Celebrating its grand opening, South Bay Auto Auction launched its weekly, dealers-only auction Wednesday with 300 vehicles to sell and three auctioneers simultaneously chanting out the lot descriptions and bid prices.
The Gardena-based company announced in November its plans to open its first Northern California facility in a former John Deere parts warehouse at Airport Way and Industrial Drive, hiring up to 50 new employees.
"Are you guys ready?" auctioneer Vinnie Lopez said to start the morning's sales. "Here we go, baby!"
The first lot up, a used delivery van, failed to get its minimum price of $2,000, but the second vehicle, a seemingly identical van, fetched $2,300 and the new auction's first sale.
With three lanes of vehicles being staged, dealers' buyers circling the cars, trucks and vans, the voices of the auctioneers booming through overhead speakers, the atmosphere inside the cavernous former tractor parts warehouse was frenetic.
Mark Rubino, vice president and general manger of the Stockton facility, said auctions will begin at 10:30 a.m. each Wednesday and generally wrap up by noon or 12:30 p.m. The auctions are not open to the public.
"It'll be pretty hectic," he said.
But there's plenty of room to expand.
Rubino said in a few months he hopes to get to about 400 vehicles per week and run four simultaneous auctions. But the Stockton facility already has the capacity for eight lanes of sales, or about 1,000 vehicles, at a go.
Moe Shemirani, principal of the auction company, said there is scarce competition in the San Joaquin Valley.
"We decided by positioning ourselves here, we are able to reach the whole area," he said. "Plus, we felt a very warm welcome from the community, and, more importantly, from elected city officials."
Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva, among the officials attending the company's grand-opening events Wednesday, reflected those feelings.
"They have a passion and commitment to be an active business partner," he said of company officials. Silva explained they had pledged to offer summer internships to area students, as well as contribute to the new Stockton Police Foundation, not to mention bringing dozens of new jobs to town.
"This is exactly what we need in Stockton," he said.
And it is especially needed in the south Stockton area, said Ralph Lee White, a longtime area businessman and a former city councilman.
"It's fantastic. This is big in this neighborhood," he said at the opening Wednesday.
"We need to open up our minds to these people but also to open up our arms to help these people, because if they're successful, we're successful."
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