story by Lauri Sagle
photo by MACARIO
It’s hard to believe that in three days the auction site will be tidy, organized and ready for an audience of frenzied bidders. Right now it looks like your Uncle Vic’s garage-meets-Hearst-castle: over in the corner, a tub of dishes; upended and rather forlorn, a rattan end table; more stately and erect, an Asian-influenced armoire surrounded by beautiful, hand-knotted Persian rugs; and, languishing on top of a ceramic planter—could that be?—an enigmatic brown wig.
But the folks at Paradise Auction are pros. Founder Mike Schmidt and his daughter, Colleen Pabre, get it together every time, overseeing the transformation of these erstwhile treasures into a well-behaved lot with the help of a crew that does double-duty as bouncers and gracious hosts.
Schmidt started learning the game twenty-plus years ago after the inventory of his Alaska-based furniture store was auctioned off. Tired of maintaining his own stock, he had a “Eureka!” moment as he witnessed the auctioneers in action. He attended auction school, and a few years later on a trip to Hawai‘i, saw the potential for a Big Island auction house. Still, even though he had an auctioneer’s license in another state, Hawai‘i County officials weren’t sure what to make of his request for a license here: “A what?” they asked when he first inquired.
They know now: Paradise Auction currently averages between fifty and fifty-five auctions per year. Held mostly on Saturdays at the company’s Hilo auction site, the events draw a wide slice of the Big Island’s populace and feature several discernable categories of goods, from antiques to cars to the inevitable “miscellaneous.”
And after two decades in the business, Schmidt and Pabre both agree that the excitement is what’s best about auctioneering.
“I like seeing people get good buys, seeing the look on people’s faces when they get a good deal,” says Pabre. For Schmidt, though, it’s turned out to be too much excitement: Father and daugther will hand over the auction gavel to new owners soon. But the show, of course, will go on.