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Going Once, Going Twice… Sold!

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By Claire Walla

Some kids dream of working in the E.R., fighting fires, or flying to the moon.

For Paul Bailey, it was auctioneering.

“One day, when I grow up,” Bailey remembered thinking, “I want to be an auctioneer!”

The son of an antiques dealer, Bailey had been a fixture at auctions across the East End from a very young age. He loved entering a room of worn possessions and artifacts; but, he particularly enjoyed listening to the auctioneer, who when describing each lot would essentially tell the story of how it came to be.

“I wish I could call this a profession,” Bailey, now 65 and a lawyer, wistfully admitted. Instead it’s a passion, although — lucky for him — it’s a passion he’s able to fuel this weekend.

On Saturday, June 2 Bailey will officiate a live auction at The Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor. The items, high end antiques and furnishings offered by 15 or so dealers from across the East End, will be available for “inspection” at 9 a.m. The live bidding process will start promptly at 11 a.m. and is expected to last until 3 p.m., depending on how many items end up on the block. (According to Bailey, it takes roughly one hour for an auctioneer to run through 100 lots.)

Bailey initially thought of organizing the event with his daughter, Kelly, about three years ago as a fundraiser for Stella Maris Regional School. However, now that the school’s closed, the Baileys decided to transition their fundraising efforts over to the Old Whalers’ Church for the benefit of the Community House at Old Whalers’ which was established to improve and maintain the facilities used by groups such as the Sag Harbor Food Pantry, the Conservative Synagogue of the Hamptons, Alcoholics Anonymous and other organizations.

By partnering with local antiques stores here on the East End (among those taking part is Colette Home Consignment — which is putting up 300 lots alone — and English Country Antiques), Paul Bailey estimates he will ultimately auction-off anywhere from 200 to 400 lots. (The church will get roughly 20 percent of all sales.)

What’s more, in his estimation, Bailey said the event is the first of its kind on the East End in nearly 20 years. And he would know. Though never a full-fledged auctioneer, he has always been an avid auction-goer.

“If there’s an auction within my sightline,” he added, “I go.”

Auctions used to be an annual tradition on the East End, Bailey said. Most prominently etched into his memory now are the summer auctions, which took place each year in Water Mill, where they were run by a man named Charles Vanderveer.

“He did auctions for a living,” Bailey explained. “I was just fascinated by him, so I went up to him one day and asked if he needed a hand.”

Bailey was about 18 years old at the time, and ended up being his assistant for a few years.

Vanderveer didn’t do “a-mile-a-minute;” that verbal technique is reserved for those who’ve attended auctioneering school. (Yes, they do exist. At one point, Bailey even considered attending. “I wanted to be able to talk fast, just for fun,” he said.) Instead, Vanderveer gave Bailey insight into the back-end of the business.

“Being at the podium and doing the auction, that’s only 20 percent of it,” Bailey said. “The biggest issue is getting things organized.”

There are roughly 50 jobs that will be filled (by volunteers) at Old Whalers’ between Friday — when the consigners deliver the auction items — and Sunday, when the last of the items sold are expected to be picked up. These positions range from transporting lots, to guarding the lots during “inspection” and — perhaps most importantly — keeping an accurate list of who bid for what.

They’ll have their work cut out for them — goods to be sold include furniture, lighting, rugs, glassware, vintage toys and one-of-a kind pieces dating anywhere from the late 19th century to the 1960s.

But, behind the podium, Bailey will have his work cut out for him, as well.

Each lot will come in with a minimum dollar amount set by the consignor. While the auction will typically start below that asking price, it’s the auctioneer’s job to try to reach that goal, if not exceed it. Bailey is responsible for setting the pace of the auction by deciding increments.

For example, if the bidding for a table worth $300 started at $200 and several cards were up in the first round of bidding, Bailey might increase the selling point by increments of $25. For less popular items, increments might go up by $10.

“You have to watch your audience and pay attention to who’s bidding,” Bailey said. “Some bidders try to be subtle,” he added with a tinge of disdain. “And if they get lost in the bidding process, they squawk.”

Ultimately, Bailey said the real draw of the auction process is the thrill of discovery.

He continued, “You sit in a chair and you get an education.”

