Trinkets, knickknacks and ‘Malama’

LIHUE — On Thursday morning, the Malama Auctions and Appraisals building was filled with almost everything and anything you could think of: a metal detector, furniture, fine art, straw hats, kitchenware and even an antique safe with walls 3 inches thick of concrete.

The next morning, the building was bone dry. Not a single item was left.

Bidders the day before had claimed their wins one by one, in pairs and by the droves, after several days of online bidding.

Whether done at a person’s home, at a business or even on site, no two auctions are ever the same, said John John Genovese, co-owner of Malama Auctions and Appraisals in Lihue.

“You know, most people that find us are extremely happy that they found us,” said John Genovese, John John’s dad and business partner. “There really isn’t many options when a person finds themselves in a situation where they need to leave a lot of assets behind, or just to care for them.”

Malama Auctions opened in November 2012, when John and John John saw a service that was lacking on Kauai.

“Oftentimes we would see people who would get sick, move off the island, moving on island, and they didn’t have a good resource to be able to meet people on neutral grounds (to sell or buy things),” John John said.

The first year, the company squeezed in eight auctions. Since then, the father-son team has completed 110 auctions.

Currently, they host three to eight auctions a month and works with hundreds of people a year, including buyers and sellers.

There are times when the buyers know more about an item than the auctioneers, John said. One such item was a bronze statue that sold for thousands of dollars.

“I started at $10 and it quickly went to $100. I figured I might start calling $50 bids,” John said. “Then I started bidding in $500 increments.”

Some auctions are held to benefit people, like one held three years ago to support late Big Island artist Laka Morton after he suffered two strokes.

“We flew over to the Big Island and we brought over crates worth of his artwork and some of originals that sold in the tens of thousands dollars,” John John said.

Another time, a collection of items from a U.S. ambassador was auctioned off on the North Shore.

“We had trinkets and knickknacks from dozens of countries around the world,” John John said. “It’s safe to say what Kauai has to offer, it makes us realize what a small world it is.”

Their work isn’t exclusive to individuals and families. The duo often works with businesses, nonprofits and real estate brokers.

One example was working with the owners of the former Italian restaurant Casa di Amici.

“They wanted to retire and move on,” John said. “The best option for them (was) to be able to liquidate fine assets for a real price that was good for them.”

And they did.

The thousands of items accumulated during the restaurant’s 30 years of business were sold in a single day.

“You can see how that would relieve someone’s stress,” John said.

Auctions benefit sellers in two ways, they said: The item will sell, and the market value is determined by the buyers.

“When we set the date, we’re positive it’s going to sell,” John John said.

Each area creates its own marketplace, John said.

“This is such a melting pot for people who come from all over the world, they bring those non-indigenous items here,” he said. “We’ve sold 14th century antique furniture and probably for less money than surfboards.”

For the father-son duo, the business has made them feel like an integral part of the community.

“The single best benefit of being a part of this business is being able to touch so many people’s lives,” John John said. “We feel like we’re extended family for the people we end up selling items for because sometimes we might spend weeks or months in their home, working alongside the family.”

John added: “The people of Kauai are just ohana.”

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