New Farmington auction house is bidding for business
The shelves that line the walls at Allstate Auctions are filled with treasures, though that might not be obvious to the casual observer.
Look closer and you’ll see model trains and vintage beer signs, horse tack and collectible Coke glasses. There’s probably nobody who wants all of it, but for the right person, any one of those items might mean the end of a long search. As auctioneer, it’s Sue Wunderlich’s job to connect people with the things they’re looking for.
For the past several weeks, Wunderlich, her husband and anybody else she can recruit to lend a hand has been filling the former tae kwon do studio at 328 Third Street with as many of those potential treasures as she can find. She gets them from sellers who bring them in on consignment, and from her own shopping outings.
“I’m sure people, when we’ve bought things, would be, ‘Why are they buying that?’” she said. “There are so many people with different tastes, you never know.”
There is a radio in Wunderlich’s shop that seems to be unique. The only one like it she’s been able to find is in a museum.
Wunderlich describes the items she’ll sell off as better-than-garage-sale quality, but there’s really no limit to where she’ll look.
“You have so many strange things,” she said. “Taxidermy. People love other people’s taxidermy.”
Wunderlich learned to love auctions at an early age. When she was a girl, she would go with her father to flea markets in northern Wisconsin. She was in awe of the big rope-and-metal structure that would roll through the aisles carrying an auctioneer who would sell off items at each booth. Those flea markets taught her negotiating skills, she said.
Wunderlich never really stopped going to auctions. She goes now with her husband, and she has brought her own children. Her brother-in-law does online auctions, so when the idea came up recently to step to the other side of the auctioneer’s podium, she figured she’d give it a try. She got certified as an auctioneer, found a space and started collecting things to sell.
She’s thrilled with the location she found. It’s across the street from the Farmington Steak House.
“People from other states know where the steak house is,” she said.
Auctioneering a bit of a strange move for someone who was very shy as a kid, but Wunderlich has learned to be a people person. She has worked many years in customer service.
Wunderlich has also had to practice her auctioneering skills. She’s not the kind of fast-talker often associated with live auctions, but she likes to go fast enough to move things along. She sells telephone poles and stop signs while she drives to help get her cadence just right.
“I’ve been to a lot of auctions,” she said. “I know what I like and what I don’t like.
“You want people to understand what they’re bidding. I’ve been to auctions where people didn’t understand what they just bid on.”
Wunderlich plans to hold Allstate’s first auction at 6 p.m. May 4. She hoped to have the 100 to 200 items up for bid on the business’ website, allstateauctionsmn.com, by April 27. Would-be buyers can put in a bid in advance online, bid live online or come bid in person.
The plan is to hold auctions on the first and third Wednesday of the month. Eventually, Wunderlich would like to have 300 to 400 items at each auction. She hopes to eventually outgrow her location.
For now, though, she just wants to get started.
“It’s been fun,” she said. “We’re excited.”