By Cheryl Petersen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star
---- — With a keen memory for numbers, Frank Acquisto sat in a command position with direct contact to Randy Mowers, auctioneer, to kick off Saturday’s food auction at the Walton Grange.
The auctioneer’s cadence soon brought the highest bid, but this bid had first to pass muster with Acquisto. The working relationship was quick-paced and smooth, and it benefited the community.
Attendees arrived before noon and signed up for numbered cards to bid on the two truckloads of food Acquisto had brought to Walton from his distribution center in Binghamton. Crates, boxes, and containers were filled with fresh produce, frozen meats, pasta, French fries, cheeses, beverages, cookies, grapes, fresh spinach and more.
Auctioning off all that food took time. But for many in the audience, it was worth their while.
“I’ve been to three or four of these food auctions,” said William Tait of Delhi. “I’ll stay seven hours at an auction because the food is cheaper than if I bought it at the store.”
As Mowers kept the bids moving and Acquisto nodded his assent to each, bulk items were broken down into single units to be sold off one by one. Still, the quantities were generous enough for those with winning bids.
Tait, who said he has two freezers at home, said he got “a great deal” on boneless, skinless chicken breast: Forty pounds for $34.
“This is high-quality food,” Tait added. “Frank Acquisto isn’t lying when he says this is good stuff.” Frozen sirloin steaks, 16 to a pack, went for $27.
Acquisto has been in the grocery industry for 65 years, and started running auctions as a way to sell off some of the extra stock.
“I started selling overstocked items about 25 years ago,” he said. “Each food auction has different items, but they include produce, beverages, dry goods, anything and everything you can find in a grocery store.”
While some, like Tait, in attendance Saturday were veterans of the food auction, others were experiencing it for the first time.
Lauri Walley, a Grange member, called her first food auction “really fun,” adding that “The prices are great, so I started buying items for Thanksgiving dinner.” Within a few hours, she had accumulated potatoes, scones, cheese, and fresh carrots.
The afternoon event was hosted by the Walton Grange. “It’s a nice fundraiser. They pay us a rental fee, the Grange members sell lunch, and the building gets used,” said Grange member Marie Card.
Mowers, of O. C. Mowers Auctions in Oneonta, said he partners with Acquisto frequently in food auctions. On Saturday, he was joined by his wife, Karen, and Vicki Hunt.
“The food auctions are great community gatherings,” Hunt said. “Not only do people get great deals on food, but the Grange earns funds, and there will be some kind of giveaway.”
Saturday’s auction featured a giveaway of four Thanksgiving turkeys.