If it’s been a while since you’ve been on the hunt for vintage at an estate sale, you should know that things have changed.
Estate sales used to be advertised only in the local paper and with brightly colored signs on lampposts around town. Now there are other helpful options. Websites such as estatesales.net are dedicated to helping happy hunters find what they’re looking for. And companies such as Hughes Estate Sales are moving out of people’s homes to offer select items in convenient retail spaces.
Hughes does a large portion of its business in two consignment warehouses, alternating monthly events between its Altadena, Calif., and downtown Los Angeles locations. It’s not necessarily a brand new concept but one the company says benefits both buyers and sellers, who often can’t or don’t want to host a sale in their home or storage space. The company helps by picking up items for sale and transporting them to their store locations.
“We go inside the client’s estate and pick items we feel have the most value to resell. So you don’t get little household things,” said Angela Pena, Hughes’ showroom operations manager of the events that can feature items from one or multiple estates. “We hand pick desirable art, furnishings, jewelry, vehicles and such.”
The company’s business has evolved over the years, from antique stores to in-home estate sales and finally to the current model.
And just as their stores have varied over time, Angela says the Hughes events attract all different types of customers. “We have dealers looking to buy an item they can resell. We have people who are furnishing their home. We have collectors looking for certain items, and we have interior designers who come to buy for their client.”
The Hughes team also works hard to ensure their shopping environment is pleasant and clean for the customer. Their large, open showrooms display items so a shopper can easily see everything available. Customers can also learn more about what’s for sale from tags identifying their origins, when possible.
“Most of us who work the showroom were born into this business and have been doing this for years,” Angela said. “We are able to recognize what era a piece is from. We’ve had jewelry that has marks on it that are European so our appraiser will dig through the books and do hours of research to identify it. Then we can put what it is on the tag and price it accordingly. We actually have a good time doing it because we want to find those hidden gems!”
Because it is in Los Angeles, Hughes Estate Sales also works with celebrity clients. “Many of them don’t want people to know we are selling their stuff. Some of them even have us sign nondisclosures,” Angela said. “We recently did the estate of Stella Stevens, who starred in the “Nutty Professor”. She was OK with being publicized.”
Angela says her greatest job satisfaction comes from her customers, the ones who aren’t there to resell or redecorate for someone else but who find that one thing they’ve been looking for. “I love it when people just fall in love with something. It feels good to give people good stuff that will go into a home and be repurposed and loved. It’s so rewarding.”
The warehouse events are held Friday through Sunday, with the best selection the first day and discounted prices on the last day. Downtown Los Angeles sales start the third Friday of every month and nearby Altadena sales start on the first Friday. At the end of day Sunday, everything that didn’t sell can either be picked up by the owner or it is donated to charity. “That way every sale is fresh,” says Angela.
To confirm timing and check out items for sale on the web, visit their website hughesestatesales.com.