When one door abruptly slammed shut for A.J. Hetzel, another one opened ever so slightly and eventually became a life-changer for the young Ardsley Park woman.
Losing her job a few years ago was like a punch in the gut for A.J., who admitted that becoming unemployed was a major blow to her ego.
“I was really depressed,” she recalled of the events of a few years ago. “I felt like I had lost my place in the world. I didn’t want to go anywhere or see anybody.”
Gradually, A.J. began venturing back out into society by going to estate sales, something she often did while growing up on Tybee Island.
Meanwhile, her husband Cody, who has a marketing background, was working at a retirement community.
“He would talk about how, a lot of times, seniors need help moving because it’s too traumatic for them or their kids are living across the country,” A.J. said. “We both are entrepreneurial spirits and he really encouraged me.”
Thus, marked the beginning of her own business — The Mint Green Tag Sale Company, which organizes and holds estate sales. The company certainly isn’t the first of its kind in Savannah, but pretty much is the new kid on the block. In just a smidgen past three years, the Mint Green is approaching its 100th estate sale.
A couple of weeks ago A.J. and Cody, along with a couple dozen folks, celebrated the company’s third birthday at their new office at Senior Citizens Inc. on Bull Street. An open invitation on Facebook encouraged people to make a donation or bring electric fans for seniors in need. When all was said and done, the company presented 20 fans to Senior Citizens Inc.
The company’s third birthday certainly was a milestone, but not the first. In March 2014, Cody was able to leave the corporate world and join his wife on a full-time basis in the business.
“That was a huge thing for us,” said A.J., who has come a long way since her first official sale, when her next door neighbor hired her. “I had to run an extension cord from my house to hers,” she added.
Now A.J. has an office, a staff of two (and others who help out on sale days), walkie-talkies, a Facebook page, an extensive e-mail list, green aprons and door hangers to alert people of an upcoming sale in their neighborhood. (The hangers are a polite way of saying that dozens of vehicles will be lining the street.)
Recently, the company began utilizing a lanyard system to alleviate problems that may occur in the long lines that typically form at sales. (I know about the lines firsthand because I have been known to attend a Mint Green sale or two.)
“Customers start lining up two hours before the sale starts,” she explained. The first 16 or so customers are handed lanyards with numbers to ensure their places because, unfortunately, people have been known to cut the line.
A.J. admits that she has seen “just about everything” when it comes to merchandise and sometimes it has been necessary to “edit out” some of their client’s belongings. She and Cody try to make the entire process go as smoothly as possible for both client and customer, she said.
They help clients who are dealing with the four Ds: death, divorce, downsizing and deployment. The client is instructed to remove or identify whatever they wish to keep from the household before A.J., Cody and their staff “systematically merchandize, clean, sort and price.”
So far, the most expensive item sold at a sale was a 1969 Ford Fairlane.
And what was the most unusual find?
A 1930s-era dive helmet made of a lead hot water heater that was unearthed in an attic.
“It weighed about 80 pounds,” she recalled. “So far, it has been one of the most interesting items.”