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Family, innovation define Orr Auctioneers

Submitted photo Orr Auctioneers was named the 2013 Business of the Year by the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce. Accepting the award are, from left, Barbara Orr, Darron Orr, Cliff Orr, Valeria Orr, Troy Orr and Beverly Orr.

When Cliff Orr came back to Jamestown after completing auctioneer school in Mason City, Iowa, in 1971, he was happy when he was able to book six sales that year.

“That was really good I thought,” Cliff said.

From that beginning Orr and his wife, Valeria, established Orr Auctioneers. With the help of their sons Troy and Darron and their wives Beverly and Barb, Orr Auctioneers has grown to a new facility and was named the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Business of the Year.

Lisa Hicks, the chamber’s executive director, said the chamber received seven nomination letters for Orr Auctioneers. She said four other businesses were nominated and all are good, but there was a groundswell of support for Orr.

“The letters all mentioned the family’s commitment to giving back to the community,” she said. “The business has a reputation for honesty in the farming community as well.”

Cliff said he always liked auctions and auctioneering. He went to auctioneering school on the advice of his wife, Valeria.

“That turned out good for me,” he said.

Valeria got into the business with Cliff in 1973 when she started doing cashier and clerk duties at the auctions. Cliff said they started having Valeria do the clerking work as banks didn’t like sending out personnel on Saturdays for auctions.

Troy Orr said he went to the same auctioneer school his father did when he was 16 in 1984.

“I was still in high school and joined the company,” Troy said.

In auction school, students learn bits and pieces about the business. Troy said students also work on their chant, the rhythmic way of speaking auctioneers use during bids.

“It’s an auctioneer’s calling card,” he said.

Graduating from auctioneer school is a requirement for getting an auctioneer’s license, Troy said.

A few years after Troy got his auctioneer’s license, Cliff said Darron graduated from college and was working for a company that audits hospitals.

“He called me and said ‘Dad, I’d like to go to auction school,’ which I thought was a good idea,” Cliff said.

Troy said for most of his career the family business did all types of auctions, from farms, to estate and household auctions. This meant traveling all over the state and spending a lot of time on the road.

Two big changes the family made to the business that improved its bottom line were using the Internet for online bidding and building an auction center in September 2009 on U.S. Highway 281 south of Jamestown.

“Being on 281 with its high visibility has been a big boost for us,” Troy said.

The Orr family also changed the way it did auctions. Instead of traveling to farms and homes and holding auctions at those locations, Troy said the family started holding large-scale consignment auctions four times a year — a spring auction in April, a summer auction in June, a fall auction in September and a year-end auction in December.

Troy said holding the auctions at their own facility helped create the business’ identity.

“It adds a lot of credibility, where we’re not just setting up in different places,” he said. “If there is a problem with a sale after an auction, people know we’re here and can take care of it.”

During some of Orr Auctioneers’ big auctions Troy said they bring in some associate auctioneers — people they have worked with before — to help keep the sales moving. He said the sale items are divided into different categories, and there are usually three auctions going on at one time.

“We usually get around 1,000 people for these auctions. It gets kind of hectic,” Troy said.

Offering online bidding has given Orr Auctioneers national and international exposure, Troy said.  He said they usually group items together for bidding, like putting all the tractors at an auction together and selling them in a certain time period. This way someone looking for a tractor can look at photos of the tractors up for sale before the bidding starts and can submit a bid before bidding starts

On auction day, Troy said there have been as many as 300 online bidders in addition to the people physically at the auction itself. He said they have sold a lot of older agriculture equipment to buyers in Mexico.

“We’ve sold items to people in just about every state,” he said.

Troy said he and the family are honored to have been chosen as Business of the Year. Orr Auctioneers gives back to the community by helping out with fundraisers for different community service and nonprofit groups in the area. Troy said the company has helped the University of Jamestown raise funds and has helped St. John’s Academy with its annual auction fundraiser. He said the Orrs have also helped the Disabled American Veterans group and the All Vets Club and will continue to do so.

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454