By Nick Diamantides
The crowd that gathered at Arnold’s Family Restaurant on June 2 was a diverse group of people. It included restaurateurs looking for a good deal on equipment, people looking for antiques or memorabilia of one of Long Beach’s most popular eateries, and loyal customers who came to get one last look at the place and to say goodbye to owners Mike and Cindy Johnson. About 150 people attended the approximately four-and-one-half hour event.
Auctioneer Steve Grove, of the Anaheim-based Kohn-Megibow Company (KMC), began the sale by quoting the state laws on auctions. “Everybody has to have a buyer’s number to bid with,” he said, and he directed the attendees to the counter where KMC staff was issuing the numbers for a $200 cash deposit. Grove also explained that the deposit would be good toward up to $800 in purchases, but once a buyer purchased items totaling more than $800, he or she would have to leave an additional deposit amounting to 25 percent of any additional purchases.
All the items for sale (some were in lots) had been tagged with a number, and Grove explained that the auction would proceed in numerical order. About 440 items or lots were sold during the event. Participants had two hours before the auction to view everything that would be offered.
“Everything that we sell is sold on an as-is, where-is basis,” Grove said. “We don’t deliver, you[‘ve] got to come and get it yourself.” He added that buyers had two days to take their items but had to make full payment by noon Thursday. Grove also reminded the participants that KMC added up to 13 percent to all purchases in addition to the nine-and-three-quarters percent state sales tax, as a buyers premium.
Items sold during the auction included an autographed photo of baseball legend Babe Ruth, an 1895 photograph of Catalina Island, an antique mirror, Tiffany lamps, antique merchant scales and adding machines, oak tables and chairs, collectibles, other furniture, paintings, restaurant equipment and appliances, and cooking utensils, among other things.
“It’s bittersweet being here and talking to a lot of customers who are reminiscing about old times,” said the restaurant’s owner, Mike Johnson. “Memories are the tough part, but I am excited just to liquidate, put it behind us and move into a new stage in our life.”
The restaurateurs in attendance were excited too, because of the money they would be saving on necessary equipment. Bob Kulwicki, who lives in Temecula, said he was planning to open a restaurant in the near future. “I am looking to buy anything of good value that looks like it works well,” he said.
Another restaurateur, Charles Kankone, who has lived in the United States for 15 years, said he was planning to go back to the place of his birth– the Congo– to open a restaurant and he had come to the auction to buy some of the equipment he will need for that enterprise. Kankone explained that even though he would have to pay shipping costs to move the equipment to Africa, he was still getting a good deal. “Used American machines are more reliable than new machines made in China,” he added, explaining that by purchasing equipment at auctions, he is saving money and has the assurance that what he buys will last a long time.
Employees of Santa Ana-based Acme Movers were also on hand making arrangements with buyers who needed help moving some of the large, heavy items to their new homes.
Longtime patron Marjorie Grommé, had another reason for coming to the auction. She wanted to say goodbye to a place that held a special place in her heart. “I have eaten here for a considerable number of years. For my late husband and I and another couple we knew, this was our favorite Friday night place,” she said. “It breaks my heart to see it go out of business.” She added that she is very sorry that she will no longer be able to bring her family to Arnold’s for special occasions.
“I am shocked and saddened by the closing,” said another longtime customer, Gloria Burrows. “It’s just absolutely horrible.” She added that she was hoping to buy one of the plate collections as a way of remembering the restaurant she had loved for so many years.
Joseph Ashwill, the president of the Long Beach Scottish Rite, said he attended the auction in hopes of buying some stainless-steel tables that his organization needs. “I am always fascinated by auctions anyway,” he said. “But I do feel terrible about Arnold’s closing. They have been our caterers for all of our dinners for the last 15 years. This is a great loss for us.”
Jack Tucey, who owns several restaurants on Catalina Island, said that as a teenager he worked at Arnold’s when it first opened. “I am sad that it is closing,” he said. “I am buying a couple of pieces so I can say this is where I used to work when I was 15.”
Johnson did not disclose how much money he received from the auction. “It’s not as much as some people might think,” he said. “But Kohn-Megibow were very fair with us.” He added that he and his wife Cindy were satisfied with the auction. “We sold everything with the exception of some old desks, “ he said. “We did save a few keepsakes for ourselves, but you can’t dwell in the past. We are looking forward to our future.” The Johnsons are planning to help their sons open a new Porky’s Pizza in the next couple of months or so.