Used Furniture Auction 
             417 Oldmans Creek Road
        Swedesboro, New Jersey  08085
Andrea's Auction
Used Furniture Auction South Jersey
Andrea (Henry) Licciardello's father came to the United States from Italy in the twenties. After working in Instruction for ten years, fie bought a farm in Salem County, later buying more land in nearby Gloucester County so that each of his three sons could one day have a farm. At that time there were many canneries in the area, and much of what farmers grew they sold directly to these processors. This convenient arrangement allowed small family farms to prosper. Farmers lined up outside the Vineland Produce Auction, circa 1930 Farmers lined up outside the Vineland Produce Auction, circa 1930. Photo: Vineland Produce Auction By the fifties, Henry Licciardello was working the land his father had bought, growing asparagus, sweet potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and both market and canhouse tomatoes. But agriculture was beginning to change, spurred by both environmental and socioeconomic forces. A series of droughts in the decade made survival dependent on irrigation. Such systems were expensive. In addition, land was becoming more valuable for development, and many farms were being sold. It seemed that agriculture in the area was on the wane, and many of the canning companies that had opened in the thirties decided to move out of the state rather than invest money in refurbishing aging equipment. This scenario put small farmers in a precarious position. They had to grow more produce for the fresh market and compete with larger operations that could afford expensive irrigation systems. One day during the fifties, as he sat waiting his turn at the produce auction in Glassboro, Henry Licciardello reflected on all of this and decided that he had to start of doing something else for a living. The auctioneez's chant intruded on his thoughts with an answer: Just out of the blue, I said to myself, "You know, I bet I can do that." I was always fascinated by auctioneers, you know. But at that time I didn't know whether I really could or not. But as we get older we find out that we can do anything we want to do if we really make up our mind to do it. So that's how it all happened. The auctioneer that I was watching, the day that I made up my mind that I could possibly be an auctioneer, his name was Holzhauser. And I said to myself, I said, "Good Lord! There's not too many young auctioneers around!" I said, "Somebody's going to have to take his place." Sam Ronchetti (l) calling at the Vineland Produce Auction as Henry Licciardello (r) records bids. Photo: D. McDonald Sam Ronchetti and Henry Licciardello working at an auction Licciardello drew on many sources to prepare himself to take the place of the older generation of auctioneers. Throughout his childhood, he had seen auctioneers work at the small auctions that operated in the region. But he also had seen advertisements for auctioneering schools in agricultural magazines. He decided to take the two-week course offered by the Western College of Auctioneering in Mississippi to formalize his preparation for the job. The curriculum covered both verbal and technical skills needed by an auctioneer, with lessons on salesmanship and auction setup, for instance, interspersed among sessions on bid calling. His teachers were all professional auctioneers who had "learned from their own experience." Licciardello soon found that that was the main way that he would have to learn, too: The way you really learn the business is Just get out there and do it. You get out there and you do your own auction sales. You go around to other auctions and listen to other auctioneers. You learn from their mistakes. You learn from your own mistakes. That's what makes a good auctioneer. When he went back to South Jersey, Licciardello practiced at home and visited other auctions. His first job was at the annual consignment auction in Cedarville, where they usually sold produce. They asked him to do the auction "to see if they liked how I sound." "I did a lot of hard work," Licciardello recalls, because I didn't know what I was doing. In other words, the item was probably worth maybe ten or fifteen dollars. I was maybe trying to start it for a two hundred dollar bid. And nobody would start it, and then you would have to back all the way down and start from the bottom up again.... But they hired me, so everything worked out fine. After working many kinds of auctions for the next eighteen years, Licciardetto began to work with Sam Ronchettii at the Vintland produce Auction in Vineland in 1979, when the latter decided to go into semiretirement. Ronchetti would work half the day and Licciardello would work half. His work with Ronchetti and the high-powered Vineland auction provided another step in Licciardello's education. Sam Ronchetti's father had been one of the original founders of the co-op, and its first auctioneer. His preparation had come from observing others, and that is how his son Sam learned, too. Eventually, Sam Ronchetti took his father's place as auctioneer. Today the auction has annual sales of over thirty-five million dollars. Four hundred farmers from five counties belong to the auction cooperative. Each pays an annual membership fee of one dollar and 3 percent of the sales of his produce. In turn, the farmer receives a share of the auction's profits. The cooperative owns the buildings and employs the staff. The buyers represent food chains located mostly in Canada, New