Owners Dick and Julie Schwade, Spring Valley Sales, passed the gavel to new owners Kevin and Mindy Grabau of Greenleaftton, Minn., on March 17.
Schwade and his wife sold Spring Valley Sales, but customers can be assured that they will continue to hear Schwade’s familiar chant at Spring Valley Sales as he continues to auctioneer. With a laugh Schwade said, “I can’t be home with the wife all day. She will get sick of me.”
Schwade is originally from Ridgeway, Iowa, and attended school in Cresco, Iowa.
“I’ve enjoyed going to sales with my folks ever since I was a little kid. A real good friend of mine was an auctioneer and said why don’t you go to auctioneer school,” explained the quiet spoken man.
In August 1977, 27-year-old Schwade graduated from the Worldwide College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa. He explained that students go to school “day and night” from 5-9 p.m. for 10 days. Fifty years ago, the tuition at the school was $1,000.
Schwade shared, “I was farming at the time and started with farming and household auctions. Back in these days farm sales were a big deal compared to what they are now. You could go to one every day of the week around here.
“The livestock barn over here came up for sale. I bought it and quit farming in 1979. Spring Valley Sales never did any farm sales or household sales. I started all that from scratch in 1979 and built the business since then,” explained Schwade.
The company’s website describes Spring Valley Sales as a full-service auction company serving Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Spring Valley Sales conducts estate, farm dispersal, consignment, real estate, business liquidation, and personal property sales. The 20-acre property has a large parking lot, heated sale room, lunch on grounds, and is handicap accessible. The auction house is southeast Minnesota antique auction headquarters.
Auctions are also popular for socialization and the fresh homemade food. It is not uncommon to see your next-door neighbor at the auction house. At Spring Valley Sales, the food is provided by Gleason’s Lunch Wagon.
Spring Valley Sales has 12-13 part-time employees and sells around 600 wagon loads a year plus furniture and big-ticket items. The company does 50 auctions a year. At each auction there are approximately 200 bid numbers.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Schwade sold a lot of dairy cattle, but he has not sold any animals since 1996.
They sell everything, with tools being very popular. There are not as many small farms now as there were in the past. They now combine household sales and during COVID-19, started conducting online sales.
“We sold everything. As long as I’ve been in the business there are still things that come up that I have never sold before,” shared Schwade. “It is hard work. It is a seven-day-a-week job.”
New owner Kevin Grabau started working at the livestock auction barn for Schwade when he was 12 years old. The young Grabau was responsible for getting cattle in their pens. At age 18, after graduating from Wykoff High School he went to the Worldwide College of Auctioneering in 1992. He started auctioneering for Schwade after graduation and has been there ever since.
Schwade proudly shared, “Ater 30 some years working for me, Kevin knows what’s going on.”
The Grabaus are both licensed realtors in Minnesota and Mindy is also licensed in Iowa. The couple shared, “We look forward to being a valuable resource to people in the community who are looking to downsize with their personal possessions as well as their homes.”
The Grabaus noted, “We will continue with the same live sales, adding in some online sales too.”
The couple added that they transformed the auction building into their wedding venue in 2016.
With Kevin’s experience with everything auction and Mindy’s business knowledge and experience, they are excited for the opportunities ahead. The couple encourages customers to stop in and say “hello” and emphasized that they would love to talk with their customers.
The new owners can be reached at the auction building, 412 E. Park, by calling (507) 346-2183 or visit their website at www.springvalleysales.com.
“I have built so many friends over the years. It is unreal,” said Schwade. “Building clientele, friends, and customers. Such a great, enormous amount of good people around.”