FALLS CHURCH, VA.-
In a move that will solidify the Virginia/DC auction landscape, Quinns Auction Galleries
of Falls Church, Va., is aligning with Ken Farmer Auctions & Appraisals of Radford, Va., to purchase another of the states leading auction businesses the venerable Harlowe-Powell Auction Gallery in Charlottesville. The new firm, which will operate under the banner of Farmer & Quinn Auctions, will officially launch on Oct. 1.
Although Ken Farmer will continue to operate Ken Farmer Auctions in Radford, he plans to relocate to Charlottesville, where he will serve as president of the newly minted Farmer & Quinn. Paul Quinn, founder and chairman of Quinns Auction Galleries, will assume the role of executive vice president and manager of Farmer & Quinn but will remain at Quinns Falls Church location, just outside Washington, DC. All Harlowe-Powell staff are expected to stay on in their present positions.
The current principals at Harlowe-Powell are Norman Dill and Vernon Pat Powell, who will continue to be associated as required to ensure a smooth transition, but in a different, non-employee role as referral agents.
This merger has all the right pieces in place for success, said Paul Quinn. Ken brings his years of developed expertise and celebrity in the world of antiques and fine art, and Quinns is known as a dynamic inside-the-beltway company thats growing by leaps and bounds. Harlowe-Powell is an old, respected auction house in the well-to-do Charlottesville area, with massive growth opportunity. We felt strongly that Harlowe-Powell would have enormous potential if you added Ken Farmer and Quinns to the equation.
The idea of an auction-house mega merger was first discussed around 13 months ago at Tulsa International Airport, as Ken Farmer and Quinns Executive Vice President Matthew Quinn (Paul Quinns son) were waiting for their delayed flights to be called. The two men knew each other through their roles as on-air appraisers on PBSs Antiques Roadshow.
We started talking about the auction business, of course, and Ken said there were things about his location that frustrated him, while I said that I was happy with our location, Matthew recalled. As the conversation developed, we both realized that there might be an opportunity for our companies to do something together. I said, Ken, whatever you decide to do, call me before you do it.
As months passed, Farmer continued to mull over the idea of a collaboration with Quinns. There was some talk of Farmer moving to the DC area or even relocating his business headquarters to exclusive Charlottesville. At the same time, Paul Quinn was eager to go south with his own rapidly growing company that had become a favorite with Washingtons affluent yuppies, federal government workers and military. The glue that pulled all of their thoughts together into one cohesive strategy was the availability of Harlowe-Powell, which was quietly for sale.
The only problem was, the price was more than we wanted to pay, Paul said. I felt we could start up a new auction house for less than they were asking.
Fortunately for all involved, discussions led to an amicable meeting of the minds, and a mutually agreeable selling price was settled upon in mid August.
Farmer said the synergy of having three auction houses working in partnership each with its own distinct following and areas of expertise will add great versatility to the way in which the companies are able to serve consignors in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Well be able to send merchandise wherever we think it will make the most money, said Farmer. For instance, higher-quality merchandise from Radford will be sent to the Charlottesville location. Very recently an important Pulaski County clock was consigned to me. Its similar to an 1820 clock that Colonial Williamsburg bought for $209,000 at Harlowe-Powell some 15 years ago. This brother clock will be sent to Charlottesville as the lead item in Farmer & Quinns November 3rd sale.
Farmer said the same best-fit policy will apply to antiques and artworks that are consigned to Farmer & Quinn and Quinns Auction Galleries. We will have trucks constantly running to and from all three locations, picking up and dropping off goods, he said. Were also developing a plan whereby any buyer who has purchased an item at one of our auction-house locations can request its delivery, free of charge, to either of the other two locations within our group of companies.
We see Charlottesville as a great opportunity a new frontier, Farmer continued. Ive consulted with some key customers whose judgment I trust about this, and every person Ive talked to has said they think its a great idea and predict that in a year Ill wish I had done it five years ago.
Meanwhile, Harlowe-Powells Pat Powell said he is very excited about the prospect of a new company coming into Charlottesville. It will create a more dynamic marketplace. Were proud of what weve done so far, but all of Virginia will benefit tremendously from the joint venture of Farmer & Quinns.