shipping Program.

I picked these tools up for $1 each; they sold for $40

This has been in my inventory forever.  I'm glad it finally sold
I also had a minor annoyance when a single buyer bought the same book on Amazon, Half, and Alibris.  Like many media sellers, I have my inventory listed across multiple venues, and have an online database program that deletes items from all databases as they are sold.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t fast enough to catch this triple sale.  So, I canceled the sales on Half and Alibris, and shipped the Amazon purchase.  I have to keep Amazon happy.

This week promises to be busy as usual, especially given that TBB officially becomes ours on Friday, and we will need to merchandise it as quickly as we can.  I plan to have some before and after pictures of the booth to share.  It’s going to be a challenge.

Have a great week.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Would you like a sewing machine with your books?

A gentleman in Forsyth, about 30 minutes north of me, advertised 100 free cookbooks on Craigslist on Monday.  I immediately emailed him, and after a game of phone and email tag, we finally connected, and arranged for me and Ella to pick up the books Tuesday evening.

As I was packing the books in totes, he casually asked if I knew anyone who wanted a free antique sewing machine.  I would, I replied, probably a little too quickly. 

Can you take it now, he asked.

Sure, I said, if it will fit in the truck.  It would, and after helping man-handle the machine down the house’s narrow stairs, we got it loaded in the truck.  I then went back to get the books.

As I was about to load the final tote of books, the gentleman gave us a turkey fryer, used once, he said, to burn a Thanksgiving turkey, and never used again.

He then said that he had other things to give away, and would email us a list when it was ready.  We obviously thanked him profusely.

Ella scanned the cookbooks when we got home, and only found a couple that were worth more than a penny online.  Thankfully, we have our antique booth to unload some of the more vintage books.  The rest will go to the hospice thrift store.

The sewing machine, while not exactly vintage, will be one of the first furniture pieces in our new larger antique booth, which I have dubbed TBB (The Bigger Booth) until Ella comes up with a better name.  Of course, we don’t move in until August, which means we have to find suitable storage for the next two weeks.

As for the turkey fryer, I’ve heard horror stories of people burning down their house while trying to cook a big bird.  Ella wants me to give it a try (frying a fowl, not burning down the house), but more than likely I will sell it, or it will sit in my shed collecting dust.

Is it the weekend yet?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Going … going … gone

The auction house on Saturday night was surprisingly bare, at least compared to our last visit earlier in the spring.  Empty areas that formerly held all manner of antiques and collectibles dominated the room, and only the actual auction area held any merchandise.

I thought it was a wasted one-hour drive.

As a small crowd gathered in the room, I listened to small talk, and figured out that the auctioneer was getting out of auction house business to concentrate on on-location sales, and that he was in the process of liquidating his store.  Much of the merchandise on the floor belonged to a dealer, and it was only after she had sold out that the fun began.

The auctioneer began selling the store to the bare walls.  Everything was going cheap, and by cheap, I mean really cheap.  Box lots and table lots were going for less than $10; a vintage sewing machine in cabinet went for $7.  After the table lots were cleared, he began selling the actual tables, usually for $2 to $3.

It was a whirlwind since the auctioneer was determined to clear the room that night, and he was rushing from one lot to the next, selling within seconds, and then moving on.  No matter how vintage or collectible, it sold to the highest bidder.

Ella was having fun.
We had a ball at the auction!

OK, honestly, I was, too, but I knew how much the truck could carry, and we already had a couple of boxes from a sale earlier in the afternoon.   With each piece and/or lot bought, I mentally played a game of Tetris, trying to figure out placement in the truck.  By the end of the auction, we had spent more than $200, and after loading the truck, the only free space was my front seat; Ella had to sit cross-legged on her seat because she had a large covered wagon lamp sitting on the floor.

What did we get? A little bit of everything, except for furniture, although we did buy a six foot folding metal baker's rack that I hoped would fit in the truck (it did, barely).  We got the typical glassware, linens, lamps, vintage signs, and too many knick-knacks.  I got a tote full of Atlanta Braves and Falcons collectibles, including seven signed baseballs, for $25.  I also bought a vintage railroad lamp for $2, and a nice Pepsi leather jacket for $7.
Gonna make me
some sodie pop
For myself, I bought a new SodaStream (makes homemade soda) for $5.  I had been wanting one, but didn’t want to pay $60 on Amazon.

We also bought a large brass raffle drum, which took up almost half our back seat. 

Needless to say, not all of it will fit in our current antique booth, which is already filled to the brim.  We had been discussing with John and Heather, the owners of the antique mall, about renting either a larger booth or a second booth, and on Sunday, Heather showed us a very large booth that will be available in August.  The rent on the larger booth is roughly $100 more than we are paying now, and having both booths will almost triple what we have to sell each month to break even.  It’s a scary move, but in for a nickel, in for a dime. 

Earlier on Saturday, we attended a storage unit auction, and watched 13 units go to the highest bidder.  Most were trash (no “wow factor”), but the 10X30 unit held promise … the promise of hard work and questionable profit (it went for $400).  Ella really wanted that unit, but, fortunately, I talked her out of it.

We also went to several yard sales, and I found, among other things, a vintage Macon Whoopee hockey stick decoration for $5.  Defunct sport team memorabilia always sells, and while it’s not as good as the Whoopee jersey that I sold for $300 two years ago, it should bring a nice profit.

Toward the end of the morning, we purchased three bikes (don’t ask me why).  The first bike was a small BMX-style bike painted up like the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard (OK, that’s why).  The second was a near vintage beach cruiser-type bike with a more comfortable seat than my current bicycle, and the third was a literally brand new girls bike; the bike still had the plastic on the wheels and seat.  We negotiated a price of $100, which included two new in package G.I. Joes (worth $30 each) that I had picked up.

