East Texan looking ‘everywhere’ to buy, resell

Published on Sunday, 27 October 2013 23:40 - Written by BETTY WATERS blw@tylerpaper.com

ATHENS — Kenny Stowe, a professional buyer and seller of “anything of value,” has found it all, including a 15th century gong and cowboy boots, when looking for items to buy and resell.

Stowe said he works hard buying at auctions, estate sales, swap meets, trade shows, liquidations and bidding on repossessed contents of storage buildings, then brings the merchandise to a warehouse in Athens and auctions it off or sells it at flea markets.

But Stowe said his wife, Clairice, is the “backbone” and owner of their recently renamed resale business, now called Extreme Business Services. It also includes U-Haul trailer rentals, UPS, FedEx, Western Union, bill pay, copies, fax and gifts.

She has a front display room of assorted merchandise such as knick-knacks, purses, greeting cards, bubble bath, books, candleholders, hats, wind chimes and etcetera.

Stowe’s treasures are in a warehouse next door. A licensed auctioneer, he auctions them off at 6:30 p.m. Mondays in Athens, also does on-site liquidations at houses and sells at flea markets in Athens and Canton.

He said he drives “everywhere” looking for antiques, vintage items and “good clean modern furniture” that he sells. He goes to Houston, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Indianapolis and as far as Massachusetts. The round trip to one of the biggest auctions in the U.S. in Indiana was about 2,500 miles.

They started their resale business fulltime in 2008, but both grew up in families already in the business and Stowe auctioned his first item, a Mickey Mouse pocket watch, when he was about 6 years old.

Stowe particularly likes to bid on contents of storage buildings or lockers. Under Chapter 59 of state law, owners of the buildings can seize the contents for nonpayment of rent and auction it off.

He estimates he buys contents of probably 40 lockers a month in Shreveport, La., Longview, Dallas, Houston and as far away as Indiana.

Stowe is even being featured as a buyer in 11 episodes of the television show “Storage Wars: Texas” on the A&E channel.

Stowe, who likes to work for himself, said he loves his work and finding things to buy and sell.

Stowe never knows what’s in a locker when he buys it because bidders are not allowed to walk in. Once he has successfully bid on contents of a locker and a crew has taken them to Athens, Stowe said, “it’s like Christmas every day” going through it and discovering what’s there.

A while back, he found two wooden, hand-carved ducks from the 1850s or early 1900s. Wooden ducks are expensive, but these have glass eyes, which make them even more valuable, and they have shank heads so that the duck can face different directions, which makes them even better, Stowe said.

In another storage locker, he found an authentic brass gong from the kingdom of Borneo appraised at $1,500, but he said he doesn’t know what most items are worth until he puts them on the auction block.

His finds include a 1920s planter, a piece of McCoy pottery, which he said was some of the best pottery made; an 1836 brass bell from a church in St. Louis and an 1800s drop-front desk. He bought the desk for $100 and sold it for $350.

Recently, his warehouse contained an antique Singer sewing machine, a 1930s wardrobe, a 1970s three-wheel bicycle, a buffet from the early 1980s, a 1940s metal toy truck, an 1820s drop-front secretary with a serpentine front and claw feet and a 1970s GI Joe box. Hanging on the wall was a 1950s motorcycle jacket.

Stowe buys furniture, appliances, motorcycles, tools, hand-sewn antique quilts and many other items.