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Hawaii’s Buy and Sell Entrepreneurs

Meet the resourceful entrepreneurs who snap up other people’s castoffs, clean them and then resell to you and me

(page 4 of 4)


Mike Vise and Alton Yamamoto with their newly
acquired storage unit, bought at auction. 

Flea Market at the Storage Company

Hawaii Self Storage recently launched Flea Market Fridays at its Kapolei West location, which allows buyers of auctioned units to roll up the doors and sell directly to the public every Friday. Other unit owners can join the sale by moving items from their storage units into the flea-market area for the day.

“We’re trying to help small-business owners and vendors who want to grow their business,” says Brett Hitzeman, director of outside sales and community relations. “This is just another opportunity and venue for them to expand. It’s good for us, good for the business and good for the economy.”

At the flea market, Cory Asuncion’s approach is so smooth you’d think he was selling Lexuses, not used stuffed animals. Each time customers stop by his 10-by-20-foot unit to inquire about an item, he tells them its retail value, how much his aunty, who, coincidentally, has the exact same product, loves it so much, and even explains how much he spent getting the item into top selling condition before finally revealing the price.

About 80 percent of Asuncion’s merchandise is sold for $1, with higher prices for bigger items, such as an exercise bike, a TV or a bedroom-nightstand-and-vanity set. At the first Flea Market Friday, Asuncion says, he made about $400 in sales.

“In less than five hours, I made back what I paid for the storage,” he says.


Re-use Hawaii’s warehouse in Kakaako is a thrift
store for the construction industry.
Photo: Ian Sutherland

You’ll Probably Need to Pay Excise Taxes

Anyone who buys or sells personal property at garage sales, swap meets or on Craigslist is responsible for paying taxes. As long as you are in business with the object of gain or economic benefit, you must apply for a general excise tax license (and pay a one-time fee of $20) and remit GE taxes based on the gross proceeds of your activities, says Mallory Fujitani, public information officer for the state Department of Taxation

However, the law provides an exception for casual sales, such as a one-time garage sale. Besides the frequency of the sales, the department also considers what is being sold and for what purpose.

“Regarding the sale of your personal car,” Fujitani says, “you would not need to pay taxes on that sale – it would be considered a casual sale, as you are not in the business of selling cars.”

However, the buyer might be required to pay a use tax when he or she changes the car registration.

If you have questions about whether your activities require a GE tax license, the best thing to do is consult a tax professional or call the state Tax Department’s Taxpayer Services Branch at 587-4242 or by e-mail


Most Profitable Transactions

Cory Asuncion saw a listing on Craigslist for a 2000 Ford Mustang and 2001 Ford Windstar van. The owner was asking for $3,000 for both vehicles and needed to sell quickly before he moved to the Philippines. Asuncion offered $2,500 in cash and the seller accepted.

“I took the cars home, washed them, cleaned them and then posted the Mustang on Craigslist for $4,000 and the Windstar for $3,000,” he says. “Both were gone the next day. It was the easiest money I ever made.”

Yvette Sahut says she’s bought shoes for $1 at a garage sale and resold them for $110 on eBay. She also has sold Christmas ornaments, which she purchased for 50 cents, for $50.

“You just never know what you’re going to find that someone else will desperately want,” Sahut says. “With a little effort, imagination and creativity, you can sell practically anything.”


That’s Not Trash, It’s Our New Home

One of the great advantages of reusing and reselling products is that your work is good for the environment. One of the best examples is Re-use Hawaii, which, in fewer than five years, has saved 1,500 tons of construction material from ending up in Oahu’s landfills.

The nonprofit is a licensed demolition contractor that doesn’t just tear an old kitchen or old building down – it deconstructs, so most of the wood, usable fixtures and other elements can be repurposed into new projects.

“Deconstruction is an affordable and sustainable alternative to conventional demolition,” says owner Selina Tarantino. “Our skilled crews can salvage up to 80 percent of a building’s major components by taking down structures by hand to preserve the materials for reuse.”

The nonprofit offers its deconstruction services to homeowners, contractors, architects and building owners.

At its Kakaako warehouse, Re-use Hawaii sells the salvaged materials to do-it-yourself homeowners, artists and small contractors for a fraction of their retail price. Customers can find everything from lumber, light fixtures, screws, flooring, desks and everything in between.

Tarantino says Re-use has grown three times faster than projected, so the organization is expanding its facility. It will soon begin to create custom furniture from salvaged material.

Contractors can also make tax-deductible donations of surplus building materials to Re-use Hawaii.
30 Forrest Ave., Kakaako


How to Sell on Craigslist

Include as many details about the product as possible. Make sure the item looks presentable and then take pictures from every angle, Cory Asuncion says. “It’s all about appearances.”

Talk to interested buyers on the phone and answer questions before scheduling a time and place to meet. “Many so-called ‘interested buyers’ aren’t serious at all, so you want to try to weed out the good prospects from the bad, so you don’t end up wasting your time,” Leroy Goo says. “That’s one of the downsides of buying and selling online: You have to be willing to deal with a lot of crazy people.”

Whether you’re the buyer or seller, it’s always a good idea to meet in a public place that is well lit, such as the parking lot of your neighborhood grocery store, when you close the deal. It’s also better not to go alone.

Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Jan 3, 2012 06:50 pm
 Posted by  Paulson

You could try eBay arbitrage, using tools to find poorly listed items, buy them, and then sell them back on eBay, with a better title, description, pictures, etc.

Use a site like to set up saved searches. You'd get an e-mail whenever a matching item is listed.

Try a misspelling search site like to hopefully find some hidden eBay deals.

Use a sniping service such as to bid on auctions for you. It'll help you to save money and avoid shill bidding.

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