Going once … going twice … Not sold?
ASPEN Nothing sold at the historic Red Onion Bar and Restaurant auction Saturday.Buster Cattles, an auctioneer from Grand Junction, wore his signature cowboy hat and was ready to put on a show with his high-speed auctioneer’s chant, but nobody showed.Former manager of The Red Onion, David “Wabs” Walbert, hired Cattles to auction the last remnants of the restaurant – pots, pans, glassware and kitchen equipment – and Cattles advertised in area papers for the event.A few restaurant-owners and wholesale buyers dropped-in, but not enough for a proper auction, so Cattles and his staff of five called it a loss.”No blood and no tears,” Cattles said. “You can’t always be 110 percent in business.”Walbert said officials from the City of Aspen inspected the restaurant Friday to ensure Walbert wouldn’t sell any historic elements of the 115-year-old Aspen bar and restaurant.”I’m the one who wants to keep it historic,” Walbert said, adding he was happy to comply with the city’s suggestions.Everything from the historic bar and shelved bar-back area to booths, old swinging doors, a wall rack and a stained glass partition will stay where it is, Walbert said.Walbert is walking away from the restaurant he’s run since 1984 because of high rents. Owners Ron Garfield and Andy Hecht have plans to renovate and reopen the restaurant.”It was so crazy here those last couple of weeks,” Walbert said of the restaurant closing. “It was more emotional … more tense … than I thought it would be.”
Walbert said he’s salvaged all the equipment that he can use in his restaurant in Silverthorne, the Old Dillon Inn, and said the rest he’s just hoping to unload before he heads out on a much-needed desert vacation next week.
A 27-year veteran of the auction business, Cattles learned his trade – and developed his own “chant” – at an auction college in Mason City, Iowa.The staccato auctioneer’s chatter is a way to add a little excitement to an event, Cattles said. And learning how is just something an auctioneer develops by practice, making up “fill” words so they’re not just repeat numbers.”Anything and everything” is what he sells, Cattles said – usually farm equipment and household items at estate sales, or confiscated items at city and county sales, but he and his hired crew will go just about anywhere.Cattles usually earns a percentage of the sale, but said Saturday’s no-show at The Red Onion, wouldn’t hurt him. “That’s my business,” he said.
And the online auction site eBay has helped his business, he said.”People buy things on eBay they normally wouldn’t buy,” Cattles said, and that means wholesalers like Dan “Big Undies” Underwood is on the lookout at auctions and estate sales.”I just turn stuff around and put it on eBay,” Underwood said.He and his wife Claudia work for Cattle as part-time auction staff, which gives them a chance to bid and buy items.The pair was disappointed at Saturday’s auction, saying buyers could have done well with the glassware and TVs on the auction block at The Red Onion, but said it’s hit or miss in the business.Sometimes the Underwoods can more than double their money selling online, they said, and have had some strange sales: A pair of 50-cent suspenders branded with the Swatch motif sold for $70 to an online buyer in Italy, an old Bell motorcycle helmet visor went for $142 to a buyer in Malaysia and a 1985 Chevy Caprice selling for $500 elicited bids from as far away as Norway.
“Why? I don’t know,” Underwood said, shrugging his shoulders. But there is a lot of friendly fun to it all, and buying and selling has landed his wife Claudia in a full-time business, Bigundies Red Shed, their store in Grand Junction.”Our house is furnished in Early American yard sale,” Claudia said, and buying and selling is addictive. “It’s like an illness.” And it’s an illness that’s in the genes, as Underwood caught the buying bug from his mother, a woman with an uncanny sense of knowing what to buy and where. She once bought a girdle she later found stuffed with $100 bills sewn into the seem and found Bibles with surprise stashes of cash, he said.The only downfall to their work are the nickel-and-dimers who bargain a 25-cent sale down to five. “That just drives me crazy,” Claudia said.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In Eagle County, Vail and Beaver Creek resorts Senior Communications Manager John Plack said the company agrees with the state’s assessment that the ski industry must be out-front in its approach to ensure a safe and successful season in Colorado.