“We walk into a lot of very bad situations, and we make them look like a store,” says Kevin Black of estate-sale experts The YES Co. “We get all the garbage out first and we try to sell the good stuff with the junk. We sell a lot of junk — then we leave it clean as a whistle.”
Black is speaking in the basement of the SF Armory, which is undergoing a bad situation of its own. It’s not that some deceased hoarders left their heirs with coffee cans stuffed full of expired coupons or a stack of TV Guides so dense that the bottom ones have turned into diamonds from the accumulated pressure. It’s that after years of adult-film production and a few months of turning the century-old fortress into a nightlife venue, Kink.com is finally moving out for good. A new entity attached to a Chicago developer purchased the landmark for $65 million, intending to create offices and space for light manufacturing.
Having announced the sale late last week, we had to take a look. Walking a reporter through the 39,000-square-foot Drill Court, with its barrel roof and narrow windows that look as though medieval archers keep watch through them, Black goes through the inventory, loosely organized according to type.
If you’re looking for the truly baroque stuff — like vintage gynecological exam tables — you might come away disappointed, as in the end Kink wound up holding on to a lot of that.
“A lot of it was already spoken for, and it went to their new offices,” Black says, motioning. “But over here, there’s some nice straitjackets.”
There are portraits, some of them a tad suggestive or lascivious, plus bins full of clamps, butt plugs, Kink.com-branded T-shirts, a pool table with black felt, some divans on which an odalisque might recline with a post-coital smoke, and plenty of rope.
“We have enough drapes to do a whole circus tent,” Black says. “We’ve got more office furniture than Office Depot and more furniture than Macy’s.”
For what it’s worth, the Union Square Macy’s may soon require the help of someone like Black, as the company is set to sell the 240,000-square foot department store that was once I. Magnin’s.
In terms of non-explicitly sexual paraphernalia, there are record players, fake flowers, fans, and space heaters. A cluster of prop ghouls from the annual Hell in the Armory event every October sit together, expertly staged. Elsewhere, there’s a fake head in an apothecary jar, quite possibly a Twilight Zone reference. But it’s the basement where the good stuff lies, including a giant bank-vault door that looks like it weighs a thousand pounds (but isn’t even made of metal).
As many San Franciscans know, the Armory runs over a section of Mission Creek, which has otherwise long been converted into a subterranean channel elsewhere on its way to the Bay. While it doesn’t quite endow the cellar with a Cask of Amontillado-level of humidity, it’s still a spooky place to test out a 1940s dental chair — or stand in a human hamster wheel.
Is there a better metaphor for contemporary life than a six-foot steel torture device a porn company decided to unload because the internet drove a stake through adult entertainment?
Next to it, on a shelf, are enormous slabs of fake meat — not fake as in tofurkey, but fake as in fiberglass. Compared to sampuru, the Japanese plastic miniatures meant to whet the appetite, they’re a little on the rotted-flesh side. Next to an old bar door stands a proper torture rack.
“It was used for husbands and/or wives who were misbehaving — or better yet, behaving,” Black says.
The one thing that isn’t ready yet, two days before the four-day sale commences, is the price tags. But it’s an estate sale, and everything’s got to go. Various single items — mostly big-ticket things like the piano and the gym system — have been on Craigslist already. The YES Co. is expecting roughly 1,000 people to file through, and the staff like to pick one weird or colorful item to hide as an Easter egg, putting it on their site. As crews work on keeping things organized, Black and an assistant debate over two possible candidates: a green felt sombrero and a statue of a snarling gray wolf, its fangs exposed as if to ward intruders away from a storied venue about the enter its next chapter.
SF Armory Estate Sale, Friday-Monday, April 6-9, 1800 Mission St., theyesco.com