“There’s a lot of people in Milledgeville that don’t realize there’s an auction company here,” admits Tommy Robbins, owner of Last Call Auction Company.
Robbins’ auction house, tucked behind a small strip shopping center along Log Cabin Road, may well be one of the best kept secrets in Baldwin County. Every Friday night, between 100 and 200 people come with the hopes of getting some good deals on a variety of merchandise offerings.
“I have different sellers that come in so there’s always a lot of different merchandise,” said Robbins.
Robbins and his wife Maura took over Last Call Auction Company in 2017 after relocating from Covington, Georgia. Robbins had spent about 30 years in the car business in the Atlanta area, working as general manager and owner for various car sales companies. The commute time and the work hours were making it hard for Robbins to spend time with his family. A friend suggested auction work as a change of pace.
“When I was growing up, my dad used to take me to auctions,” said Robbins. “So I always liked the auctions.”
Taking his friend’s advice, Robbins went to auctioneer’s school where he faced intensive training on all of the legal aspects of running auctions. At the end of his coursework, he passed his written exam, got his auctioneer’s license, and began doing auctions on the side. It wasn’t too long before the opportunity came to make a more permanent change.
Robbins sold his house in Covington and moved to his wife’s hometown of Milledgeville. A friend offered to let him take over the auction house at 128 Log Cabin Road, and he has been working there ever since.
Auctions take place at 7 p.m. every Friday night. Doors open between 5 and 6 p.m., and interested buyers can sign in, get their paddles and prepare to bid. Each week, anywhere between 100 and 200 items are auctioned, with the entire sale lasting approximately two to three hours. There is no fee to enter, but all sales are subject to sales tax and a 10% buyer’s premium. Robbins serves as the auctioneer, while his wife Maura handles cashier duties. Maura also runs Last Call’s Facebook page and does most of their publicity work.
A snack bar offering items such as hot dogs, chicken tenders, burgers, chili, nachos, ice cream and popcorn is located in the auction house so that buyers can enjoy a snack or Friday evening dinner.
Robbins brings in sellers from around Georgia and surrounding states, but the third Friday of each month is set aside for Robbins’ own merchandise. In addition to working as an auctioneer, Robbins himself is a seller. Robbins and the other sellers buy most of their merchandise from wholesale companies. This may include items that were discontinued, overstock items, items whose packaging has been recently updated, or items that were mislabeled in manufacturing. Robbins places a strong emphasis on selling new items at his auctions rather than items that have been purchased and returned to stores.
“I try to get new product, not returned stuff,” said Robbins. “It’s anything from toys to food items to chain saws, tools, home décor.”
Sellers are able to get many products at a wholesale discount. Buyers at auction are therefore able to purchase many items for anywhere from 25% to 50% off of the retail price. According to Robbins, knowing where to find good merchandise comes from years of experience making connections in the business and from good old-fashioned word of mouth.
“There’s a lot of contacts, and it takes years to get those contacts to be able to buy stuff,” said Robbins. “I’ll have somebody call me and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this. Do you want it?’”
When asked if there are any particular in-demand items for a seller to pursue to bring to auction, Robbins responded with a laugh, “If I knew that, I’d be a millionaire.”
In addition to passing on good deals to the buyers, Robbins has found a humanitarian niche at his auction house through his work for Toys for Tots. Robbins collects items for the charity year-round, and he stores them until their seasonal collection times near the holidays. Each week, he has buyers who purchase toys at the auction and place them directly into his Toys for Tots donation bins.
Another part of Robbins’ work as an auctioneer is handling estate sales. Robbins can auction estate items, either in his auction house or on the estate’s property, depending on the size of the estate. Robbins points out that for families facing a difficult time, an estate auction can be a more efficient option. Unlike an estate sale, which usually lasts multiple days and where each item needs to be priced in advance, Robbins can typically auction off an entire estate in one day. This allows the family to get through the entire process more quickly overall.
While Robbins admits that parts of his job involve a lot of time and hard work, when it all comes down to it, auctioneering feels like a hobby for him.
“I love doing it,” Robbins said.