Hughes Estate Sales inception is alluringly opaque, and we like that. Todd Hughes credits his father’s fingerprint on igniting the re-birth of Old Town Pasadena’s antique and art scene as his taste in the business. Larry Hughes (Todd’s dad) specialized in vintage California Pottery and 20th century art and collectibles at Riff Raff on Holly Street, and then pioneered the antique mall concept when he opened Holly Street Bazaar in 1980. Larry then opened his first eponymous consignment store in Pasadena’s Playhouse District, where he built a loyal following of estate sale customers all over Los Angeles who appreciated his eclectic mix of American, European and Asian antiques, collectibles and fine art. Larry retired in 2006 from the estate sale business and handed over the keys to the Hughes kingdom to his son, Todd.
SLB caught up with Todd this week before a big Showroom Sale weekend. Here’s what he had to share…
What are the hallmarks of a quality piece of furniture?
We look for mortise and tenon joints, dovetails, tongue in groove – those details usually indicate a high level of quality in wood furniture. Backs and unexposed parts should also be treated and doors that close neatly and that are flush with the cabinet front. Things should just feel right when doors are opened and drawers are pulled out. Wood type and quality is also an indicator of good quality.
How has the use of technology impacted your profession over the past decade?
Technology has transformed the way we reach people interested in shopping estate sales. We used to make personal phone calls to people to let people know we were having an estate sale. It was a small group of dealers and avid collectors. Today, we have a massive email list, use social media, and use online listing sites like estatesales.net and estatesales.org to get the word out about our sales.
Not only is it easier to market to shoppers, thanks to a robust point of sale system, we can track sales of customers and offer promotions and incentives based on their spending.
Plus, we are currently working on an app that will change the way people shop estate sales. It’s very exciting!
Hughes Estate Sale promotional cards
If you had a treasure map… what piece of furniture is worth an international crusade?
It would have to be the famed “Badminton Cabinet,” an 18th century Florentine ebony chest inlaid with amethyst quartz, agate, and lapis that last sold in 2004 for $36 million Christie’s auction.
What is your opinion on pop culture in the modern throwbacks of mid-century design?
I have loved mid-century design for over 25+ years and love that pop culture has embraced it. Los Angeles is a great place to buy mid-century furniture as the area was growing so fast during that time. There is so much depth to the design innovation of that area – so much more than just what’s popular in shows like Mad Men.
What are your thoughts on how quickly DTLA and the rest of the Eastside neighborhoods are changing?
DTLA development is truly exciting! We are thrilled to be part of it. Our pocket of the Arts District is an extreme example – literally ever corner has transformed since we started looking at real estate for our showroom two years ago. We love that there is a desire by residents and developers to retain the intimate feel of the AD neighborhoods.
1973 BMW 2002 restored under Hughes Estate Sales
Do you own or rent your home?
We own a home in Pasadena.
How long have you lived in Los Angeles?
I was born and raised in Altadena. So since 1974!
What was your first job and how long did you keep it?
My first job was working with my father, cleaning showcases at his vintage shop in Old Town Pasadena on Holly Street. It was called Riff Raff and was between Fair Oaks and Raymond, when Old Town was just on the cusp of its transformation. It was a fantastic place for a kid to hang out!
How and why did you transition your career into estate sales?
I wouldn’t call it a transition because I grew up helping my dad with estate sales and we eventually formed a partnership in 2002. When my dad had a stroke a few years later I took over the operations of Hughes Estate Sales.
Hughes Estate Sales inventory moving truck
When did you discover your passion for the trade?
My dad gave me pick up truck full of Bauer pottery in 1992 for my 18th birthday. That was the peak of market for Bauer collecting in Southern California. I took it to the PCC Flea Market and sold it all for $900 – A LOT for an 18 year old back then. I was hooked on buying and selling vintage!
Tell us about the sales process at Hughes Estate Sales.
An individual or family will call our office or fill out an online consignment form. We’ll follow up with a phone call to find out more about their project. If it sounds like a good fit for our services, we’ll set up a no-obligation walk-through to look at the project first hand. By that point, we know if the project is a good fit and the prospective client should have all the information they need to make an informed decision.
What’s the mission behind Hughes Estate Sales?
To help families in transition and make the process of selling their family estates or personal property as stress free as possible.
Selection of fine estate jewelry
Who coined the name Hughes Estate Sales?
My father – it’s a pretty straightforward name.
What are your favorite local spots for furniture shopping besides Hughes Estate Sales?
I love to shop yard sales in our Pasadena neighborhood. I also like Urban Americana in Long Beach.
If we had the chance to peek at your schedule, what would an average day look like?
I get up early and hit the road to make house calls with individuals and families all over Los Angeles. Every situation is different and every family needs a unique suite of services to help them liquidate.
How do you see Hughes Estate Sales evolving? What’s next?
We are looking forward to opening more Hughes Showrooms all over Southern California and are excited about launching a division this summer for onsite (or in home) estate sales called Earlybird Estate Liquidation. Also we’re excited about developing software to help make the liquidation process even easier for families. Hughes is a founding member of a newly formed trade association called the National Estate Sales Association (NESA), which is dedicated to raising standards for the industry and increasing consumer education. We want to see the entire industry continue to grow.
Antique sale pieces pre-show
What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learned about business since running Hughes Estate Sales?
Do what you enjoy doing. The benefits of growing your own business far outweigh the hard work and stress.
How have you overcome obstacles and stayed driven?
Perseverance – there are always ups and down in small business so you have to hold steady and believe in what you’re doing.
Many people struggle to turn their passions into careers. What advice would you give them?
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it can’t be done. Listen to yourself and find a good source for strength when things get tough. They will get better.
Owner of Hughes Estates Sales | Todd Hughes
Showroom Sale this coming weekend Friday- Sunday / May 20 – 22 / 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Arts District location
458 S. Alameda St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Want to live in Downtown Los Angeles?
I’m a local real estate agent with Sothebys International Realty and It would be my pleasure to help you find the perfect property to call home in Downtown Los Angeles, or if you’re thinking about selling a house, condo, or multi-family building in, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, Glassell Park, Mount Washington, or Downtown Los Angeles, it would be a privilege to help you get top dollar for the sale of your property.
Lets chat sometime. 310-913-9477 or contact me.