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Fort Covington man headed from flea market to auction house

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FORT COVINGTON - Since 2009, the Gray family of Fort Covington has been selling “a little bit of everything” out of their flea market on County Route 4.

They have shelves and tables of tools, glassware, collectibles and knick-knacks.

But not for much longer.

Owner Robbie Gray has been renovating the market to turn it into an area auction house. The Gray family of yard-, garage- and “junk sale-pickers” will soon pack up what’s left of their wares and turn to a new business altogether.

For years Mr. Gray has been turning down auction requests from as far away as Florida from those who prefer to sell locally. There used to be plenty of auction houses in the area, but over the years the owners have either retired or died.

“The auction business has kind of gone down the tubes,” Mr. Gray said. Internet auction businesses like eBay and classified ad sites like Craigslist haven’t helped either.

The only auction houses left in the area are in Plattsburgh, Potsdam, Ogdensburg and Brasher Center.

According to Mr. Gray, recent trends in the auction industry have pushed the costs of holding auctions onto the consumer. Most auction houses ask for what’s called a “buyer’s premium,” which is an additional charge of 10 percent to 25 percent on the sale price of an item. Mr. Gray feels this practice is dishonest, calling it “highway robbery”.

He said he plans to run an honest business, charging a flat commission percentage to sellers. His prices will be the actual prices, no strings attached.

“I’m not into making a lot of money,” Mr. Gray said. “Some of these guys are greedy.”

For Mr. Gray it’s not about the money but about community. He’s even opening his business up to a local nonprofit organization for the mentally and physically challenged: Living and Exploring All Possibilities, also known as LEAP.

LEAP participants have been invited to run a concession stand during the auctions, with all proceeds going to local organizations that survive on donations and grants.

“We want to go out as individuals into the community so that we can give back to the community,” says Tammy Shanty, a LEAP supervisor.

She listed the Special Olympics, the Buddy Walk, and the Autism Walk as potential recipients of the concession stand profits.

They hope to sell soda, candy, hot dogs and hamburgers to auction participants. The stand will be run by participants in their residential habilitation program based in Potsdam.

Gray’s Auction Service will be starting up “soon.” The Grays hope to hold mostly consignment and estate auctions.

“We’d like to have an auction at least once a month, but that depends on how many people you get,” said Mr. Gray.

Until then, anyone who knocks on his door or gives him a call is welcome to help him clear out some of the merchandise down at the flea market.

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