When Allen Raines started selling things online through eBay years ago, he eventually looked around and realized, as many people in the resale business do, that he had accumulated way more “things” than he could sell, house or handle.
“So, I started Big Al’s Auction, an online auction business, to sell what I had hoarded,” Raines said. “It started in my garage and, a few months later, I had to make the decision to actually make it into a business and rent space.”
Raines rented a large storage unit right off of Andresen Road, let others know he would sell their items for a fee and started monthly auctions at BigAlsAuction.com. When his company eventually grew to three 50-foot units, Raines knew they needed a warehouse and they moved to their present location down by Pearson Airfield on the Fort Vancouver Historic Site. A couple of months later, he said they doubled their output to two auctions each month as the items kept flowing in.
“We’ve been growing at about 50% increase per year and could grow faster but don’t feel we want to expand any faster, and I’m not as young as I once was (is anyone?),” Raines said. “I have two full-part-time people working with me and several that come in when we need to move an estate or business around.”
For the buyer, Raines said the service Big Al’s Auction offers is a local online auction where they can find good deals, maybe something to add to a collection, or, since many of the buyers are resale businesses, items they can turn a profit on at their antique store or online market such as eBay.
“Every auction is different, from an entire estate, small-business liquidation, to items people and businesses want out of their garages and warehouses,” Raines said.
“For consignors we furnish an easy way to rid themselves of unsold inventory, grandma’s boxes that have been sitting in the garage for years, or that storage unit that costs too much for pay for each month,” he continued. “Sometimes it’s an entire household that they need to sell and don’t have time for a regular estate sale and want items moved out now.”
Raines said that every auction they grow about 50 to 70 new bidders and lose one or two. They use a company called HiBid that puts together and housing the program that makes their auctions look “professional and tidy.” He said they’ve sold everything, from coins, stamps, glassware and antiques for individuals, to tools, inventory and even barber chairs for businesses. And although Raines has what he calls “a voice that’s made for online auctions,” he said they can also do onsite auctions and estate sales when needed, as he does have friends in the business that can auction call well.
“When someone asks why we’re successful I think it’s because we do care,” Raines said. “I keep telling people I’m retired and only work 60-70 hours a week at something I enjoy and that’s not really work. We try our best to help families and businesses take care of items they either don’t want or need anymore and give other families and businesses items they could use or desire. It’s a win-win.”
Although Raines now spends his time doing online auctions, many local business owners may know him from when he moved back to Vancouver and started the Vancouver Business Journal. What many people may not know, however, is that the first issue of the VBJ was put together entirely by a crew of one – Raines himself.
“I was born down here but was in Bellingham at the time and had several small businesses, including the Bellingham Business Journal, which really wasn’t that successful,” Raines said. “But our having a new daughter, missing our families down in the Vancouver area and the knowledge that a business publication was needed in Clark County was too great a pull. We sold our home and businesses and came back home. The first issue was written, produced, ads sold and distributed by me as a starting point. It went over so well that we actually turned a profit with the second issue, and we could hire employees.”