Corner Market Auctions refuses to ‘nickel and dime’ sellers

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Proprietors seek to interest and entertain all potential buyers

Bidders and merchandise fill a Quonset hut every other Saturday in Elizabeth City at Corner Market Auctions.

Bidders and merchandise fill a Quonset hut every other Saturday in Elizabeth City at Corner Market Auctions.

Co-owner Melyssa Durren says her qualifications fall into category of never having been “normal or typical since I was born.”

Co-owner Melyssa Durren says her qualifications fall into category of never having been “normal or typical since I was born.”

The following article represents another in a series about businesses in our area that are unique in what they do and how they do it. In this case, we are featuring Corner Market Auctions and the owners, Melyssa Durren and Spencer Andrus.

ELIZABETH CITY — Corner Market Auctions has been in business for three years. They started with a trio of rented storage units, and were shuffling the materials to be auctioned, in and out, until they looked around behind the storage building and found a Quonset hut that would accommodate everything! And, the rest they say is history!

This metal building was available for sale through a local Realtor, so they contacted the agent and acquired the building, taking the next step in their journey.


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Melyssa Durren and Spencer Andrus had been together, as a couple, for three years by the time they started the business, but when they decided to acquire the metal building, they had to put all their savings into this business and gamble on their future. The business has been extremely successful, but not without very hard work and very sound judgment.

While still living at the beach, Melyssa had leg surgery and soon thereafter, Spencer had a back operation. After they recovered, they began going to yard sales, and sold items online doing the best that they could to sustain themselves.

Attendance at auctions as bidders, gave rise to their interest in auction sales as a business opportunity. They enjoyed it so much that they asked themselves what the next step was going to be, and where they could go with this idea.

They saw things they would do differently, and they asked themselves again what they would do if they were a bidder / buyer. They would subsequently use that information in order to create a business that was friendly and interesting to buyers.

When they discovered the Quonset hut, they had some difficulty obtaining approval from the county Building Inspectors, but with the help of a County Commissioner, the problems that they initially encountered were resolved and the business went forward.

As a child, Melyssa would go with her parents, and with her brother and sister, on family treks to various auctions. She would participate as much as possible – which she found enjoyable and which has continued through her entire life.

Melyssa says that her dad is not a ‘think inside the box type person’ and that she has learned a great deal from watching him — for good or for bad — over the years in how he does business. Of course, most people know that her father is Rick Durren, the General Manager and Vice President of Biggs Cadillac. She attributes her business awareness and skill to the influence that she received from him.

When she and Spencer look at an estate, they attempt to assess potential revenue, which will go offset the cost of manpower, trucks to transport the items to their business location, and then the cost to inventory everything for sale. In addition, they have numerous consignment relationships with sellers who will bring them several pieces to sell or just one. People ask every day what something is worth and her answer is very simple, a particular item is worth what someone is willing to pay for it on any given day when the auction takes place.

When it comes to the items to be sold, they look at the entire estate, not just one single item. They have found over time, that unique items sell. They look for things that they have not sold before. There is always going to be quality stuff but not everything is going to be the big flashy, high dollar pieces. They try to have a good mixture of things to sell and they are not too good to sell $5 pieces, as many people come to them looking for small items. In many instances, people buy low dollar items from them and then turn around and attempt to sell the same items eBay or Craig’s List at a profit.

They strive to appeal to a large crowd of buyers. If Corner Market Auctions sold only merchandise that appealed to Melyssa or Spencer, it stands to reason that the base of potential buyers would be much smaller.

The couple encourages people to try and sell their property at full retail, if they can. Put something in an antique shop and pay necessary carrying costs and advertising expenses; or, place items for sale at auction, pay Corner Market a fee, and take the money and use the funds – all with much quicker turnover.

Some people sell large estates while others, just a few pieces. They do not require that an estate have a full house of furniture. They charge a commission of 30% on sales and will negotiate the commission for larger high dollar items. There are no additional charges for pickups, advertising or other expenses as Melyssa and Spencer believes that these costs should be paid by them.

As Melyssa puts it: “No one likes to be nickeled and dimed.” In fact, she thinks it’s kind of “tacky” to add on additional costs. They charge a straight up commission and keep it simple.

Generally speaking, they will have 200-plus visitors on an auction weekend.

They have a preview, on Friday, between noon and 6 p.m. the day before the auction. Of all the visitors that they have, some do not register and some do not bid. Some just come to watch and see what items are selling for. Some people come on Friday and leave bids with her for items that they are interested in and she bids the items for them during Saturday’s auction. In that instance, 30 to 40 people leave bids with her, whereas one hundred or so actually register and attend, checking in and checking out at their convenience.

Settlement with absentee buyers usually occurs on Sunday.

Melyssa and Spencer have been together for six years, with nuptials planned for later this year.

When asked how long they intend to keep the business going, she replies that they will keep the business just as long as people keep coming! She and Spencer enjoy what they do and are fortunate that they are able to keep busy and they will stay with it until it does not work.

In addition to traditional auctioning services, their company is a licensed used-car dealer through the division of motor vehicles and they are licensed to sell firearms through their license with the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Agency. They have an agreement with an FFL dealer named Robert Privett, who comes to their location every other Saturday in order to handle legal transactions of firearm sales. The used vehicles on their lot are priced to sell and neither the cars nor the firearms are subject to auction.

They keep a couple of used vehicles on the lot but they have no standing inventory of any kind.

In this business, Melyssa and Spencer have done what they felt was right. They work hard. Most folks view the operation as “a two-day proposition” but the reality is closer to six or seven days per week, with many long hours in a metal building that can easily reach 100 or more degrees this time of year.

This is a full-time enterprise but they enjoy their work and have become successful in the process. Melyssa says that she has not been “normal or typical since I was born.” Perhaps that accounts for her single-minded commitment to success.

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