Friday, February 20, 2009

Welcome to the Family

The auction business has traditionally been one of family.  A skill learned by a father, honed by a son, perfected by a grandson, and presented to each successive generation as a gift. That was the idea when Richard Spear began Spear Auctioneers, Inc. in Russellville, Arkansas.
Richard has a kind of quiet excitement for his job, a confidence and certainty that comes only from years of determined hard work first as a boy on the family farm in Lincoln, Kansas. His father was a carpenter and a farmer and you'd know it by looking at his hands.  My husband, his grandson, still delights in telling me about how, as a child, he couldn't wrap his whole hand around one of his fingers.  Richard has those hands, and my husband too, even our son who is only a year old has hands that, judging by the sheer size of them, must be Great-Grandad's.  
As a young man Richard worked two jobs, as a groundskeeper during the day and waiting tables at night, to put himself through college at Kansas State, then Mississippi College, and continued his schooling over the years at the Certified Auctioneers Institute and Graduate Realtors Institute.  After being drafted into the US Army during the Vietnam War he achieved a high-ranking position in communications, talking directly with men in the fields and jungles of Vietnam.  He was stationed in Germany and given a crypto-native clearance.  Maybe it was the years on the family farm that gave him his work ethic, it could be that waiting tables, having to earn tips for the money for school, developed his natural charm, and it's possible that those years serving in the Vietnam War, in the communications department, made him value words as a commodity.  He speaks not so much with urgency but with intensity, as if it's necessary for him to convey as much important information as possible as briefly as possible in a calm, definite way.
Richard met his wife, Neta, in Mississippi.  She grew up in Jackson in the 50's.  Her father rented juke boxes and was called at all hours of the night to go out to clubs and repair skipping records and broken machinery.  In a segregated South this was sometimes a dangerous job.  As it's told he had a gentile way about him, and his own measure of charm that allowed him to enter these clubs, and leave, without trouble from angry inebriated mobs desperate to hear Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue." 
Her mother loved cats and was known to rescue litters of kittens from the sides of roads. The family still laughs about Bandit, an all black cat that may or may not have had some lynx in his blood.  Neta's mother fed the cat tuna from a can.  Neta's father spent his evenings in his easy chair, welding gloves on, armed with a rolled-up newspaper to defend himself from Bandit's imminent attack.  Despite a few bad experiences Neta still loves cats and has a heart for all animals.
Richard and Neta have been married for 40 years.  Neta was there 22 years ago when Richard began holding auctions in chicken houses for free just for the practice.  She was there addressing auction fliers and helping set up as he was able to make auctioneering his full-time job, and she's there today as Spear Auctioneers has become the Arkansas River Valley's  leading auction company.  You'll know her by her smile.  It lights up her eyes so that you can see your reflection in them, and you always look better in her eyes than you do to yourself.  It's a quality that she didn't learn attending business school, it was passed down to her and she, in turn, has passed it down.
Justin was born in 1973 and Julie two years later.  He grew up in a boy's world of hunting and fishing and epic games of kick-the-can, she a world of dresses and friends and dreams of the future.  Road trips to Kansas and Mississippi were filled with the sounds of Justin pestering Julie, Neta taming the children, and Richard perfecting his auctioneering chant using mile markers as bids.
Armed with his mother's smile and his father's charm Justin entered the sales world as a teenager.  He began by selling floor mats to car dealerships and soon moved on to selling insurance.  His easy way with people and their reciprocal ease with him earned him the title of one of the top producers for Life Investors Insurance company three years in a row.  He was the youngest person in the company to ever receive the award.  He eventually quit the insurance business and got his own auctioneering certificate.  Working full-time now with his dad as an auctioneer and a ringman, he continues to attract people and business.
Julie has that same ease with people.  I imagine high school halls, for her, were filled with laughter and joking and the greetings of friends.  I imagine this because even today, if you go anywhere with her, grocery store isles and neighboring restaurant tables are filled with the same sounds.  In true Spear fashion she worked her way through college at Arkansas Tech where she met her husband Todd Meimerstorf who is currently working as a loan officer at Arvest Bank here in Russellville.  Julie has a gift of talent for everything she does and an eye for detail that she's turned into her own business.  When she's not helping out at Spear Auctioneers she's painting canvases and tote bags, picture frames and plaques that she then sells at craft fairs and local businesses.  Like her parents before her she's found a niche and has capitalized on a natural talent.
The third generation of the Spear family is comprised of Holly, Hayden, Jenna, Landon, and new addition Story.  Holly, Hayden, and Story are Justin's, Jenna and Landon Julie's.  Holly is 12.  She is a princess and you can tell immediately that she's the oldest.  A caretaker from the beginning she was known to scold the floor for hitting her when she fell as a baby.  Hayden is 10 and he's a boy after his father's heart, riding dirt bikes, playing guitar, and encouraging his father in his current vice, purchasing exotic pets (we now have two iguanas and either three or four tortoises).  Story will be one on February 25th.  He's walking and babbling and likes to put things on his head and wedge himself into tight spaces. 
Jenna and Landon live just down the street.  Jenna, seven, works magic with Story.  She's always anxious to help with him and I'm always anxious to have her help.  Landon, four, idolizes Hayden and his first question to me is always "where's Hayden?"  Known for his bright red hair, he laughs a lot and always has something funny to say.
As for me I married into the Spear family three years ago and this is my impression:  I've never met a closer family, one who seems to work so hard for the good of the whole and who is dedicated without reservation to the eternal pursuit of happiness and the happiness of eternal pursuit.  An auction at Spear Auctioneers is the product of years of learning a business, but more than that it is the business of learning a family.  Each individual's talents have been distilled and refined into a specialty, all are maximized and utilized and come together in perfect proportion on auction day.
Every year at Spear Auctioneers brings new opportunities for changes and growth.  With auctioneering becoming a preferred method for liquidating estates and businesses and selling real estate even in an unstable economy, Spear Auctioneers maintains its title of "The River Valley's Leading Real Estate Auctioneers."  Holly, Hayden, Jenna, Landon, and Story all have the opportunity to build Spear Auctioneers into "Arkansas' Leading Real Estate Auctioneers," and their kids could take it to the next level and on and on into the future, a future that looks bright from here.
    Holly, Story, Hayden, Landon, and Jenna