By LINDA G. RASTELLI
Amid the scraps of one retailer’s failed dream, an astonishing leap of trust took place took place on Monmouth Street Thursday, and a new business venture appears to have been born.
Two women bidding for the inventory at Margaret’s Jewelry, which was shut down by the state in April for unpaid taxes, became instant business partners, though they’d never before met.
“We didn’t even know each other’s names,” said Lorraine Shaheen, of Little Silver, who purchased all the store’s jewelry and watches in auction Lot 1 for $8,000.
The minimum bid for Lot 1 had been advertised by the Division of Taxation as $30,000, but the auctioneer, Steve Kelleher, received no bids at that price, and was forced to drop down to $5,000 before receiving an opening bid from Shaheen.
Monica de Guzman, a Lincroft resident, paid $1,500 for the rest of the store’s merchandise, including clothing, mirrors, glassware, rugs, ceramic items and artwork, plus another $500 for all the store’s furnishings, or Lots 2 and 3.
But within the details of how those second and third lots were sold lies a story of instant capitalism.
The two women were the only bidders in the auction, although approximately six people were registered to bid, said Joseph Stack, regional supervisor for the division of taxation office in Asbury Park.
After Shaheen took Lot 1, she found herself bidding against de Guzman for the other two lots. She asked the auctioneer to pause the bidding, and approached de Guzman.
“I said, ‘Are you an honest person?'” Shaheen told redbankgreen afterward. “That’s what I said!”
The answer appears to have been satisfactory, because Shaheen immediately stopped bidding, allowing de Guzman to purchase the last two lots for a song $2,000.
The two women, along with de Guzman’s business partner, Beth Screen Arena, also of Lincroft, agreed to go into a retail business together.
Right there, on the spot.
“It was meant to be,” said Arena.
Now the three women hope to find a Red Bank location for their nascent business. Arena had previously approached the landlord of 8 Monmouth Street, but the space was already taken, she said.
“We’re trying to re-open it here in Red Bank,” said Arena. “Everybody seems to love Margaret’s.”
Shaheen’s daughter, who was present at the auction but declined to give her name, had worked in the store as a clerk.
Margaret’s owners, Paul and Margaret Van Glahn, owed slightly more than $100,000 in back taxes and were unable to pay, Stack said afterward. They are now out of the country, he said.
The taxman also explained his rationale for letting the place go at fire-sale prices.
“The last thing we wanted to do is sell an inventory like this for $10,000,” he said. But in the absence of additional bids, it would be difficult to transport and store the goods and expect to get a better price, he said.
The three women agreed there was only one explanation for the day’s strange events.
“Please say it was by the grace of God,” said Shaheen.