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An Unusual Weekend Estate Sale At Gerber Chapel

Three-day liquidation sale April 21-23

Chairs, mirrors, love seats and curio cabinets are just a few of the furnishings being offered at the liquidation sale. photo by Ursula Ruhl.

April 21, 2017
The Times is not in the habit of doling out free publicity on behalf of an upcoming estate or garage sale. In the case of Gerber Chapel of Webster Groves, however, an exception has been made.

After all, it's not everyday that one of the city's oldest family-run businesses ceases operation, then reopens its doors for a much-anticipated, three-day estate liquidation sale. Even more unusual is when that business is a funeral parlor.

An antique glass of embalming powder — a steal at just $18. photo by Ursula Ruhl.

Don Gerber has owned and managed Gerber Chapel, 23 W. Lockwood Ave., since 1961. Over the years he expanded his business, adding to the original building which was constructed as a home in 1865. The building has operated as a funeral parlor since 1928.

"It's a sad time," said Gerber, seated in a Queen Anne side chair carrying a price tag of $45. "This was not a business. This was the love of my life."

Gerber hired Accent Sales to handle the liquidation sale, scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 21, 22 and 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. It took business partners Moe Torrence and Tom McDonald several weeks to prepare for the big event.

This 19th century parlor pump Estey organ was crafted in Brattleboro, Vermont. A price on the organ had not yet been established. photo by Ursula Ruhl.

"Just about everything is for sale," Torrence said. "We've been in business since 1985, but we've never done a funeral parlor before. It's very unusual."

An array of items are displayed throughout the main floor and the building's two lower levels — 7,000-square-feet in all.

Furnishings include large flower stands, rolltop desks, grandfather clocks, Torchiere lamps, tables and chairs, hall trees and even three embalming tables, though it's debatable as to whether the tables constitute home furnishings.

One of several walnut dressers with marble top. photo by Ursula Ruhl.

"Surprisingly enough, embalming tables are going online any where from $600 to $3,000," Torrence said. "People find uses for them."

Paintings, some original, and prints being sold hang in alcoves where caskets were once displayed. Visitors can peruse the main floor with its three parlors, a sitting room and hallways, to view a "fantastic" Barrister bookcase going for $475, a 19th century parlor pump Estey organ, a price had yet to be determined, oak church pews for $125 each, or a "magnificent" cylinder desk for $1,250.

"I'd say most of the furnishings would be considered antiques," Torrence said.

One of three embalming tables for sale. Moe Torrence of Accent Sales said buyers find creative uses for the tables. photo by Ursula Ruhl.

But not the basement Pepsi machine.

Torrence said buyers will have to bring help to load larger items into their vehicles. He expects large crowds over the three-day period, some serious buyers, and others who simply want to have items in their homes that they can boast, "it came from Gerber Chapel." But probably not the big glass bottle of embalming powder ($18).

Scott Kemper, a partner in Llywelyn's Pub locations, said he and a group of investors are under contract to buy the Gerber Chapel property. He said several banks have shown interest in the property.

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