Sold! Auction houses join in acquisition

September 9, 2012

Quinn’s Auction Galleries of Falls Church is in an expansive mood.

The auction house is teaming with Ken Farmer Auctions & Appraisals of Radford, Va., to purchase a Charlottesville auction house called Harlowe Powell, which will make the combined organization one of the bigger auction operations in Virginia, with annual sales surpassing $10 million.

The new entity will be called Farmer & Quinn Auctions, and be housed in a 15,000-square-foot building in Charlottesville, where the firm will have 11 employees.

Ken Farmer will be president of Farmer & Quinn, in charge of sales. Paul Quinn will be executive vice president and run the operations end.

“It gives us total coverage of all the customers in Virginia,” said Quinn, 68, who founded his auction house 19 years ago.

Farmer is well known in auction circles, and spends about six weeks a year as a regular on “Antiques Roadshow,” where he serves as one of the appraisers. Quinn’s son, Matthew, also appears on the show as an appraiser.

“Matthew and Ken Farmer had a conversation in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, airport a year ago, and the conversation about teaming up started then,” Quinn said. “Matthew got me involved, and then we just clicked. I bring business experience, and Ken brings prestige.”

Quinn said his company was growing so fast that it needed to expand geographically. The business strategy is to have a statewide sales network that allows the new company to tailor antiques to where they are most likely to sell.

“If you bring me a Southern Virginia piece, I’m not going to sell that here at Quinn,” Quinn said. “I’m going to sell that in Charlottesville, where we will have a better and more exclusive market.”

Quinn said the goal is to double sales to $20 million within three years.

Nothing will change in Falls Church, said Quinn, who employs around 18 full- and part-timers. Except maybe the fact that he and his sons will be putting more miles on their minivans and SUVs.

The deal closes Sept. 30. The sales price was not disclosed.

The Buzz hears:

The subject of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s address to the Economic Club of Washington on Sept. 12 will be the financial collapse and what’s ahead for the economy. Before he became mayor of the Big Apple, Bloomberg worked on Wall Street and then founded his eponymous financial news service.

A new Leesburg start-up called Golfoholics, which is the brainchild of entrepreneur Bill Replogle, has just passed 10,000 fans on Facebook. We don’t usually note these milestones, but Golfoholics, which creates content and merchandise for lovers of the links, is just offbeat enough to deserve attention. Replogle founded two venture backed-companies, Rainmaker and AdMine.

Park Whiz, the Chicago-based online company that sells parking spots near Nationals Park, reports demand up 500 percent at the past five Washington Nationals games.

“We’ve never had sales at a baseball stadium grow so quickly,” Marketing Manager Justin Baker said. ParkWhiz allows customers to reserve parking spots online at more than 125 venues across the nation. The company works locally with parking vendors Atlantic and Central. Spaces go for $12.50 or up to $17.50, depending on the walk to the stadium. “I am rooting for the Nationals to win the pennant,” Baker said.

No kidding.

An appetite for new hires

Venga, the District-based software company that collects and organizes customer data for restaurants, has snagged Bob McKay from Fishbowl to be new vice president of sales and Michelle Baker from OpenTable to be an account executive.

“This is a big get for us,” Venga co-founder Winston Lord said. “We lured them from two of the hottest restaurant sites online.”

Venga in the past year pivoted from being a consumer-oriented restaurant site, to its new iteration, where it collects data to pinpoint customers’ habits, including the amount of time they spent eating, favorite menu items and how frequently they visit the restaurant.

Lord said what makes the company different is tracking menu items.

“Our secret sauce is we can tell you not only how much you spent, but also the steak you ate, how you like it — medium rare? — and which pinot noir you washed it down with.”

Factoid of the Week

$75,000That’s the amount The Potomack Co. auctioneers in Alexandria expects a lost painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir will auction for on Sept. 29. “Paysage Bords de Seine,” as the painting is titled, was found by a woman at a Shenandoah Valley flea market, and could fetch up to $100,000 or more. The painting is only about 7.5 inches-by-12 inches. “She probably bought it for less than $50 in a boxed lot, which is a cardboard box filled with a bunch of stuff,” said Elizabeth Wainstein, owner of Potomack. The owner had it for more than six months in a shed, in the trunk of an automobile and in her kitchen. “It was in a box she bought with a Paul Bunyan doll and a plastic cow.”

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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