Used as a noun, the word “hustle” means energetic activity and drive. Yes, you’ve got to have an abundance of hustle in this business. Owning and operating an estate sale company is hustle from start to finish, from the first day we roll up and start unloading folding tables and our endless supply of pricing equipment- from tags to safety pins to Ziploc baggies and fistfuls of Sharpies- to the last day we close the garage door, completely out of breath, and pull our signs out of the ground.
The day before the sale is a marathon. Thursday morning at 8:00 A.M. is opening day during sale weeks. By the time I finally go to sleep Tuesday night, all of our ads should have been broadcast over email and internet. If it’s a good week, I will have started advertising the Sunday prior to the sale on our Facebook page with plenty of pictures to pique the interest of our followers, with nicely edited pictures building a good story of what the sale will have to offer our eager customers. I love a good story, and as I’m finding, so do our customers.
But if I’ve been pressed for time, I’m in a dead run Wednesday morning aided by copious amounts of coffee at my son’s Wednesday morning guitar practice, editing pictures while he’s behind the studio glass with his instructor hammering out some blues. Once guitar lessons are over and we’re back on site, I tie on my grungy nail apron that I’ve turned into a fanny pack which holds a small arsenal of equipment that I’ll need as I work from room to room finishing last minute details, snapping more pictures and finishing things I should have done earlier in the week. (I’m a recovering chronic procrastinator. I’ll be sure to fill you in on that…later.)
I recently saw a picture online of a group of “mom-trepreneurs” (yes, that’s a mix of mom and entrepreneur) wearing t-shirts with an interesting phrase. The phrase was “Do It Scared”. It’s a saying that has gained traction as more and more people – especially women- are stepping out to face their fears as they reach out to seize a dream that’s always been in the back of their minds or maybe stirring in the deepest recesses of their spirits. My “scared” is this business. It all began with one laughable, beautiful, God-inspired opportunity that has turned into an amazingly wild and wonderful adventure.
I was just setting out for an afternoon walk with our two dogs when our neighbor came down the hill and met me at my mailbox. Jack had his hands in his pockets and had that look on his face that only a retired, very determined down-hill ski instructor can have when he’s mulling over a matter of great importance. I was glad to see him. I knew it had been a rough week.
“Well I suppose you’ve heard?” he motioned behind him. I nodded sadly and told him how sorry I was that his friend, our neighbor Art, had passed away. They’d been neighbors for a considerable number of years, long before my husband and I ever thought of moving to the Village. “I told them I’d help find somebody to sell all the stuff,” he said. Securing an estate sale company was the least he could do to help Art’s family amid the stress of closure. Jack had already mentioned it to me a couple weeks earlier at the same spot in the road when he found out that Art’s time was drawing near.
Jack squinted, “I want you to interview for the job. I’ve already told them about you.”
This was the second conversation we’d had about it. And my answer was the same this time as it had been at first. I barely got the words “not qualified” out of my mouth when he shook his finger at me and smiled, “I see you coming and going all hours of the day and night! Buying this, selling that!” I closed my mouth and listened. Sometimes other people see things in us we can’t see in ourselves…not even in a million years.
We had just finished our first year as craft fair vendors using my background in art and my husband’s love of woodworking to launch a vintage inspired collection of home décor. In addition to raw wood and sawdust beneath the carport, we were up to our eyeballs in inventory for our flea market booth I’d gathering from yard sales, auctions and yes, even estate sales. But holding and an estate sale? Even though my husband and I had been praying for a business opportunity and a way to serve our community, I was sure this wasn’t it. I remember looking at my neighbor with great insistence, “Jack, there are professionals who do that! And that’s not me. That’s certainly not us.”
But by the end of the conversation I had agreed to at least interview for the job, even though I was completely outside my comfort zone. Jack was persuasive and at this point also very satisfied.
Now, over a year later, I look back on that conversation beside the mailbox with nothing but gratefulness. I reflect back on the moment Art’s son-in-law knocked on our door and said they wanted us to handle the sale. I think back to the weeks my husband and I spent inventorying the contents of kitchen cabinets, desk drawers and garage nooks and crannies. Just as I had done every time I’d come home from my garage sale hunts, I researched, researched, researched some more. I remember sitting on the parquet floor of Art’s entryway looking through 100 year old books, archaic electronics still in the boxes, draftsman’s tools, rulers, and calligraphy pens, feeling as if Art was there in person telling me about his extraordinary life.
I look back on finding little notes his wife taped to the back of paintings before she died, inscriptions on the inside cover of books, details of the life Art and his wife shared together which had become a beautiful, complete picture that unexpectedly unfolded before me as we cleaned, priced and staged the home with the items they’d collected and enjoyed throughout the course of their married life.
I think back to how incredibly scared I was before the doors opened at 8:00 A.M. on that first Thursday morning. But more than anything else, I think back to standing next to the register meeting people who spoke the same language I had been speaking all of my life- people who also had an incredible love and fascination with old things, rare things and all the stories those things hold. That’s the moment I remember finding myself. In the middle of a collection of crystal stemware, everyday drinking glasses, worn out pots and pans, wedding china with little pink roses, trucker hats, raincoats, old books, kitchen towels, souvenir mugs, and favorite comfy chairs with threadbare fabric on the arms, I found my purpose.
Little did I know all those years ago that while I was decorating my home with garage sale and flea market treasures because they were all I could afford, I was being prepared for a business that would fit me like a handmade glove. Little did I know during all those hours I spent researching antique finds because I just couldn’t get enough of the history, I was being prepared for a way I would one day help people who were mourning or moving on. Little did I know how little I knew my own heart, how little I believed in myself, how unprepared I was to be completely blown away by agreeing to do something even though I was absolutely scared to pieces.
Next month marks the anniversary of our first year in business. It’s been incredible, exhilarating, enlightening, and yes, it’s been quite the hustle. Twelve sales down and many more to go!
To all of our friends and fans, thank you for welcoming us into this kindred community of people who buy and sell second hand goods. From all of us at Wallbury Estate Sale Company … the best is yet to come!