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Three generations of auctioneers call upon loyalty to thrive in WW

February 28, 2011

Three of the four generations of the Fricker family who have held auctions in West Warwick: From left to right, Jason, Bob Sr., Bob Jr.

Cornerstone Auction Gallery customers are so loyal, they do business with the Fricker family even after they have died.
“We have customers who have come here for the last forty years, and they still come. We have people who pass away, they are still our customers, if they want to sell their stuff. We’re even in people’s wills,” said Bob Fricker, who, with son, Bob Jr. and grandson Jason, operates the longest continuously run auction company in Rhode Island.
“One time, we liquidated this mother’s stuff, and their heirs came in like vultures,” said Bob Fricker, Sr. “The husband and wife (the children) put us in their will. They gave their lawyer the key and their stuff went to public auction. We never recommend that. We’ve never recommended that, to be in their will, but this is what they wanted.”
The three Frickers represent three of four generations in a family who have auctioned off estates and items for more than half a century. “And we’ve got a 5th and 6th generation coming. They’re on the way,” added Bob Fricker, Sr. who was handed the gavel from his father, and is the cornerstone of Cornerstone, working with his wife, son and grandson.
“It’s very personal,” said Jason Fricker. “We work on a one-on-one basis with clients. Everyone is different.”
“We really enjoy what we do. It’s still fun,” added his grandfather.
Their auction house is built on trust and honesty. Why trust amateurs to appraise, handle or sell your precious collectibles, family heirlooms and undiscovered great stuff?
Take for instance, clients – and there are many – who simply do not know what they have or the value of it, especially the elderly.
“We went to one home and the woman said to me of this one particular closet, ‘Oh, there’s nothing in there. Just a tea set.’ I said, ‘You’ve hired me to sell your stuff. I’ll be the judge of what is ‘nothing,’ ” said Bob Fricker, Sr. “It was Sterling Silver. She got $2400 for it.
“Another time, there was a toy car on a knick knack shelf,” he added. “They got $2600 for that. I could have bought the silver set for $20 or the toy for $30, and they would have been happy. But we have a policy. We don’t buy from clients (when dealing with estates), because there are surprises everywhere and we are serving them.”
The Frickers are especially proud of helping groups like the Boy Scouts, churches and the elderly, who might easily be taken advantage of.
“We give them a program of how to liquidate their (assets),” said Bob. “We go to Senior Citizen complexes. We don’t get anything for doing it, but they are very happy when we leave, because they learn and know how to get rid of their stuff, when they are ready.”
They are in the business to make money, sure, they added, but it is not their first goal. Customer loyalty means a great deal and, “It is so much fun going out and finding stuff,” said Jason.
“You see that lamp?,” said his grandfather, pointing to a beautiful table lamp just before their latest auction Feb. 21 at Ivy Garden on Cowesett Avenue in West Warwick. “The woman who owns it, said, ‘You don’t want this. It’s junk!,’ I told her, ‘We’re taking it. That’s why you hired us.’ Well, that ‘junk’ sold for $700. When she got her check three weeks later, she said, ‘Bob, I can’t believe how much I got. Is this real?’ We know what we’ve got.”
He pointed to another lamp. “You see that one? She said, ‘It’s junk and it’s broken.’ I changed the socket. It cost me $3 and an hour’s work. She’s going to get a check for that lamp for $300 and she’s going to die again. They can’t believe what this stuff is worth.”
The Frickers sell in a live, open market competition that helps objects achieve their true, fair market value. Typically, they sell on consignment (retaining a percentage of the selling price), but occasionally they buy outright. Cornerstone has the capability to move an entire estate to the auction block.
During the auctions, absentee and phone bids are accepted from those who cannot attend.
Sales are conducted monthly year round, on the third Monday of the month, somewhere throughout Rhode Island.
“I love the work so much,” said Bob Fricker, Sr. “I am not going to hang up my hat any time soon.”

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