Lyrical auctioneer mixes faith, business, artistry
If you see business as the antithesis of art or faith, you are overdue for a visit to an auction, at least one featuring Bryan Knox. An auctioneer with Amerisouth, Knox conducted Thursday’s auction of the former Princeton’s restaurant on Beltline Road Southwest.
The first surprise was that he started with prayer. “We want to be a good witness,” Knox said, after the auction. Then, with a sheepish grin that doesn’t fit his wrestler’s body, he said, “We’ve also noticed things go smoother when we start that way.”
The art began after the prayer. The starting price was $400,000. Knox began his high-speed, lyrical chant seeking a bid of $450,000. Princeton’s was fuller than it had been since a Friday night happy hour before it closed, but no takers. A glum crowd stared at Knox. He seamlessly dropped his chant to a request for $425,000. The crowd was glum, but the atmosphere was not. Knox’s chords filled the restaurant. I was afraid I would bid, and I had $2 in my pocket.
Someone with more than $2 relented to Knox’s rhythmic entreaty, an entreaty supplemented by a pair of blazer-clad young men working the crowd with come-hither hand motions. Then came a bid at $450,000, then $475,000 then $500,000 and eventually $575,000.
Things stalled, but Knox is a master of momentum. His song stopped abruptly. He surveyed the crowd like a preacher searching out sin.
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“We’re in the short road for a building like this,” he said, with uncharacteristically paced words. “This is prime real estate in Decatur, Ala. You can go into the restaurant business. You just open the door.”
Experience may say otherwise, but I would swear the bids started again just to hear Knox’s hundred-word-per-second music continue. Or maybe it was to soften the eyes of a suddenly judgmental preacher.
Whatever the reason, the bid came in at $585,000 then $595,000. Knox relented even from the $10,000 increments, knowing someone’s authority might be at a round number. “Do I hear $600,000?” He did, and his trill resumed, forcing hands up. With every bid, a come-hither assistant would holler, “High!” A staccato breaking the music briefly, then sweetening it as Knox pulled for more.
Another reverent silence. “We’re getting down to the nitty gritty now,” he boomed. “If you want a chance, here it is. Don’t miss your golden opportunity.”
The statement had no logic as I read my notes, but the event was about tone, not logic. The tone was right. I put my hand, insanely desperate to signal a $610,000 bid, in my pocket. Someone else did not. “High!”
Knox’s music brought it to $625,000. He kept pulling, now at $5,000 increments, for more. “I’ve said once, I’ve said twice: $630,000!” he intoned. My rough count, blurred by the speed and rhythm of his delivery, suggested otherwise. He had actually said “$630,000” at least 630 times, I think. Between each always clear “$630,000” was a five-second stream of what I would call music, what Knox would probably call words.
The high bid was $625,000, short of the reserve price. Bidder and seller were deep in discussion as I left.
A month from now I won’t remember the winning bid. I will remember the music, though, and the faith. And the cacophonous but real triangle connecting faith, art and business.
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