Jeff “Swick” Schwickerath, owner of Swick’s Auction and Swick’s Liquidation LLC, was born and raised in Sapulpa and hopes his latest venture at 620 South Linden St. will be an asset to the community that he loves.
Swick was imbued with an entrepreneurial drive at an early age.
“In grade school at Lone Star, we would take our BB guns and shoot down the mistletoe, put it in a bag at Christmas, take it to school and sell it. Then I started buying and selling candy bars.”
Swick said that he continued selling food in high school: “I would go to the Hostess Store and buy the cupcakes and I would sell them”
Swick stumbled upon his first “big“ deal when he was 16 and was selling merchandise at flea markets.
“I got a call from a guy who was older than me that I went to church with. He called me and said: ‘I got some drinking glasses, I am working over here at Bartlett Collins Glass Company, and they have 10,000 drinking glasses that they want to get rid of. I can get them real cheap if you will buy 10,000 of them.’”
Besides selling at flea markets, Schwickerath mowed lawns, did brush-hogging, and cleaned his church. “I had a little bit of money in my pocket and was wheeling and dealing at school, selling car stereos, anything I could sell. So I said, how much can I buy these drinking glasses for? He said: ‘three cents a piece.’ I said, ‘$300 for 10,000 drinking glasses?’ He said ‘yeah.’”
Swick then asked his dad if he could use the family garage to store the glasses, and his dad asked him what he was going to do with so many drinking glasses. Schwickerath told his dad: “I am going to sell them at the flea market; I am going to sell them ten for a dollar. I am going to turn my three cents into ten cents.”
“That was my first big deal I ever did was right here at this glass factory. That was the first time I ever bought something in multiples like I do now.”
During and after high school, Swick worked at Braum’s, but the desire to be self-employed was too strong.
“After I left Braum’s, I decided that, I have always loved auctions, I am going to be an auctioneer.
“Hank May (Hank May Hardware was at 25 North Main St.) had just retired and that building had been sitting empty for about a year…. So I met with Hank, and asked: ‘Can I rent this building?’ He said ‘yeah, I will let you rent it’, and he rented it to me for $350 a month.”
Swick subsequently rented 23 North Main St, on the Southeast corner of Main St. and Hobson Ave., from Hank May, for $300 a month.
Following his father’s advice not to rent but to own a building, Swick purchased the two buildings from Hank May.
“Hank May came in one day, and I said, ‘Hank listen, I am not going to rent forever, I want to buy a place downtown, I like Sapulpa, I am a Sapulpa boy, and I want to stay here in town and I want to put it in a furniture store here.’”
Swick eventually rented the building directly across the street that was owned by J.E. Williams, and continued to expand by buying the building that had housed the Creek County Health Department.
After twelve years, Swick saw the writing on the wall for mom-and-pop furniture stores and decided to sell the business.
“I got a huge offer and I sold it. That enabled me to buy the property on I-44 and 51st. St., where the flea market, and auction and all that is there.”
Shortly after Bartlett Collins Glass closed, Schwickerath was approached about buying the abandoned glass plant.
“Wiley Smith called me and said: ‘are you interested in buying in this facility? We are putting a group together to buy the facility.’ After looking at the issues with the property, two of the investors backed out but Swick decided to remain as an investor, along with Wiley Smith.
Wiley Smith put his Solar Ray company in the newly acquired facility.
Swick said Smith really didn’t want to be paying his partner rent so Jeff sold his half back to Wiley for exactly what he had paid for and then Wiley Smith sold the majority interest in his company to a group in Salt Lake City, Utah who moved the business up there.
When Smith sold the company, he did not sell the building and according to Swick, it sat vacant for about a year.
Smith and Schwickerath finally came to terms and Swick bought the entire 300,000-square-foot facility.
Swick said that his goal is to help small business owners with his distribution center.
“After 36 years in business, I have accumulated a lot of friends in the close-out world, being an auctioneer, being in liquidating and all that. I know some of the top guys in the nation in the liquidation world, the very top guys in the big companies.”
Swick buys surplus from the world’s largest retailer, the world’s largest internet retailer, and a plethora of other fortune 500 companies.
Swim lamented the influx of Chinese goods and how it has destroyed small town business, and felt his operation gives small business owners a competitive edge.
“A lot of nonprofits are buying from us, whether it’s cleaning supplies or food, we have everything from potato chips to massage chairs.” Swick was not exaggerating, his warehouse is full with every household item you could possibly imagine.
Swick then spoke of the benefit to local small businesses.
“It is great for what I call small-town entrepreneurs , the little stores in town are buying from us to resell. What we are doing is taking from the big corporations, their excess and their surplus…. A lot of our stuff is brand new merchandise, and sometimes it is a short date, and it is a best by date, not an expiration date.” He pointed out many items in a sealed container are good for months after the best by date.
There is ample office space that Swick hopes to rent out to non-profits, and small businesses needing an office.
Swick has his hand in a number of enterprises besides his auction and wholesale business.
He and another fellow designed, and sell a pick-up device called the Alligrabber, which is shaped like an alligator. “It will pick a dime off the floor or it will pick a brick up, It is all made in America. I could make this in China cheaper, but I am not going to. I am keeping it here (Oilton, Oklahoma) and taking care of our own people.”
This amazing little product can be found at any Atwood’s store.
If that wasn’t enough, Jeff has a mechanical bull that is sanctioned by the Professional Bull Riders Association that he takes to local fairs.
On top of all the other ventures, he is opening a mattress store at the corner of 81st St. and US Highway 66, called “Swick’s on 66.”
And, last but not least, Swick has been commissioned to conduct the auction of the furniture fixtures, and equipment from Freddie’s. The auction will be held Monday, May 1, at 11 a.m., at the restaurant.