Building a lifetime passion into a family business

When the collecting bug bites, life is never the same.

For Lee Parsons, president and CEO of Aether Estate Sales Co., he was merely a lad when the appreciation of anything antique and vintage took over. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. Since the early days, when at the age of 9 he would make the rounds at flea markets identifying vintage toys by brand, his adoration of antiques and collectibles has grown into a career and lifestyle he and his family share.
We caught up with Lee recently to learn more about his past, how it influenced and evolved into his present business and what he envisions for the future.

Antique Trader: How long have you been doing business as Aether Estate Sales Co., and who does that involve?

Lee Parsons: Aether Estate Sales Co. was officially started in 2012, but the company really began much earlier than that. Aether is run and managed by myself, and my wife,

Lee and Tiffany Parsons of Aether Estate Sales Co.

Lee and Tiffany Parsons of Aether Estate Sales Co.

Tiffany. We have some outstanding employees who assist with all things from marketing and design, to pricing, staging and conducting the sales.

AT: How long have you (your family) been interested/involved in antiques and collectibles, and how did that interest begin?

LP: I’ve maintained a passion for all things vintage that started when I was just a tyke. I remember identifying vintage toy brands at flea markets when I was nine years old to many strangers’ astonishment. Since that time, I’ve been involved with auctions, antique and secondhand stores, buying and selling antiques and collectibles, and amassing knowledge and making contacts throughout the industry.
My secret passion is United States paper money, pre-1934. I’ve had the chance to hold many valuable and rare pieces throughout my life. I’m currently working on a book geared toward amateurs interested in entering the paper money world.

My wife, Tiffany, is newer to the antiques and collectibles world, but since we met five years ago, she has been directly involved with my endeavors and has really picked up a lot of knowledge in a short span of time. Our daughters Jayda (12) and Wrigley (6) share a passion for all things vintage, as well. Our newest addition will certainly share the same vigor when she is born in March 2015.

AT: Tell us a bit about the services Aether Estate Sales Co. provide.

LP: Aether Estate Sales Co. provides whole-house, on-site estate sales to the entire state of Indiana, Illinois, Florida and Colorado, with offices in Indianapolis, Chicago, Naples and Denver. We manage the valuing, pricing and sale of antiques, rare books, collectibles, fine art, furnishings, high-quality household goods, jewelry and select vehicles. Our team sets up the home to be as much like a store as possible. We organize, price, merchandise and advertise for an optimal shopping experience. We are the solution to sell everything quickly and profitably, with the most profit possible.

Presentation is a big key to making sure bidders can visualize the items in an estate, in their own home. (Photo courtesy Aether Estate Sales Co.)

Presentation is a big key to making sure bidders can visualize the items in an estate, in their own home. (Photo courtesy Aether Estate Sales Co.)

We are known for exceeding expectations when it comes to both revenue generated and customer service. All dedicated to the client by a full-time staff, who each possess their own set of specialized knowledge so the client is assured of not only receiving top dollar, but also the most professional and reliable experience possible.

AT: What would you say are some of the positives and challenges associated with helping people with estate sales today?

LP: Empathy is immensely important in this line of work. Whatever the circumstances are, Aether is contacted at a time when the client is most vulnerable. Our clients typically fall into four categories – debt, death, divorce or downsizing – all four being difficult hardships in someone’s life. We really have to deeply understand each client and their unique situation. By the end of the process, you feel that you really know the client and their family. It’s a arduous process for all involved, but it’s a good feeling when you know you’ve played a large role in this paralyzing experience.

AT: How often do you hold sales?

LP: We hold sales every weekend, year round, at each of our locations. Our Denver location is our newest addition, and we are avidly working on building our client and customer base there. We plan on adding other major cities in the very near future, as well.

AT: Can you share a couple scenarios from past estate sales which stand out in your mind, (1) as a valuable lesson learned, and (2) affirmation of a specific practice or protocol of your company?

Aether Estate Sales incorporates the latest technology in its estate sale operation. (Photo courtesy Aether Estate Sales Co.)

Aether Estate Sales incorporates the latest technology in its estate sale operation. (Photo courtesy Aether Estate Sales Co.)

LP: We saw a pattern of meeting with clients where the contents of their estate did not meet our minimum threshold for having a full-blown estate sale – complete with professional home staging, cleaning the home, barcode tagging every item contained in the estate, etc. We developed a way to be able to assist those clients as well. We call them “Pickers Sales” – where we advertise the sale as untagged, un-inventoried and unsearched.

Attendees really enjoy these types of sales. It really creates quite a state of frenzy. You pick out whatever items you are interested in, and an Aether associate then gives you a “lot price” for whatever you have picked out. By implementing this type of sale, we are now able to serve any type of client, which is a win-win situation for all involved. We really developed a whole new way of hosting sales for people who would never be able to have one.

At Aether, we emphasize to clients that we are full service, and I think this is key to our success. It really puts the client at ease knowing we are taking care of everything – they don’t have to lift a finger.

We like to tell our clients the only thing they have to do is cash the check at the conclusion of the sale. We sell as many of the contents of the home as possible, but you are always going to have some leftover items. The client has the option of either donating the remaining items, or consigning them to many different antique shops and secondhand stores we hold contracts with. This way, the client gets their “fat check” at the end of the estate sale, and consignment checks every month thereafter, until their remaining items are all sold.

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