Ramsay’s industrial legacy ends with big auction

The doors to a liquidation auction in Sidney opened to a full house on Thursday morning. In doing so, another door closed, bringing to an end a 112-year-old family business.

The Ramsay Group, which sold its land and buildings at 2066 Henry Ave. on Aug. 1, liquidated its assets on Thursday with help from Maynards Industries, a Vancouver-based industrial auction house.

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The auction of industrial machinery drew about 300 registered bidders with 75 participating online.

Auctioneer Jay Scott said Maynards received calls about specific equipment from bidders in India, China, South America, Peru and Mexico. “They were [looking to bid] on the bigger, more specialized equipment that they just don’t have access to.”

Scott said there was considerable interest in heavy capacity plate rollers that have the ability to fashion a holding tank out of steel two inches thick. Ramsay Machine Works has been manufacturing equipment for the forestry, mining, marine, oil and construction industries for decades, so its reputation is well-ensconced and widespread.

“That roller is not something you find everywhere. There’s a handful of guys that do that type of bending, and that machine is quite desirable to them.” The item retails today for $250,000 US, Scott said.

Maynards spent three weeks preparing for the auction. They worked closely with Fraser and Greg Ramsay, co-owners of the fifth-generation family business started in 1903 by their great grandfather, George Ramsay.

Neither brother was at the auction. Liquidating assets brings a sense of sadness to the situation, Scott said.

When properties change hands and jobs are lost, it can be difficult terrain to navigate. But with help from Maynards, the ordeal can offer a sense of closure. “We’re part of a bigger process — converting assets into capital,” Scott said. “They are not in bankruptcy, they are not in receivership. They have simply said, ‘It’s time to go.’ ”

Items such as trucks, trailers and forklifts were all for sale. Big machinery like a hydraulic surface grinder and 10,000-watt, gas-powered welder were also on the block. The warehouse of items were separated into 850 lots.

Brothers Rob and Kevin Friesen drove from Whistler for the auction. “The good thing about this is that it was a working machine shop, so you know the tools work,” Rob said.

The siblings, who own and operate Wide Open Welding, expected to find items selling for about half their value, or around 40 cents on the dollar. “The smaller items were going for higher than we expected,” Kevin said. “A guy who is buying one item can afford to pay a higher price. But for guys who are running a business, and need to buy multiple items, they need to be cheaper.”

Variation in pricing is bound to happen, especially when items are offered with no reserves and no minimum bid price, Scott said. Deals were being had: A one-horsepower plate beveler, which retails for nearly $3,000, sold for $500; a crane scale capable of weighing items up to 75 tonnes, sold for $700, a $300 discount from its average ticket price.

“Sales are right where we expected them to be,” Scott said. “Nothing is going ridiculously low, and nothing is at fire sale prices. It’s fair.”

The final auction total could be upwards of $1 million.

The site will be cleared of all items belonging to Ramsay Machine Works by Sept. 4. That’s when United Engineering Ltd. and Harjim Enterprises, companies owned by Victoria industrial manufacturers, the Ralmax Group, begin moving in.

When the Ramsay brothers were cleaning out rooms, they found a special book belonging to their grandfather. The discovery was seen as symbolic, signifying the closing of a chapter.

The leather-bound book, from 1903, had George Ramsay’s name inscribed on the inside cover. “This was the book he used to use for all his weights and measures,” Scott said. “It had all these handwritten notes.”

That a book of key mathematical equations could be so integral to business gave everyone pause, Scott said.

Times indeed change — both in life and at a family-owned machine shop.

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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