Thousands bid for bargains, for hidden treasures at Butler auction house

| Sunday, May 19, 2013, 10:58 a.m.

Jim Tarbert has been a regular at the Auction Barn of Cranberry ever since he bought a dining room table, four chairs and a China closet for $200.

“Where else could you get that kind of a deal? You can do really well here. It all depends on who's here, what they have and what else is going on in town. Tonight's a good night to be here because both the Penguins and Pirates are playing — not as many people are here,” Tarbert, a Pittsburgh firefighter who lives in Elliott, said at a recent auction.

Tarbert, who goes to the Auction Barn about once a month, is one of hundreds — if not thousands — of patrons.

“We auction about two households worth of goods every week,” said Hank Kessler, who owns and runs the auction house on Route 19.

“Every day is different,” he said. “I look forward to being at work every Monday. How many people can say that?”

Kessler, 68, of Pine enjoys socializing with bidders. At the microphone, he'll talk about whatever is for sale that week.

Kessler said he believes his business provides a great service to people who are either moving or need to clean out the contents of a house. Many of Kessler's auction items come from people who relocate or from estate sales.

“I'll get children who live out of town and come back here when their parents die. They hand me the keys to the house and tell me to get everything out. That is a big help to people at a time of stress,” he said.

When people move away, they may take some belongings — or none at all, Kessler said.

“People who go to the Carolinas or Florida often sell all their furniture. Northern furniture, dark woods, does not fit in well in the South,” Kessler said.

Kessler's parents, Bill and Dorothy Kessler, opened the Auction Barn in 1960 at a time when Cranberry, now busy with heavy traffic and strip malls, was nearly empty. His father died 10 years ago, and his mother died in 1999.

Like clockwork, the Auction Barn's staff hauls out goods each Friday at 5 p.m. Sale items could range from 8-track tapes and refrigerators to fine crystal or an antique roll top desk.

At a recent auction, auctioneer Doug Miller took bids with a rapid-fire chant for more than five hours. He took no break.

“This is just a friendly and down-home place. One of the great things about coming here is seeing the same people,” said Patty Sinicki of Reserve.

Sinicki's son, Jacob Hayson, a LaRoche College student, is paying for part of his education by buying goods at the Auction Barn and reselling them at flea markets such as Trader Jack's in Bridgeville or the Rogers, Ohio, outdoor market, which has more than 1,600 vendors.

“You can get a lot here. You could buy a box of glasses for $3 or $5 and then, if they look good, resell them individually for the same price,” Hayson said.

Kessler said much of what is sold at the auction is resold in other parts of the country or on eBay.

“Some of these things can be sold for more money in New York or Los Angeles,” he said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at

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