Special to The Gardner News
It’s been 45 years, and Gardner residents can still once per month on Monday nights at Stricker’s Auction. A staple in the community, Stricker’s Auction first opened its doors on April 5, 1970. Forty-five years later, and auctiongoers can still hear “six dollar, now seven,” chanted over the public announcement at the auction on north Center St.
Jerry Stricker’s auction, like most local businesses, had humble beginnings, and started with a little bit of luck.
Jerry was raised in the Gardner community and began working at Cramer Chemical shortly after graduating from Gardner High School in 1959. He started in Cramer’s shipping department, and over the next 17-and-a-half years, he would work in nearly every department at Cramer’s, ending his career with the company in 1977 in the maintenance department.
Jerry met his wife Carole at Gardner Grange and 4-H events. They married in 1962 and have two sons.
In 1970, Stricker purchased Gardner’s old COOP building at 801 N. Center St. He planned to rent it to his employer, Cramer Chemical. But when it came to solidifying the deal, Cramer was only willing to rent the facility for $30 a month. Stricker’s payment to the bank was $100 a month, so the deal was just not going to be beneficial.
“My work buddies at Cramer’s thought it was pretty funny, and asked me what I was going to do with it now,” Stricker explained. “I told them, ‘I thought about making it into an auction barn and having sales there.’ They said, ‘Who are you going to have sell for you?’ I told them I’d do it, and from work, I called the Missouri Auction School, and it so happened they had a class starting the following Monday.”
Stricker was not a very outspoken person at the time, and his co-workers really laughed once they found out Stricker himself was going to be an auctioneer. But he took a two- week vacation from Cramer’s and went to auctioneers school, graduating on March 11, 1970.
While still working full-time at Cramer’s, Jerry started hosting three sales on Sundays — the first starting at 2 p.m. in the afternoon.
“We sold 68 numbers at the first auction,” Stricker said.
Three weeks later, Jerry started selling on Monday nights, and as a result, attendance nearly doubled. During the busy seasons, the auction can sell up to 600 bidding numbers.
Some of the first employees, many of whom still worked for the auction as of 2010, included, Larry Stricker, Jerry’s younger brother; Bob Stockmeyer, Paul and his wife, Pat Cloud; Dorothy Lay who is Carole Stricker’s sister; and Joyce Pattrick along with her late-husband Carroll Pattrick.
Jerry worked another seven years at Cramer Chemical, before he resigned to focus on auctioneering full-time in 1977. In 2004, Stricker was inducted into the Kansas Auctioneers Hall of Fame.
Both of his sons followed in his foot steps and attended auctioneer school. Rick Stricker graduated from the Worldwide College of Auctioneers in Iowa, and Ronnie Stricker graduated from the Missouri Auction School, where Bing Carter, Gardner, was an instructor in 1984.
Jerry said, “I wasn’t really surprised that both boys went to auctioneers school. It seems to get in your blood being around it.”
Over 40 years, Jerry has auctioned off everything from furniture, boats and cars, to records, cassette tapes and lumber. Stricker said some things have changed though, “Especially technology. We started out with an old adding machine, and now everything is on computers. Plus, people have Craigslist and Ebay now, and I’m the one they always tell their horror stories to,” Jerry said.
Jerry also explained the psychology is completely different when you sell something online, compared to selling it when a hundred people are standing around.
“An item you sell online for $10 will sell for $15 to $20 at a live auction, when the auctioneer gets the people going and stirred up,” Jerry said.
People have changed, too, Jerry explained.
“Young people are not collectors and don’t want antiques. They’re willing to throw out grandma’s furniture, more so than their parents would have ever done,” Jerry said.
Stricker’s Auction is known worldwide, and many times you’ll hear people four states away say, “Gardner, Kansas? That’s where Stricker’s Auction is, right?”
Jerry has done interviews several times on New York radio talk shows over the years. Stricker’s Auction has been on a national wire service and advertised in magazines all over the globe.
“People will bring me back publications they get on vacation, that they found the auction’s ad in,” Jerry said.
One time, Jerry was at a NASCAR track and everyone kept saying, “Hi Jerry, Hello Jerry!” when he walked by. One of the people accompanying Jerry, said, “More people seem to know you than Earnhardt!”
Stricker explained his plans for the auction’s future.
“Ronnie wants to keep it going, and the people want us to keep it going, so that’s the plan,” Jerry said.
At an auction on April 5, 2010, the President of the Kansas Auctioneers Association presented Jerry with a plaque, and cookies were served to celebrate the auction’s 40th year.
The big ticket item of the night was a 2008 Cadillac sedan, with a little more than 25,000 miles on the odometer. It sold at Stricker’s Auction for $26,000 with no reserve set.
Stricker’s Auction is one of the only auctions that will pay the consigner the very next day. Most auctions do not pay consigners for two weeks after a sale is held, Jerry said.
“There is a lot of book keeping done behind the scenes. It’s like selling all of a grocery store, then having to restock all the shelves and sell out again the very next week,” he explained.
Editor’s note: A version of this story first appeared in an April 2010 edition of The Gardner News.