Thursday, October 25, 2018
Sherm Smith Jr., owner of Smith Auctions, LLC, is in the business of bringing people together. He does it through collecting, consigning and auctioning collector cars from across the Midwest, storing them in his warehouse in Dexter, Missouri.
It’s intergenerational, he says, and stretches across cultural barriers.
“If you enjoy cars, whether you’re 70 or 15, you can relate,” Smith says.
Most of Smith’s customers are from the Midwest. Dexter is a good home base for his business, he says, because it is centrally located within the United States, as well as central for his customers, many who live in neighboring states like Kentucky and Arkansas. The cost of living, too, is lower, as is the cost of a building and the cost of venues for the auctions. Regulations, too, are often less stringent in the Heartland than in other regions of the country.
The business’ reach is regional: Smith Auctions has two sales each year at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. They also have sales in Paducah, Kentucky; Springfield, Missouri; Jonesboro, Illinois and Overland Park, Kansas, and in the past have held sales in Texas and Florida. The business employs professional auctioneering staff from Phoenix, Detroit and North Carolina, as well as Scott City, Missouri, auctioneers and emcees who exclusively auction cars.
At one of Smith’s auctions, a car sells for between $12,000 to $15,000 dollars on average, although he has seen cars sell for $65,000 to $100,000.
“Most of our clients are wanting something to bring them back to their childhood,” Smith says. “Whether it’s their first date or that first little bit of freedom, you always remember your first car, what your mom drove. So we see a lot of that. We see people get emotionally tied.”
Smith says he’s always been interested in cars, sharing this passion with his father, Sherm Smith, Sr. He spent his childhood tinkering with cars and learning about them with his father, who founded the business in 1994. Smith joined him after graduating college with a degree in business administration and marketing in 1997. Smith has continued the business since his father’s death in 2016.
It’s not only cars Smith repurposes: the warehouse was built in Dexter in 1944 as a community center that became a shoe factory two years later. When Smith and his father bought the building in 2014, they stripped the sewing machines out of the warehouse to make room for the collector cars.
Smith spends much of his time meeting people who have collector cars at swap meets and car shows, and calling people who have collector cars, making visits to their home to see them. One of the elements Smith most enjoys is the actual auction, when sellers step up to the block with their cars, potential buyers ask questions and the bidding ensues.
“It’s a new deal every two minutes,” Smith says. “So we come up on the block, it’s a new seller, a new car, a new dynamic. Some people, they’ve had that car their whole life, they’ve seen their kids go through and drive it, and they cry when it goes. It’s a unique business.”