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Customers, dealers sold on local auction house


TO BOB Pickholtz, owner of Relish Lane Auctioneers, Monday mornings are a real downer. Not because he has to return to work -- he loves his work -- but because his Sunday auction has left his Eldersburg auction house empty.

Even though he's been in business for 20 years, and history tells him that by the next Sunday his store will be full of collectibles, furniture and other merchandise, he still worries whether enough people will come and if he will have enough things to sell them.

"Auctions are funny animals," he says. Reflecting on times that one might expect to be slow and lacking in customers, he says, "Adverse conditions like snow ... they come with money in their pockets. During the summer, all we need are 100 people that don't want to go to Ocean City."

For Pickholtz, finding those 100 people has not been a problem. His weekly auctions often draw an average crowd of 120 to 150 people.

Pickholtz started his business in Ellicott City. He and his wife, Rowene, who was an auctioneer and also ran a catering business, decided they should open their own auction house.

After a few years, they moved their business to Woodlawn, where, Pickholtz says, they nearly went broke. The couple decided to relocate to a country setting five years ago, moving to Carroll County. The move proved to be a good one.

Pickholtz installed a kitchen so that food could be served during auctions; his wife prepares home-cooked meals to sell to dealers and customers.

"Where else can you get a home-cooked meal for 5 bucks?" he says.

The auction business keeps Pickholtz busy seven days a week. His main focus before the weekend is finding people from whom to buy merchandise or to put their items on consignment. He also operates on-site estate sales or removes the estate items to sell from his location. Dealers purchase table space at Relish Lane to sell their merchandise, and many are regulars at the Sunday auction.

"I set up here every other week, and mostly sell new stuff," says dealer Wayne Davidson. "I have more fun than anything."

Relish Lane auctions are "clean to the bone. You can ask any of these dealers," he says, referring to the integrity of the operation.

A good reputation has served Pickholtz well over the years, and his business has grown because of referrals, as well as second- and third-generation buyers.

"I am a salesman, and I love to sell, he says. "Sales is my profession, auction is the vehicle."

As customers fill the room on Sunday to preview the items on tables and in boxes or cases, Pickholtz takes his place behind the microphone. Clerk Rita Bean stands by, ready to record the winning bids on a computer. Other workers hold up items to give bidders an opportunity to see what is up for bid. Bidding starts at $2 for table items. Hands rise and fall across the room, as Pickholtz calls bids in the familiar drone of an auctioneer.

This is the moment Pickholtz stops working and starts having fun. He loves the interaction with customers and the pace of the auction. He knows many of his customers by name and the friendships between him and his customers are apparent.

As the auction moves into the evening, a new auctioneer comes to the microphone. Dave Cheatham has worked with Pickholtz for seven years, and says the business is a "blast."

"I do this for fun," says the retired life insurance salesman.

Pickholtz claims that "if it has been made," he has sold it over his many years in the business, including cars, homes, and even a goat and a 300-pound pig.

"I sell whatever comes through the door," he says, estimating that 700 to 1,200 items are sold each Sunday.

Sunday auctions begin at 4 p.m. and can be previewed at

Volunteer honors

The Sykesville Gate House Museum of History held a luncheon to honor its volunteers and celebrate its fifth anniversary Saturday at the Interlocking Tower on Oklahoma Road.

Mayor Jonathan Herman and town historian Thelma Wimmer attended the event, which honored 25 volunteers for their support of the museum. Some volunteers in attendance were as young as 11, such as Keely Sasalow and Kimberly McLeod.

Curator Kari Greenwalt organized the event, which included a raffle to raise money for the museum's expansion fund, and a luncheon catered by E.W. Beck's Restaurant.

Wimmer, the keynote speaker, took the podium with Jim Purman, the museum's first curator. Wimmer described how the museum came about. She said that after a term as a councilwoman, she began to collect antiques and artifacts.

This went on for 25 years. She displayed the items at the Town House, and eventually the collection grew quite large. The rooms where the artifacts were stored were referred to as the "rooms of history."

After the creation of the Sykesville Historic Commission, the town allocated funds to purchase and restore the gatehouse, which was the original entrance to Springfield Hospital Center. It became Sykesville's museum of history.

"I felt the museum was mine," said Wimmer, who is now 95 and still supports the museum.

Other highlights included the recognition of several prominent volunteers. Justin Tims, the first museum volunteer; George Horvath, Michael Murphy, Dorothy Schafer and Eagle Scout Mike Shenk were all noted for their extraordinary support of the museum. Each was awarded a lifetime membership to the museum.

Debra Taylor Young's neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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