Mike Brown: Estate Sale!

The years of living with Mike Abu and being his friend have always been adventurous. Whether it’s seeing how many flags we could steal on our way home, drunkenly stumbling from the bar or blowing up our kitchen, weirdness always abounds. If you know Abu or have ever been to any of his living quarters, then you know that it’s riddled with weird shit, kind of like Pee Wee’s Playhouse without all of the public masturbation—just some of it. All those years I lived with him, I never questioned where he got an antique ice-cream scooper or a 1940s hair dryer. That is, until I went estate-sale shopping with him.

Abu invited me to go with him last month, and I cordially obliged. The thing is, estate sales happen in the morning, and I don’t really know what mornings are. I ignore and neglect mornings like a redheaded stepchild, so I obviously slept through the first estate sale Abu invited me to. Abu bribed me with beer and coffee, and dragged me to an estate sale in the Avenues the next day.

I meandered around some dead old lady’s house for a while, with several other people all digging through her old shit that her kids didn’t want—or that she was too busy hoarding, so us lucky estate sale shoppers got to pick up the leftovers. Fortunately, this lady really liked cats. There was cat shit everywhere, not like cat poo but cat items galore. I was able to pick up some cat pillows and cat ceramics on the cheap. Her fondness of cats and hoarding seemed to go hand in hand, like chocolate and biscuits. Abu bought a broom and a packet of old notepads for god knows what reason.

There were plenty of serious collectors there taking their time; people going over other miscellaneous items, people on their phones, probably looking up something on eBay to check a resale value and lots of old people. Old people like old stuff. Everyone was nice and friendly, and I must say, it was a great Black Friday shopping environment.

I decided that I should learn more about estate sales and what they are all about after this experience, so I called one of Abu’s estate colleagues to get some more info on how this whole thing goes down. Lou Barrett, owner and operator of B-Team Liquidations, was kind enough to let me pick his brain about how antiques go from dead people to collectors to antique stores and sometimes the D.I.

Photo: John Barkiple
Photo: John Barkiple

First off, someone has to die. That might sound harsh, but it’s all part of the brutal circle of life. You die, and someone gets to take your stuff. I’m well aware that all the Utah Jazz merch I’ve collected over the years will end up in someone else’s hands, eventually. But, Lou gets his leads for organizing estate sales mostly from realtors and from the trust department of a bank, not so much from funeral homes.

Lou used to run his own antique store, Wasatch Furniture, before he really got into running an estate-sale business—which makes sense because a majority of estate sale shoppers are antique-store people, or what Lou told me were “serious collectors.” Estate sales typically start on Friday, when the antique store people and serious resellers usually show up. They run all weekend, and B-Team Liquidation is usually able to sell about 70 to 90 percent of the stuff in the houses they purge.

I asked Lou what the strangest thing he’s ever sold was—it was a once-living stuffed monkey for $200. And no, Abu didn’t buy it because he rarely has $200 to blow. Other than that, there have been human skeletons—which I was surprised to find out could be legal to buy—and dentures. For some reason, Lou told me that he sells a lot of dentures at these estate sales. But like I said, there were lots of old people at the one I went to.

Lou does about 40 of these estate sales a year, roughly every weekend. You can find out about them from B-Team Liquidation’s Facebook page. I was surprised I didn’t see more candy-ass hipster kids at the estate sale I went to fighting over vinyl—probably too busy racking up scene points at the D.I. or Goodwill when the real good shit is in some dead lady’s house. In fact, I kind of feel bad blowing the ultimate secret about thrifting with this article, but I have a job to do.

I’ll be hitting up more of these estate sales in the future on my quest of having the ultimate Jazz shrine and some cat collectibles along the way. So if you see me there, keep your hands off the cat pillows—I call dibs.