Q & A with Cari Cucksey, star of HGTV’s ‘Cash & Cari’

In early 2010, TV talent scouts were looking for a female estate liquidator for a reality television show. One of those executives happened to land on Cari Cucksey’s website, called her, and the rest, shall we say, is Her-story …

Soon to follow, producers came to Michigan and filmed 12 hours of Cari and her crew in action. The new series, “Cash & Cari,” was sold to HGTV and premiered in January. The second season began filming in March, and there is talk of a third season. Some are now even predicting five to seven.

Cari’s house liquidation team is comprised of 25 hardworking Michiganders who’ve been thrust into the national spotlight by the magic of television, just doing what they know how to do best. Take, for instance, Haas and Moe, the muscle in the show. Haas breaks it, and Moe (aka MacGyver) fixes it. Then there are all the lovely ladies, who work to research, refurbish and restore who, I might add, are a very welcome sight for sore eyes.

Having met and worked with Cari and the cast on the show, I can attest to the fact that there is a familial atmosphere built upon long-standing relationships. And like many families, they seem to work extraordinarily well together in a sort of charmingly dysfunctional way.

Cari recently held a Q&A session with fans and the media, touching on the show, her business and her personal collections.

How did you get started in this business of finding treasures in estate sales and items at these different places?

C.C.:    I have been buying and selling since I was about 12 years old and probably about 15 years ago started really, really digging in and going to estate sales. And, just realized, wow, I have a lot of information or little of information about a lot of things and why not start my own estate sale business, because I felt like they weren’t having enough fun with it. And, wanted to breathe some new energy into the business and decided to start an estate sale company.

Did you approach HGTV for a show or answer a casting call, or did they reach out to you?

C.C.: They actually reached out to me. I got an e-mail from somebody who was scouting out. I think that they were looking for a woman antiques dealer and liquidator, so they reached out to me, which was really cool.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever found?

C.C.: I’m always intrigued by what I find. There’s a reason why I wear gloves … a lot of stuff from animal nests in items to really wild and wacky, weird medical devices, and I’ve found a little bit of everything. It never ceases to amaze me what I can find and it never ceases to amaze me what people will collect.

When do you recommend fixing up an old treasure instead of letting it go?

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C.C.: I mean, I’ve broken, ah, not very often, it’s my worst thing as I cringe when I break anything. I’ve broken various, like, teapots, or a teacup that I love that I’ve glued back together and just said, you know what I’ll deal with it, I love it so much. But in terms of a piece of furniture, I tell people to just really overlook the dirt and the grime, because that’s something that can be easily fixed. But, if something is solid wood and you can get out the wood filler and get out the glue and get out your clamps and save it and you love it, then it’s absolutely okay to re-furb and re-purpose.

We just did a piece on the episode last Monday where there’s actually a few mouse nests inside. We cleaned out the poo and made it work. So, it’s all — beauty’s in the eye of the beholder. If you love the piece, and you can see that you can turn it into a gem, then I say go for it.

Do you collect anything yourself? I’m sure you have a lot of different things you like, but is there a particular collection?

C.C: Oh my gosh, yes. I love art pottery. I’m a fan of … pottery. I’m always finding new things to collect and finding, you know, ‘Oh my gosh, I love this, I’m gonna start collecting this.’ But, I’ve always collected art pottery and Navajo jewelry. I love Arts and Crafts furniture.

I’m very eclectic. I like a lot of different things. With this business, you really have to stay balanced and stay on the line of not becoming a hoarder of certain things. And letting it circulate and let somebody else love it. But, I collect a lot of different things, but those are the things that are true to my heart.

What would you say was probably your most prized possession? If you had one thing that you could take with you, and only one thing, what would that be?

C.C.:    It’s actually the chair that I’m sitting in right now. I have an Eames Herman Miller turquoise chair that I’m sitting in. It’s my desk chair that sits with a really old library table. It’s my favorite thing. I couldn’t live without it.

Is it better to look for anything of value, or should you stick to certain items, like dishes or books? What do you recommend for a re-seller?

C.C.:    I tend to tell people, if you’re gonna get started in re-selling, go with the things that you know obviously. If you love china and you love dishes, start there, because chances are you’ll have a great eye, if you love of picking things out. And, you don’t have to necessarily go for the higher-valued items, because there’s a buyer for everything, and there’s a collector for everything.

So, start with the things that you know, and if you’re gonna branch out and research — or, rather, branch out and buy — things that you don’t know about, go for it.

If it calls to you and speaks to you, buy it, take a chance — especially if it’s not very expensive. You can research it online. Chances are somebody online will tell you what it is, and you can find out what it’s worth, and you can turn a little bit of money and you’ll learn something along the way.

Caroline Ashleigh owns Birmingham, Mich.-based Caroline Ashleigh Associates LLC. She is a graduate of New York University in Appraisal Studies in Fine and Decorative Arts and is a board-certified senior member of the Appraisers Association of America. Ashleigh is an internationally known appraiser and regularly appears on the PBS program “Antiques Roadshow.” Caroline Ashleigh Associates conducts fully catalogued online auctions. Visit www.appraiseyourart.com or www.auctionyourart.com.

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Estate Sale Showdown on ‘Cash & Cari’


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