Slow Death by Estate Sale

I was not given a blindfold or a cigarette. When you’re about to be executed, you should at least be given a blindfold and a cigarette. Or a last meal request. Instead I got 7 days notice. Oh, and I was informed there’d be some torturing leading up to it. Nice.

It all started back in November, just before we left for San Francisco. Randy’s extended family J&J decided retirement in a tropical setting sounded like a good plan, and had asked Randy to help them part with some of their treasures. As aging Rock Stars, and I MEAN ROCK STARS (as in, toured with the Doors, The Dead, Jimi Hendrix) they had a selection of goodies that any collector would sell their first born for. And some did, as SF is a great place to find collectors of Vintage. They hadn’t listed their house yet, but were considering their next option for decommissioning their collection.

Enter Vega, my 3 1/2 year old, 6 pound (on a good day) cat. Vega has always had a weird physiology, and underwent several procedures while very young. Vega REALLY wanted to go to SF. She heard about the seafood, and said she was in. Since work was involved, she finally agreed to stay home, but wasn’t happy about it. On the last day of our trip while traveling home, Vega came down quite ill, and I ended up going straight from the airport to the Emergency Vet. Follow that with her spending a week in emergency care, visits to a couple of specialists, and finally several trips to CSU and a specialized surgery, I was up to my eyeballs in vet bills. Vega has since made a near full recovery, though her condition caused her to lose part of her vision so she doesn’t jump up on things anymore.


I’m ready to go! When do we leave?

Vega before surgery, not feeling so good.

Vega after surgery, sporting her sweater since she lost so much body fat

Vega these days, happy, healthy, and having a nice kitty nap!

While all this was going on, J&J decided to ask Randy to host their Estate Sale, as they could think of no one else they could trust with their goodies. Many of their art pieces were rare, a full pottery collection to rival some museums, and all in a beautifully designed house. The main problem was that Randy doesn’t have the staff to pull off a small estate sale, let alone one of the proportions of J&J’s with over 50 years of collecting involved. So being the problem solver that he is, Randy proposed to do the estate sale, but the proceeds would go to Vega’s vet bills, if I could get enough volunteers to pull it off. It’d be a win-wn for everyone, he helps friends, Vega gets out of debt (her allowance isn’t very big), and the stuff gets sold by knowledgeable friends with care and respect. Sounds like a winner!

Well, as we all know the economy is not “fine,” and therefore the hope of J&J’s house selling by March quickly vanished, as did the estate sale. April came, then May, and still no luck. After a trial run of their drive down to their new warmer climate at the end of May, it was time to get our game plan on for the sale. J&J were thinking something before the middle of July, since that was when their exit date was planned, so basically they gave use 6 weeks to figure it out. Not bad.

A few days after receiving this information, Randy & I were working out the shop to-do list, and the estate sale came up. The conversation went something like this:

Me: So J&J sent the dates for the estate sale. You want to do it before or after the 4th of July?

Randy: I’m doing the renovation. It’s next weekend.

Me: You mean the weekend of the 23rd? Yeah, that will be tight, but doable, I think.

Randy: No, next weekend.

Me: As in, 7 days from now?

Randy: Yup. That’s the only weekend it can happen.

Me: (Dumbfounded) Uh, there’s not enough time. I haven’t even seen the house, or the contents. And I don’t think I can get help that fast!

Randy: Well, that’s the plan. I’ll just make it happen.

What followed could be considered a spirited debate, fraught with expletives, amazement, and a complete failure on my part to convince Randy that this was NOT a good plan. I left the store that evening wondering if he had lost his mind or if I was overreacting. When J&J pretty much had the same reaction, I felt a little better, but the go date was still on. We had 7 days to pull off a month’s worth of prep and work, and make it count.

It’s not as bad as it looks, it’s worse.

Of course, I wasn’t able to get near the amount of friends to help as I would have with 3 or 4 weeks of notice. Nor was I able to do a full marketing campaign that would draw people from Ft. Collins to Castle Rock. But my close group of friends and family came through yet again, and put in many hours of time to make it happen. Randy was able to bribe several of his connections to come work, and also call in some favors from his inner circle. J&J were clearly freaked out at the first night of recon at the house, because there really was no plan other than “get it done.”

To be blunt, Randy’s strengths do not lie in manual labor. He’s easily distracted, constantly on the phone with clients, and can be overwhelmed if he has too many decisions or options presented to him. So having him help bag and tag the majority of the sale was out. However, his little black book of connections and his ability to show people the beauty in things was at a premium for this sale, since there was not much junk and a lot more “funk.” I had to remind myself of this fact multiple times during the process, as Randy was standing around wooing potential buyers, having a beer, lounging on the sofa, while myself and the crew slaved over pricing endless boxes of office supplies, literature, books, tools, knick knacks, and the like. Every night was dinner on a paper plate while tagging items, getting home around midnight, and then back at my “normal” job in the morning. Needless to say, we all lost track of what day it was, what time it was, and if we’d ever see the end of the bottomless pile of stuff.