England, New York, and northern New Jersey. The auction runs six days a week in the growing season. It has a complex structure and folkways of its own. The farmer, or his representative (usually his wife or daughter), registers in the office and gets a "line number." These line numbers are arranged according to a master list kept by the auction's manager. The trucks then form two lines outside the block. Each truck pulls up, one on each side of a platform, with a sample of the farmer's produce. The crates and bushels can then be inspected by the buyers before bidding begins. But once an item is "under the hammer" (offered for bidding), only the farmer can stop the sale. The buyers sit in ascending rows in front of the auctioneer and the produce platform. They are surrounded by telephones. Some buyers prefer to be seated in the top rows where they can see everything; others prefer the lower rows so they can better inspect the produce. The buyers usually inform the auctioneer of what they are after--size, quantity, and quality. The auctioneer starts the bid and usually raises it in increments of ten or twenty-five cents. Working with the same buyers on a daily basis fosters a smooth working relationship, and the auctioneer learns to recognize certain bid signals from individuals. Occasionally a novice buyer who doesn't know the system makes an error in bidding and causes a temporary slowdown. The buyers are constantly on the telephone with their main offices for purchase authorizations. Once the sale is made, the auctioneer's assistant writes out the sales ticket. The ticket is made up of four copies. One copy goes to the farmer, another to the buyer. To get the copy to the buyer, who is sitting in the stands, the manager places the ticket in a slit tennis ball and tosses it to him. Two copies are placed in a box for the office. Periodically during the day secretaries from the office pick up the tickets for processing. The buyers pay the produce auction, and the auction pays the farmer for the goods sold that week. After a sale, the farmer delivers his produce to the buyer's loading platform in another building. There it is loaded onto refrigerated trucks and shipped to market. Because so much is at stake, strategy is important to both buyers and auctioneer. Licciardello compares the process to a "little fight between them." The farmer wants the highest price, the buyer wants the lowest price, and the auctioneer is the negotiator. Each buyer also wants to buy for less than the other buyers so that his retail chain can, in turn, offer the produce at a lower price. Therefore, buyers pursue a variety of strategies to affect the movement of the bid, including concealing their own bids from other buyers. "So, that auctioneer must really be alert," Licciardello says. "I honestly believe that's what separates a good auctioneer from a poor auctioneer." He must recognize a half-nod, a wink, or a raised eyebrow as a bid. And he must know how long to "hang on," waiting for a better bid, before closing the sale, because "my job is to please the farmer--to get as much as I can for the farmer." Licciardello regards Sam Ronchetti as a master of the art of auctioneering. He feels that they have both learned from working together in a changing environment. For instance, the traditional nickel bid rise has become obsolete: The produce auction has grown to be so big that both of us have changed our style of bidding. They have such a tremendous variety ofproduce comes through there, and lots of times, the demand for that particular produce can change from hour to hour. So a lot of times we can't stay with that dime figure in there. Lots of times we find ourselves even taking dollar bids and half-dollar bids. Besides working at the Vineland Produce Auction, Licciardello runs a weekly auction at his home, Andrea's Auction. It is a family business, with his wife doing the paperwork and running the office, and Licciardello and his son supervising the physical setup of the merchandise and doing the auctioneering. Here, in particular, Licciardello sees the importance of an auctioneer's style. In the small auctions that he attended as a youth, the auctioneers and buyers were familiar to one another because they came from little more than a five-mile radius. This familiarity affected the auctioneer's style. He would use more of what auctioneers call "talk"--filler words--and joke with and prod his buyers. Outsiders might find him difficuft to understand, but the regufar community interacted freely and comfortably in the event. In contrast, public auctions like Andrea's Auction draw people from a wide area who are often unfamiliar with auctions. "I can remember when I started my auction twenty years ago, people would come into my auction and they would be scared to death. You know --'We just don't understand an auctioneer.'" Like other auctioneers in these broader markets, Licciardello has found ways to make his chant more comprehensible to his customers. For instance, he may use numbers rather than filler words to keep the rhythm of the call. However, just as at the earlier local auctions, he continues to change tone and style throughout the auction to avoid becoming boring. Even customers new to auctions now praise his clarity and style. Like the farmers of South Jersey who have adapted to changing markets, Licciardello has managed to bridge the past and present, the old and the new, to help maintain the importance of agriculture in South Jersey.




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