- Meggen Burghardt
Just west of the ever-expanding Surplus City complex on the west side of Colorado Springs sits Adobe Walls, an enormous repository of Western relics, antiques and classic trading post merchandise. Proprietor Ron Smith has been in the business for a lifetime, but has recently expanded his tradesmanship to include trading over the Internet. It's the wave of the present and future, it seems, and Smith explained to the Indy how he got into e-business.
I was told that you are a "master trader" on eBay. How does one get a title like that? I don't know who came up with that title. Somebody was lickin' flypaper or something. We're in the eBay power sellers program. You have to turn so many thousand a month, maintain 85 percent positive feedback or more, offer a return policy, and have good feedback there too.
How do you reach that? Start one at a time. Put things up for auction until you sell them, and you get a hundred people saying you're not a crook.
So in other words, you put something on the web and people respond to it? Yeah. What we've set up here is all of our antique mall dealers and also people from the outside, as well, bring things to us to put on eBay. We've got electronic photography, and our system is set up to pack and ship and keep track of it all. We charge them $10 to post the item on eBay, and 20 percent if it sells; eBay charges $3 to $10. We usually have close to 45 minutes to an hour for items, so if it doesn't sell, we end up working for seven bucks an hour. We're wanting to maybe change that.
How were you led to eBay? We hired a lady to put us on the Internet but we didn't really realize what that meant, and so we had the computer in the furnace room and every time I went back there she'd (the hire) be playing video games or something. So finally I let her go and started coming down at 4 or 5 in the morning and punching buttons until I figured out how it worked. One of our dealers showed us eBay and I realized that that was something else we could offer our dealers here in the antique mall and also possibly start up a little side business doing it.
What sort of things do you put on eBay? Pretty much all over the board. The first thing that we put that really rang our bell and made us realize that there might be something here was an old Indian trade dagger a guy had seen listed in a book for $1,500 and wanted to sell for $600, so we put it on eBay and it ended up selling for $5,600.
So basically, eBay ties in with your business perfectly. Oh, yeah, eBay is changing the whole antique business. We've been in the Western and Indian business for 30 to 40 years and all of a sudden there's an avenue where we can offer our thing to the same people that Sotheby's is offering to right in the convenience of our own store. ... We do buy on it, too. Our cases are full of things that we've bought.
How did you get into the antique business? My father was an Indian trader, our whole family has been in that business for, I don't know, 60 or 70 years. Western and Indian trading business, it's all we know how to do. Summers are probably good for you. Summer is good for the mall, but the Internet seems to slow down. People are out away from their computers. We're only putting 10 items on, where normally we'd be trying to put 25, 30 items on per day. p