Modesto Auction Park to close, but owner plans to open at new spot

kvaline@modbee.comFebruary 16, 2012 

The Auction Park — a north Modesto landmark that has sold cars, furniture and other goods for a quarter century — will not reopen at its Kiernan Road location.

Instead, owner Roger Ernst said Thursday he will liquidate assets, pay off debts and open an auction yard elsewhere.

The Auction Park — which occupied 22 acres on Kiernan between McHenry Avenue and Tully Road — abruptly closed Saturday. On Tuesday, Ernst cited legal issues that had to be resolved before he could reopen.

But two auto dealers said Thursday that Ernst owes them money.

Jatinder Kullar Singh, owner of Goldie’s Auto in Hayward, said Ernst owes him more than $80,000 for cars sold at the Feb. 4 auction. Singh said he’s done business with Ernst for years and never had a problem until now.

“I’m not against him,” Singh said. “I’ve known the guy for 15 years. He always paid me. But every time I talk to him about getting paid, he tells me something different.”

Cary Hahn with Family Truck and Auto in Escalon said Ernst told him this week that two checks he gave him for $12,800 won’t clear because the bank has frozen his accounts.

Singh also said Ernst told him his credit line and bank accounts had been frozen.

Ernst acknowledged Thursday that he owes money, but said he will pay his debts.

“The bottom line is we closed, we are going to liquidate and we plan on paying everyone,” he said. “There is no sensationalism here. It’s very simple.”

The business has been a barometer of the Northern San Joaquin Valley economy, selling more goods but at lower prices as the real estate market crashed, bankruptcy filings soared and the unemployment rate rose to levels not seen in nearly two decades.

Ernst has declined to speak at length about the reasons for closing, citing the advice of his attorneys. But he has given conflicting answers. His reasons range from legal issues and a dispute with his landlord to a falling out with a business partner and environmental problems at the Kiernan Road site. He has declined to give details.

But he said a proposal to relocate The Auction Park to McHenry Avenue and St. Francis Avenue, more than a mile north of its current location, has been scraped.

A public records search and checks with government agencies has turned up no liens for unpaid taxes or lawsuits filed against Ernst.

Bee assistant librarian Karen Aiello contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at (209) 578-2316.

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