Norman Hunter's last big sale
by Lisa Tome
Norman Hunter would like to retire.
But Hunter, 74, would also like to see the business he built continue.
"I've been here 40 years. I know the customers are concerned that the Sale Barn might close. I hear it's their Monday night outing," said Hunter.
Hunter bought the property, between Rising Sun and Port Deposit, which was a former stockyard in January 1975.
"When I came, there was a little flea market but no management. It took me two years and the police to get rid of the theft, booze, and prostitution," said Hunter. "I said then that I was going to make this a household word, and I did."
There have been milestones over the years, a fire ripped through the buildings in 1995. In 1989, Hunter expanded, opening a salvage store on the property five days a week.
The Monday night vendors come from Virginia to New York selling their clothing, movies, jewelry, produce, and Amish goods. "There is used items and a lot of tools, if you need something, if you look here you'll find it," he said.
That's the upside. The downside for Hunter is that he has to be there.
"This thing chains you to the wall," said Hunter.
He wants to do some traveling and also wants to feed his passion - classic cars. He owns 25 cars and wants to go to cars shows and events, something he can't do while running the business.
A little less than two months ago, he put the property and the buildings, 12.3 acres, zoned business general, on the market. Inside the buildings, there is 40,000 square feet of space with heat and air conditioning. Online real estate websites have the property listed at $1.6 million.
"The day they were putting the sign up, it was hard. You spend so much of your life, 40 years, doing something and you think about that going away. The hardest thing for a small business to do is make an exit. A small business is based on the owner's personality and being able to deal with people from all walks of life," he said.
He said there have been challenges running the sale barn. "It's a challenge. You never know what you'll run into. We don't tolerate foolishness and people know what to expect. If vendors are dishonest or hard to get along with, we put them out," he said.
There has been inquiries about buying the business. Online real estate sites have gotten 11,000 plus views. "It would make a great wood working shop. But it annoys me when I think of everything (the vendor sales) going away," he said.
He and his wife, Carol, will continue to work as auctioneers.
"Auctioneering is fun. I would have done it for nothing, but they paid me," said Hunter, of his auctioneering career. He is self-taught and learned to be a fast talker while behind the wheel of a truck.
"I just trained myself. I would drive the cattle truck to Philadelphia and practice while I was driving. I practiced for a year. And the very first item I ever sold was a manure spreader," he said. "It's a fun and interesting business. I like people. In this business you have to be a people person."
And although the business is on the market, Hunter will stay in the area on his farm. He said he will also remain active in the Rising Sun Lions Club, the Greater Rising Sun Chamber, and his auctioneering groups.
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