Goeman Auction owners moving on after decades in the industry

July 22, 2019

Auctioneers tend to have a sense of timing – especially when it comes to capitalizing on business.

And the owners of Goeman Auction Service & Real Estate Inc. say the time is right to do something different.

Jeff and Sally Goeman are moving on after 38 years and thousands of auctions.

“We always said we wanted to go out on top, and we are,” Sally Goeman said. “We have had the best six months of our business, and in June, Jeff was inducted into the (South Dakota) Auctioneers Hall of Fame.”

Jeff Goeman followed his father into the business. Lester Goeman, a farmer, started it in 1955 and focused mainly on farm sales for years. His son joined the business in 1981.

Two years later, the farm crisis hit.

“Everything is cyclical,” Jeff Goeman said. “And it could be time for more change on the farm.”

The business evolved into selling personal property, including firearms, and continued to sell land.

“You’ve always got estates and people downsizing and moving. It’s a monumental task,” he said.

“I like work. I just don’t want to be in charge any more.”

Theirs is a business that requires a lot of work. At one point last year, there were seven people working there full time, “and we could keep them busy,” Jeff Goeman said. “It’s pretty large for an auction operation.”

They are hoping to sell the business, which sits on 8 acres outside Lennox and includes a pavilion, a 10,000-square-foot shed and an office.

“It would work well for retail or light manufacturing, but I’d like to see it maintained as an auction,” he said. “That’s simply pride and someone confirming it’s a good business.”

The demand for Goeman’s services hasn’t abated with its closure, he said. Customers are still contacting the business in need of help selling off estates.

“Auctions are what we do. It’s not who we are,” Sally Goeman added. “And it’s been a great run. We’ve enjoyed it. We’re adrenaline junkies. You’re always living two weeks behind and two weeks into the future at all times.”

Their careers have brought plenty of memorable sales, including commercial real estate deals in Sioux Falls and one particularly epic estate sale in the mid-1990s that involved the former J.H. Bast General Store in Ramona. It was filled with decades-old merchandise, much of it in new condition.

“When you walked in, it was like the owners turned the key in 1938 and walked away,” Jeff Goeman said. “That was pre-internet, and I advertised in national antique magazines. When I started the auction, I had buyers in-house from 27 states and one on the phone from Oregon.”

As technology evolved, Goeman leveraged it to diversity its business.

“The internet has changed a lot. It was huge. At first we feared it, but once you embrace it and start using it, it opened up the whole world,” he said. “Our gun auctions were very large. We sold a lot of firearms to collectors around the world.”

Buyers today also have changed generationally, he said. A typical auction draws almost all older buyers.

“I can look out and count the number of people under 50 on one hand,” he said. “I think they’re much more minimalistic, and those things we deemed antique and collectible don’t resonate with them.”

The Goemans have drawn interest from potential buyers for the business without marketing it, they said. They’re hopeful a deal can come together.

In the meantime, there’s one more sale left to hold: their own, which is scheduled for Sept. 7 before they move to Arizona.

“It will be our personal property and household and all our tools and equipment – trucks, trailers, desks – we have tons of vehicles,” Sally Goeman said. “We’re going to treat it like an old-fashioned retirement party. Those were the fun auctions, not the forced sales. They felt like Fourth of July picnics with food and fun, so that’s what we’ll strive for and as a thank-you to all the people we’ve befriended.”

Both say they won’t actually retire. They’re not of typical retirement age and don’t believe in it anyway, they said. They’re just ready for their next adventure.

“This is an intense business. It’s constant deadlines. And we don’t live forever,” Jeff Goeman said. “We’re going out on top as I ever could have hoped for.”

Goeman Auction owners moving on after decades in the industry

Jeff and Sally Goeman are moving on after 38 years and thousands of auctions.

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