Pictured is Trista Maltby, who helps run auctions for the owners of Le Shoppe Too Auction House. Le Shoppe helped a family sell an item for $48,000.

Pictured is Trista Maltby, who helps run auctions for the owners of Le Shoppe Too Auction House. Le Shoppe helped a family sell an item for $48,000.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Keego Harbor's family’s auction item sets world record

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published November 12, 2021

 Le Shoppe Too is a consignment shop in Keego Harbor. In addition to the consignment shop, the owners also launched an auction house.

Le Shoppe Too is a consignment shop in Keego Harbor. In addition to the consignment shop, the owners also launched an auction house.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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KEEGO HARBOR — In March 2019, four local women teamed up to start an upscale consignment shop featuring a hand-picked collection of rare and iconic 20th century furniture, art, home decor and lighting.

After opening Le Shoppe Too, the owners — Deborah Slobin, Leslie Weisberg and Julie Sundberg — started to get a lot of art, and according to Slobin, “We always needed somebody to appraise it.”

That is what led Le Shoppe’s owners to Terri Stearn, the founder and president of Detroit Fine Art Appraisals.

“We thought that what we do and what she does make a wonderful marriage, so we combined forces and opened up Le Shoppe Auction House, where we have art, furniture and sculptures auctioned off every three to four months,” Slobin said.

Earlier this year, Le Shoppe Auction House helped a local family sell an Eames storage unit for $48,000 via an online auction.

It was a first-edition piece that was originally purchased in the 1950s for $100 by a family in Franklin.

The final bid was made by an institution and set a world record, according to Slobin.

“It was quite the surprise for both us, the auction house, (and) the client, who never, ever thought that a piece they bought more than 50 years ago would sell for that,” Slobin said. “They paid $100 for it, and now here (it sells) all these years later for this price. So they were very, very happy — very grateful. (It) brought them joy to know that the piece that they loved can now be loved by others.”

According to the auction house, as newlyweds in the 1950s, Maurice and Nancy Allen purchased the storage unit for $100, having no idea they had a first-edition piece.

After her husband’s death, Nancy, 98, moved to Pennsylvania to be with her children. Her son and daughter hired Le Shoppe Too and Detroit Fine Art Appraisals to assess some of their mother’s possessions.

“I knew this beautiful cabinet was rare, but I didn’t realize how rare it was,” said Slobin. “This wasn’t a contemporary reproduction; this was an original.”

The item was designed after World War II by Charles and Ray Eames. The pair reportedly met while studying at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills. They married in 1941, “becoming a powerhouse couple in the world of architecture and furniture design,” according to a press release from the auction house.

They designed the Eames Storage Unit as a “geometric and brightly colored lightweight system of freestanding cabinets constructed of plastic-coated plywood, enameled Masonite, and steel framing,” the press release states. Herman Miller Furniture Co. marked the units in 1950, “shortly before Maurice and Nancy spotted one while shopping for apartment furniture,” the release states.

Slobin advised the Allen family that their Eames piece would likely go for more money if it went to auction rather than if it was sold at retail. Slobin estimated that it would go for about $20,000, but the bids shot to $25,000 and then $35,000 before finally “hammering” at $48,000 on a bid by a curator for the Eames House, a museum and National Historic Landmark in Los Angeles where Charles and Ray Eames lived before their deaths in 1978 and 1988, respectively.

“We were shocked; we never ever thought it would go that high,” said Slobin. “The next day, Nancy’s son and daughter picked up their mother’s favorite bottle of wine and her favorite pizza to surprise her with the news. When they told her the final number, a huge smile spread across her face and tears of joy fell down her face. She told them, ‘Your father would be so proud.’”

Terri Stearn, the founder and president of Detroit Fine Art Appraisals, said this sale set a world record for the most money ever paid for an original Eames Storage Unit.

“There’s only four or five of these cabinets left in the world,” she said. “Knowing that we helped get this piece into a public institution to be enjoyed by everyone brought us such joy.”

Le Shoppe operates as a consignment store and auction house, and given that Weisberg owns an estate sale company called Changing Hands, sometimes it is determined that an item is better off being sold at auction rather than an estate sale.

Le Shoppe has approximately 18,000 square feet, with the four women hosting auctions online.

According to a press release, the auction house has bidders representing more than 80 countries, and some “notable pieces” have been auctioned off.

A few of those “notable pieces” include a woodcut print by pop artist Roy Lichenstein, an abstract handmade paper piece by painter Kenneth Noland, and a bronze “Clown Musicians,” by Marshall Fredericks, who created “The Spirit of Detroit” monument.

Slobin discussed the combination of having a physical consignment store, an auction house and an estate sale business.

Stearn said the type of items auctioned “runs the gamut.”

She discussed what is currently popular.

“Postwar is really popular; graffiti art is really popular,” Stearn said. “(Louis Comfort) Tiffany, mid-century, is, like, our biggest. … Whenever we have a piece of mid-century, we do really well with those pieces. It’s really desirable right now.”

With auctions can come an exhilarating and tense atmosphere. Stearn discussed what she considers the most exciting part of the business.

“I would probably say, for me, it’s the find. I love calling Deborah and saying, ‘You’re not (going to) believe what I got today for the auction,’” she said. “Also, we love when the auction’s live and we all sit there in the store and watch it on our computers. … We get so nervous and excited; it’s actually really fun.”

Le Shoppe Too’s next auction is set for Dec. 5.

For more information, visit leshoppetoo.com.

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