The live auction at Old Whalers’ Church (44 Union Street, Sag Harbor) is Saturday, June 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with pre-inspection beginning at 9 a.m. The auction is unreserved and there is no buyers’ premium. The auction will take place rain or shine, under a tent on the front lawn weather permitting, otherwise in the main sanctuary of the church. The preview will be on the lower level of the church. A café on premises opens at 10:30 a.m., for cash sales of coffee, soft drinks, baked goods and hot dogs throughout the day.

Stella Maris Presents a Christmas Fair With Local Businesses

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second graders with sign in front of Stella Maris for christmas fair

This Saturday, December 13, Stella Maris Regional School in Sag Harbor will hold their annual Christmas Fair in the school auditorium. Although a Christmas Fair has been held at Stella Maris for nearly 25 years now, Principal Janie FitzGerald Peters said this year it is going to be a bit different. This time around, parent Kelly Bailey has taken over the organizational responsibilities for the fair and has decided to include local businesses at the event.
It all began as a craft fair, years ago, when parents and others from the community offered homemade gifts at a reasonable price. This time around, there will still be homemade items available for people of all ages, but in addition, local merchants have rented space at Stella Maris to offer affordable gifts from their businesses to the community as well.
“It’s taken different forms through the years,” Peters said, “but this is the first time we have invited different stores to take part in the fair.”
According to Bailey, there will be a combination of gifts and edible treats for the entire family. Bailey said there will be everything from kittens (from ARF) to homemade ornaments to delectable treats, including Principal Peters’ chicken noodle soup made from scratch — a favorite among her students that she usually makes for the students once a week for lunch.
“It’s tough times out there,” Bailey said on Tuesday, “we want to help our community with the idea that this will also help our local businesses.”
Bailey said that some of the local shops will offer their goods at a discounted rate for shoppers and others will offer coupons and special services. C’s Cleaning and Home & Office Management is selling gift certificates; Harbor Salons is offering their range of organic beauty products and Canio’s Bookstore will have a variety of books for people of all ages.
Other stores involved include the Wharf Shop, Andrew & Co. Brennan’s Bit & Bridle, Flying Point Surf and Sport, and Bees Needs.
“I think everyone involved knows they are doing it to help the community,” Bailey said, “It’s a tough time right now.”
Although this is Bailey’s first effort at organizing the Christmas fair, it is not her first time offering volunteer services. Bailey divides her time as a mother and interior designer with volunteering for the Sag Harbor Fire Department. Bailey will also showcase some of her own work at the fair, which includes etched glassware of images around Sag Harbor.
Some of the other homemade gifts that can be found at the fair are knitted goods, handbags, jewelry, paintings, candles, chocolate and photographs.
“I am pleasantly surprised by the result,” Peters said. There is currently a list of 25 to 30 vendors and the school is still accepting more. Bailey said the fee is $50 for a space in the auditorium and asked that anyone interested in participating call the school for more details.
“It’s hard to be a local merchant right now,” Peters added. “Mom and pop stores are having a hard time, but that is the whole back bone of our community.”
“Everyone knows it’s crunch time and its getting tougher by the day,” she continued, “but this is Sag Harbor’s strength, and the influence from the local community is one of the most beautiful things about living here.”
Peters said this is why the school has asked local businesses to get involved and they have received great feedback. For those who were unable to participate, the school has received generous donations. Some local companies are donating food that will be sold during the fair and allowing Stella Maris to keep the profits.
For example, Agave’s South of the Border has donated soup and Bagel Buoy has contributed bagels for Saturday’s event. WLNG also helped out by giving the school free advertising to promote the fair.
This year, there will also be free gift-wrapping at the fair, courtesy of the parents of Stella Maris student and other community volunteers – all of whom are donating their time on Saturday to wrap gifts for shoppers.
Merchants participating are asked to donate one item to the Stella Maris table, which will be sold to help raise funds for the school. This year, Santa will also be paying a visit to the fair on Saturday, for those who want to have their photo taken with him.
The Christmas Fair will take place in the Stella Maris auditorium, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday December 13.
Stella Maris Regional School is located at 135 Division Street, Sag Harbor. Interested vendors may call the school at (631) 725-2525 or visit www.stellamarisschool.org.