Small businesses nationwide may be suffering along with the rest of the economy. But for a few lucky entrepreneurs, getting a reality show is like a cash machine that keeps on giving. Examples include TLC’s “Miami Ink” and “Cake Boss,” TruTV’s “Full Throttle Saloon,” and History Channel’s “Pawn Stars.”
Now Atlanta’s own Gallery 63 could be the next rising star thanks to the Discovery Channel. The cable network is using the shop as a window into the world of auctions, tentatively calling it “Auction King.” Think PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow” meets ‘Pawn Stars.” It’s set to debut in the fall.
Energetic owner Paul Brown liquidates estates, warehouses, storage buildings and sells off hundreds of items during live auctions twice a month. His store is packed floor to ceiling with vintage furniture, high-end jewelry, paintings, firearms, you name it.
He opened the business, now off Roswell Road inside I-285, a decade ago but has been in antiques all his life. (His family runs Red Baron’s Antiques.). He didn’t solicit the show. A production company found him. “I think they liked our energy,” he said. “It’s like a treasure hunt every day here.”
Discovery began shooting Feb. 24. During a recent auction, Brown was surrounded by six camera crews. The most intriguing item up for bid: a vintage 19th century vampire-killing kit. (below)
“People marketed these kits in the 1800s for carriage rides and travel through the hinterlands, just in case you were attacked by a vampire,” Brown said. A phone bidder March 7 purchased the kit for $13,500. It’s only the third one he’s ever seen.
Brown is a natural in front of the camera and so are many of his employees. “I’m fired up!” said his salty store manager Cindy Shook. “I’ve been with him 20 years. Started at the bottom all the way to the top!”
A Discovery Channel publicist said executives were busy and weren’t in a position to talk about it yet. But it’s clear Discovery was inspired by the success of “Pawn Stars.”
“Pawn Stars,” which focuses on a family-run Las Vegas pawn shop, has become History Channel’s biggest show to date since debuting last July. Its most recent episode last Monday March 15 drew a network record 5.8 million viewers.
The exposure has given Gold & Silver Pawn Shop a major boost. Customer traffic has jumped 12-fold and the store is planning to expand its footprint by 60 percent, according to a recent USA Today story.
Brown hopes for the same type of leap: “It hasn’t even aired, and it’s impacted my business. There’s a bit of buzz in my industry about it. People around town are already calling and wanting to bring stuff in.”
The auctions are attended by dealers and individuals seeking bargains – and you can get plenty.
I attended the auction on March 7 and John and Lily Vassar (left) of Alpharetta. He had purchased her a 2.7 carat princess cut ring for their 20th anniversary for $4,000, far below the ring’s appraised value of $19,000. “She deserves it,” he said. “She’s got a ring and I have a happy wife.”
Frank Circelli, president and CEO of the Gem Shopping Network, cleaned up, too, purchasing $54,000 worth of goods from which he knows he’ll make a huge profit. His favorite pick up? A samurai sword from the 1700s.