After more than 25 years in the auto auction business, Henry Stanley wanted to retire.
In 1987, he sold his auction company and made plans to spend his winters in Florida and his summers in Ohio and to play a lot of golf.
But after a couple of years of sun and fun, Stanley grew restless. He missed the auto auction business. So he and his wife, Patty, purchased Fort Knox Auto Auction in Anderson, S.C. They renamed it Carolina Auto Auction and opened in April 1990.
The three-lane, 20-acre auction has grown to eight lanes - seven are in use - and 55 acres; it runs 900 to 1,200 vehicles a week.
Stanley, who will be 63 on Wednesday, Aug. 25 - and who once raised ostriches as a hobby - is not thinking about retirement.
Now, after almost 40 years in the auto auction business, Stanley is gearing up for yet another task. He will take over the 1999-2000 presidency of the National Auto Auction Association from Don DeVries at the association's 51st annual convention, Sept. 1-5 in Chicago.
DeVries owns Greater Kalamazoo Auto Auction in Schoolcraft, Mich.
Stanley attributes his longevity and success to being an honest, hands-on auction owner who tries to take care of problems fairly and quickly.
'We try to treat all of our customers - big and small - the same,' said Stanley, a quick-witted man who is dead serious about the auto auction business.
MAIN STREET/WALL STREET
Stanley said the auction industry enjoys a great relationship with the remarketing departments of auto companies, banks, daily rental companies and others who use the auto auction's services.
As president of the National Auto Auction Association, Stanley said he will work to take that relationship to a new level. The challenge, he said, is to make sure that the auction industry's contributions are known and understood by top executives of those companies and by the public.
'Does the public know and does Wall Street know that we have multimillion-dollar facilities and sell billions of dollars of cars a year?' he said. 'I would like to get the message to the boardroom and to Wall Street that auto auctions are not junkyards.'
Stanley's first contact with auctions was in 1960. He was selling some property at auction. In 30 minutes or so, it was sold and the auctioneer had pocketed $400.
Stanley quipped to his father that he should go to school to become an auctioneer. A few weeks later, Stanley's father handed him an application to auctioneer school. Tuition: $650. 'I said, `we'll never make (the $650) back,' ' Stanley recalls.
Fresh out of auctioneer school, he landed a job as a ringman, helping the auctioneer identify bidders and encouraging dealers to bid, at Capital Auto Auction in Columbus, Ohio. 'I made $40 my first day,' he says. Stanley worked the auction circuit with stops in Columbus; Butler, Pa.; Detroit; and Toronto.
He purchased Capital in 1969 for $6,800 and renamed it Ohio Auto Auction; in 1978, he moved the auction to Grove City, a suburb of Columbus.
The first day Stanley owned Ohio Auto Auction, it ran 64 vehicles and sold 14. The last week he owned it in 1987, the auction sold 1,150 vehicles.
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
Stanley started Carolina Auto Auction from scratch, too. It had no dealer base, nor did it have any employees who really knew the business. Its first week of business, the auction had a lot of vehicles but few buyers.
'We struggled for two or three years,' he said.
But then things started to fall into place.
The auction has expanded to include a reconditioning center and a fleet department. In July, Stanley added Carolina Salvage Auction to his operations.
Stanley said he has seen a lot of changes in the industry since 1960.
The arrival of factory vehicles at auctions revolutionized the industry because 'it made the new-car dealers stand up and take notice,' he said.
Consolidation of the auction industry, which spawned the creation of auction chains such as Manheim Auctions, ADT Automotive and ADESA Corp. was another major milestone, he said.
While Stanley loves the auction business, he still finds time to play golf. He and his wife enjoy their boat.
In 1992, after seeing a segment on the TV program '60 Minutes' about raising ostriches, Stanley bought some breeder birds and decided to raise them as a hobby.
His ostrich flock grew to 175 and he soon found that the care and raising of ostriches was a 10-to-12-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job. After four years, Stanley gave up his hobby. He remembers one bird that just didn't like him.
'I had a fight with one,' he said, laughing. 'He'd chase me, but he liked Patty. He'd give her a peck on the cheek.'