The layout of the house is FANTASTIC, but not for an estate sale. A windy thin stairway to the bedrooms and office was begging for either wall damage or a lawsuit (or both), so everything had to come to the main floor. The good news was we had some big guys help who could carry the sofas and large plants. The bad news was they could only do it for one night. So It was a mad dash to get everything ready to move for our tiny time slot and find somewhere to put it. In addition, the books couldn’t be prepped in time for the big guys, so myself and Chris (who works in the store with Randy) ended up carrying the 10 boxes down. At least my missed workout was made up for that day.

Of course, while all the in-house prep is going on, there’s the additional prep of signage, web listings, photos for the listings, web pages to be built, email blasts to be sent, etc, and the daily store chores to be done as well. Luckily I had a bit of practice for this sort of thing before, which streamlined the process but didn’t take the time out of it that much. Considering I was shooting pictures on a Tuesday to post them on a Wednesday, things turned out ok.

Friday afternoon rolled around, and upon arrival at the house it sorta kinda looked like things were coming together. J&J spent the better part of the day pricing things they knew the history on, which sped up the process considerably. With the sale starting bright and early at the butt-crack of dawn, we could lay some things of less value out on the lawn and free up space in the garage to move. (This was a huge improvement over “take it out and put it back” the previous 4 nights). At 11:30pm, we finally buttoned it up, with all the chips on the table for our morning opening. If there was anything we missed, we’d find out by 9am when (hopefully) hoards of people would clamor to the sale. Just the though of having to be up again in a mere 6 hours made me tired, and knowing it would be back at the sale just put a few more nails in the coffin. If I did sleep, it was spent dreaming about tagging stuff for the sale.

Saturday morning came, and fortunately, so did the shoppers! The morning rush was exactly that, and we had a nice line of people willing to give money for J&J’s stuff. Most of the street leading to the house was filled with cars, and few of them our helper’s rides. Having J&J sign up for the Square app was a good call, as many folks were happy to shop more when they found out they could credit and forget it. Though the weather was sketchy, we were spared rain and only had to deal with some light winds. I think I spent the majority of the day in a coma, the simple math I normally do in my head was impossible to calculate and I was relying heavily on my best friend Adam to check my totals. Our customers were friendly and easy to work with, a treat we knew would not be the case on day 2 when the vultures would be looking for deals. Kevin (see the Palm Springs post) was amazing as a roaming sales guy, talking up different items, making deals on the fly, and getting the merchandise OUT THE DOOR. When the final bell came and we shut it down, all and all it was a very successful day.

Randy was feeling like celebrating, so we ended up at Pacific Highlands on the suggestion of Kevin. As you know from reading the SF blog postings, after eating at Swan’s I wasn’t sure if I could ever eat oysters in Colorado again and not be disappointed. I have to say, thought it wasn’t Swan’s, Pacific Highlands has a great seafood selection, and some really great oysters. And for the quality of the seafood, it is reasonably priced, too! We will definitely be back for their $1 oyster specials. As tired as I was and completely fried, I toyed with skipping dinner and going straight to bed. I can honestly say I was glad I chose to stay up and snarf shellfish.

Sunday came too soon, and TOO HOT! In hindsight, placing the checkout stand on the concrete by the street was a crappy plan for crazy summer heat. Those of us working the cash register easily drank 5 gallons of water a piece and were still parched. J&J kept the snacks and drinks coming, but there was not making up for the sun baking us to a crisp. “Clearly we are dead, and this is hell, because otherwise it wouldn’t be so hot.” I seriously think I could feel my sandals melt to the pavement. Surprisingly, we did have a good turnout despite record solar flares from the sun and it being Father’s Day. Also surprisingly, most folks were quite social and friendly, and not out for blood playing “let’s make a deal.” We had a few turkeys, but in the end it was a thanksgiving. More stuff left, J&J were thrilled, and we easily sold more than half the inventory. Randy successfully negotiated the exit of several collections as a whole, and got J&J fair market prices. Kevin stopped by with his family and ended up with a car-full of purchases. A few repeat shoppers came by and left with boxes of stuff. Overall, not bad.

I’d like to give you a play by play of what happened the two actual days of the sale, or even better descriptions of the prep time, but I honestly can’t recall due to the speed, duration and intensity of the setup and sale itself. It truly came down to friends and family to save the day, you know who you are, and we THANK YOU!!!

We’ll know in a few days how the numbers came out for Vega’s debt, right now it’s looking pretty good. J&J have much less to do to get ready for their Next Big Adventure, which is excellent news.

Of course, with these sort of debacles, there are always heated arguments, stress, confusion, miscommunication, more stress, broken items, and more, and we had our fair share. To say it was completely smooth sailing is like saying the Titanic had a minor incident. But the purpose of this blog is to make you laugh and show you cool stuff, so I’m just going to skip all that.

It must be mentioned, though, that there was one major downfall with performing this miracle for J&J. Before the sale, those of us who knew J&J, or knew of J&J, considered ourselves lucky to have met such cool people. After working so closely with them, under such a mountain of stress, we all got to know them a lot better.

I think I speak for all of us when I say our greatest feat performed in helping them with this sale for their next journey, will be saying goodbye.

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