Obviously, Saturday was a full day.  Sunday was spent sorting Saturday’s bargains, packing stuff, and working briefly on our booth.

Sales for the past week have been mediocre, but at least that’s a step up from awful.  We sold $92 worth at the booth, which pushes us into the black for the month.  Amazon and other assorted venues remain steady, but still not meeting my goal.  Ebay stepped up a bit, with a couple of good ka-chings, including my vintage Lite-Brite, and my Awana DVDs.

My vintage Lite-Brite sold quickly, but wasn't worth a whole lot
I bought these on instinct; they sold fast and for good money
I need a vacation, but I’d probably just work through it, so what’s the point?

Friday, July 11, 2014


During the summer of 1980, I was a rising high school senior participating in the Governor’s Honors Program, a four-week program “designed to provide intellectually gifted and artistically talented high school students challenging and enriching educational opportunities not usually available during the regular school year.”

Back then, I thought I was pretty smart, having been “selected” to participate in the Communicative Arts field after a series of interviews.  Upon arrival at the program, and meeting all my extraordinarily gifted peers, I realized just how “non-gifted” that I actually was.   Still, it was fun to hobnob with the really smart teens, and I even learned a new word:


It was one of the subject matter areas in which students were selected to participate, and until that time, I had no clue about the word, and, honestly, could barely pronounce it.  I, of course, blame my high school for their lack of any real-world instruction.  But, I digress.

I mention this because I see examples of entrepreneurship in young people all the time these days, whether or not they actually know what the word means.  Kids tend to be hustling at an earlier age, and I am not just talking about simple lemonade stands, although that small stand on a busy intersection on a hot afternoon during rush hour last week certain fits the bill.

No, I’m talking about the full blown, make a product, print business cards, and sell your little heart out type of entrepreneur that I saw at a yard sale recently.

I met Sky, Makayla, and Nadia, three pre-teen “Crafty Cats,” after perusing one of their parent’s sales.  As I was leaving, I stopped at their little stand, and was impressed by the lengths to which they had gone to look professional.   They had created a large variety of crafty type items at different price points, ranging from the budget conscious dollar area to $8 items.  All three young moguls went into full blown salesperson mode trying to sell me something.  In the end, I bought a Popsicle stick and yarn thingamajig for $1.  As I was leaving, these young industrialists made sure I had one of their business cards, and told me to call them if I needed anything “crafty” made.

These pre-teen executives made sure everyone had a business card
It’s amazing and, honestly, a little scary that kids are so advanced these days.  When I was their age, I don’t think I even knew what a business card was.

Robert Duncan McNeill
On a related subject, I did some research for this blog post about the Governor’s Honors Program, and discovered that then Atlanta high school student, Robert Duncan McNeill, best known for his role as Lt. Tom Paris in Star Trek: Voyager, was a “Theater” participant that summer, and could have been my roommate, or at least lived on the same dorm hall as me.  Obviously, my memory is fuzzy when it comes to details.  Still, it’s a personal link, such as it is, to one of my favorite TV series.

Elsewhere in my own little world, sales continue to be flat, with Ebay ka-chings being few and far between, and Amazon “sold” emails becoming something to celebrate due to their recent rarity.  Antique booth sales are somewhat steady; we’ve almost made rent already with nearly three weeks left in the month.  Just making rent is obviously nothing to cheer about, but once that milestone is reached each period, I can relax a little.

As for the weekend, I think everyone is still hung over from last week’s Independence Day celebrations.  Sales are scarce.  To keep busy, we will attend a 14-unit storage auction on Saturday, as well as travel up the road to preview an estate that currently is undergoing online bidding.   Both may be wastes of time, but we are continually looking for that “wow factor.”

Be productive everyone.

Monday, July 7, 2014

It’s sad to see stores close

The Family Dollar store near our house has finally closed, after gutting it out for a couple of years after the less than modern grocery store next door was driven out of business by the shiny new supermarket down the road.

Like the grocery store, Family Dollar was small, but was usually my first stop for non-grocery items when I didn’t feel like driving to Wal-Mart in the big city. The store’s death march culminated on Sunday, when everything left, such as it was, was marked at 80 percent off.
Ella took advantage of Family Dollar's
going out of business sale

Obviously, such a deep discount attracted all manner of bargain hunters, including Ella and myself.  We spent in excess of $100 on toys, DVDs, cookies, and assorted odds and ends.  Some items will be sold, some items will be gifted, and, of course, the cookies will be eaten. 

While we benefited from the closure in the short term, our small windfall is tempered by the thought of employees losing their jobs, a shopping center now sitting totally vacant, and the city losing tax revenue.

Otherwise, the holiday weekend was pretty much unremarkable, thrifting-wise. I listed on Friday; went to a few yard sales on Saturday morning, and to a fairly worthless auction on Saturday night; and massaged our antique mall booth on Sunday.  In between, I got to sleep later on a couple of mornings; I took Ella to Logan’s Roadhouse for dinner (she had a coupon); and we (me, Ella, and her brother, Jimmy) went bike riding on three thrifted bikes (Jimmy’s three-wheeler and my vintage Schwinn from the auction, and Ella’s 21-speed from the benefit sale last week).

Sales continue to be slow across all venues.  I did sell a fitness medal, which goes to show that if you can’t actually win one, you can at least buy one on Ebay.

Buying your way to physical fitness
With the holiday behind us, it’s time to get back to work.  Have a good week everyone.