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When the bank takes it back
When the bank takes it back
Comly Auctioneers & Appraisers
Launched: 1834
Sales: $4 million in 2007, $7 million in 2008

When businesses fold, banks throughout the nation's northeast corridor often turn to Stephen Comly, president of Comly Auctioneers & Appraisers - one of the oldest industrial commercial auction firms in the United States - to sell the assets they hold as collateral.

Business is brisk for Comly, whose firm is now hawking everything from tractors to tanning booths. The seventh generation auctioneer says the secret to his company's success is longevity: In business for more than a century, Comly has built strong relationships with long-term clients.

"If you think of all the things getting hit hardest in this economy, we're selling it," Comly says. "Secured creditors are the foundation of our client base. When a loan defaults, the bank calls us to reassess the assets. As banks consolidate, their territories get wider, so I've been traveling across the country constantly."

Comly's firm does appraisals when banks want to know the value of a loan applicant's pledged collateral. It also works the back end of loans, liquidating assets when loans default.

"My business is good whether there's a recession or not," Comly says. "In the worst times, there's more to sell, and there are always people who will buy. Right now, the economy's going through a domino effect of negativity. We need to believe things are going to get better."

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LAST UPDATE: Mar 06 2009 | 4:11 PM ET
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