Hundreds attend auction of assets


January 15, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

HAGERSTOWN -- Organ makers, hobbiests, equipment dealers, former employees and the just plain curious descended on the remains of the M.P. Moller Co. yesterday.

L Some were looking for a bargain. Others came to say goodbye.

"It's the biggest open casket in Hagerstown," said David-George Dauphinee, the former clerk of the works for what was once the largest pipe organ company in the world.

Mr. Dauphinee was joined by more than 1,700 people who showed up on the second day of a four-day auction of Moller's assets.

For years, Moller was the giant in the pipe organ industry, controlling 30 percent of the market and employing more than 115 workers. But in the 1980s, the company went into decline, suffering partly from poor economic times.

The company closed in April and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August. After a union-sponsored effort to revive the company failed, liquidation of the company's assets began.

"This is not just an auction, it's like an event," said James G. Cochran, the owner of J.G. Cochran Auctioneers & Associates Ltd., a Boonsboro company that is handling the sale. To mark the occasion, he had black baseball caps made with the Moller name and trademark -- a cluster of organ pipes -- over the Cochran name.

"It's going very well," Mr. Cochran said. He said he expected to bring in "hundreds of thousands" of dollars by the time Moller's denouement comes Tuesday with the sale of the company's 98-year-old home on the steps of the Washington County Courthouse.

He said sales have been particularly boosted by former workers and the curious, who came to see the end of the 118-year-old company.

Not everyone in the crowd, however, came to bid farewell.

Paul D. Stuck, the owner of a Chicago furniture refurbishing company, bought the rights to the Moller name, company secrets and other records Tuesday. With the involvement of hTC about 18 former workers, Mr. Stuck said he planned to start building Moller organs again in February. He was buying pipes, consoles and specialized equipment.

He declined to say, however, how much he was spending at the auction or how he planned to finance the company, except to say that some of the investment was coming from former workers.

One of the high points of yesterday's auction came in the afternoon when a "chandelier" organ hanging over the main construction floor of the factory was sold for $18,000 to Vincent R. Groh, 60, an attorney and Hagerstown landlord.

The organ, one of only two ever made by Moller, consists of a spiral set of pipes that can be operated by a detached keyboard.

"I think it's a lovely piece," Mr. Groh said about his purchase. He said he plans to hang it in a restored barn used by his daughter in Williamsport near Hagerstown.

While most came to buy, more than 50 former workers came to reunite with other Moller veterans and to bid farewell to a place they considered a second home.

"It's tragic," said Leon Cross, 65, who had worked at Moller for 45 years. "I thought I would come see a lot of people I haven't seen for a long time," he said. "I probably won't see them again."

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