One man’s junk is another man’s E-Bay listing
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
At first glance, the contents of the Lamar warehouse might look like nothing special. Here, a jumbled row of service manuals for Chrysler cars from the mid 1980s. There, a Jenga-style tower of oily metal cylinders and wires. Over there, a massive lighted sign touting an Oklahoma car parts and repair shop. But this warehouse – home of Atlantic City Pickers – is truly a case of the sum being greater than its parts.
About six years ago, Chrysler and General Motors drastically downsized, closing about 4,000 dealerships and putting thousands of people out of work. New Jersey mechanic Eric Doran was one of those displaced workers, and rather than resume wrenching at a fraction of his former pay, he opted to use his 30 years of repair expertise to start his own business, and Atlantic City Pickers was born.
“I took the few thousand dollars I had saved and started going to auctions for car dealerships that had closed down. They would auction their service manuals, specialty dealership tools, and OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) car parts – basically liquidating car dealerships,” says Doran. “I started selling those items on eBay out of my garage in New Jersey.”
Doran says he started out slow, and was initially crowded out or outbid by larger dealers. But over time, his eye for usable parts, tools, and manuals gradually built his online store into a major player. Stocking tens of thousands of parts, tools, and manuals for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and boats built from 1940 through 2014, Atlantic City Pickers has helped small garages and shadetree mechanics around the world complete their repair and restoration projects.
Travel is a major part of the business, since Doran wants to examine auction items before committing to purchase, so he often hitches a trailer behind his van and drives the length and breadth of America to explore buying opportunities.
“It’s a lot of driving… in the last two months, I’ve been in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Connecticut,” says Doran. “Some people send us photos, but there’s no substitute for seeing (auction lots) yourself. You can buy a box for $100 and have $1,000 worth of tools in it – but you have to know what you’re looking at.”
Seeking a locale change, Doran left New Jersey in 2014 and settled in Lamar, shuttering the Jersey business last October. Now operating with a staff of three employees in the old Craig Manufacturing facitilty on Pearl Street, he has seen an encouraging uptick in business.
“Last year was our best year on eBay. We sold $670,000, gross,” says Doran, a big proponent of e-commerce. “If you have a brick and mortar business and you’re not utilizing the Internet, you’re selling your business short.”
All that shipping has been a boon for the Lamar Post Office. In an average day, Atlantic City Pickers can ship out around forty packages, and much more than that if they receive a big order. By the first week of September, the online store (listed under the name “millertoolman”) had listed over 10,000 items, with only one negative feedback rating in twelve months.
Now that the business in humming right along, Doran is looking to expand into local retail, albeit in a modest way. He wants to open a small general store / hardware store to serve the needs of the Lamar community, and save them from driving all the way to Florence for basic home maintenance items. Doran sees this happening one of two ways: a planned relocation into a new building adjacent to their current home could have the general store in front and Atlantic City Pickers in back, or he could build the general store on Lynches River Road to offer a convenient shopping option for his rural neighbors.
Also, Doran has started selling nifty neon reproduction signs and clocks, branded with favorite graphics and logos. Full disclosure: this reporter bought a neon Coca-Cola clock. It’s pretty cool.
To learn more about Atlantic City Pickers, call 609-412-6362, visit their website at www.atlanticcitypickers.com, or look up “millertoolman” on eBay.