The auctioneer wears a sloppily knotted thick bow tie over a three-piece tweed suit. The suit has gold threading in the stripes. The auctioneer has thick, neatly trimmed muttonchops that make him look a little like an 19th-century politician.
The man in the suit is Jonathan Hagey, who has just auctioned off an old wooden chair with a right handed desk attached. The hammer price is $20. The chair is clearly meant for a small child.
Hagey is presiding over the auction Thursday night inside a store called Mrs. Huizenga, a converted Goodwill store on Roncesvalles Avenue in west-end Toronto. Twice a month since February 2013, Catherine Huizenga and her business partner Dave Amer , with the help of their staff, turn their west-end vintage clothing, housewares and furniture store into an auction venue.
This type of event is common in rural areas but Catherine and Dave have brought the country antiques auction business model to Toronto. They are the first people to do so.
Their auction on Thursday night attracted a mixed crowd of Roncesvalles locals, antiques dealers, families, 9-5 professionals, retired folks and non-buyers who were attracted in by the crowd and are staying for the entertainment and low-priced wine and Mill Street beer.
The crowd is tired but, as my great aunt would say, ‘glossy’ from the alcohol. Some items do not sell at all but everything people bid on does. From the front door’s opening to the final item sold, the entire auction lasts more than three-and-a-half hours.
The 138 items sold at the auction are sourced by Catherine and Dave especially for the event. Some come from the store and some from consignors. Many of the consignors “are dealers looking for an alternative sales outlet, also people who are looking for an alternative way to clear out stock so they can keep buying and support their habit,” says Catherine.
Also in this crowd of consignors are “pickers”, these are people who “often as a hobby rarely as a living…sources material especially for resale…..They facilitate the movement of merchandise from point a to point b,” she continues.
The auctioneer takes bids in $5 increments on a 1960s record player and radio made of a smoked plastic. It looks like a bubble a child would blow, except darker. There are five people vying for it, including Catherine, a bank executive, the owner of a vintage audio equipment repair shop and the owner of another vintage store, who furnishes it partially with items he salvages from his regular job as a demolitions contractor. It goes for over $100 to the owner of The Art of Demolition. It may end up in his shop or become a permanent fixture in his home.
When I asked Jonathan about how he would describe his style as an auctioneer, he thought he would leave it “up to the crowd to describe it. But I guess I would say I try and keep the mood fun so my style is fun and not very serious.”
Before the first item of the night even comes across the block, Jonathan made the crowd raise their right hands and swear an oath including not bidding above their credit card limit and not chatting about “how sexy the auction staff are.”
Not everyone gets the items they want. Darius Armstrong is a dealer who has consigned with the auction in the past. He bought a counter-top scale tonight he plans to keep for himself. The chalkboards he bought and the window panes will be resold. While he says there were no surprises “there were lots of really good deals.”
Catherine advises potential guests to bring friends “because there is safety in numbers and they make keep you from overspending.” They try to appeal to people who maybe don’t even want to buy just get some unique entertainment or a fun night out. The staff at the store always put up plenty of advance notice on their facebook page along with photos of items for sale.