Special Profile Series: Alexis Jacobs
AR: Tell us a little about your early days here in Columbus. This is your home, isn’t it?
Jacobs: Yes, I am a native, born and raised here. There was a brief time when we lived in different spots around the country, but this has been home for us primarily.
AR: Why did you move around the country? Obviously your Dad (William Jacobs) was not in the auction business during that time.
Jacobs: That is right; he wasn’t in the auction industry. He actually started out doing a lot of different things—he was a bootlegger for a while (laughter) … which is rather a cute story. And, he was a gambler for a while, but when tougher laws came along he decided that he didn’t want to continue being either a bootlegger or a gambler. He always said that he didn’t want to do anything that put his family at risk.
AR: Bootlegger as a profession. Now, that is interesting. Was that during Prohibition?
Jacobs: Yes, it was. There are some cute stories about that time in his life that he used to tell. He told us that he would make a bathtub full of Scotch and then they would bottle it in different bottles. Some bottles might say Johnny Walker while others would have a different brand name. But they all could come out of the same bathtub.
He would take his different bottles of Scotch around and offer them for sale to different people. Sometimes, someone would say one bottle was terrible, but the other one was great, and they would buy that one. But, they all came out of the same tub! (laughter)
AR: Your Dad had to be very creative when it came to finding different jobs.
Jacobs: He was. He was always looking for an opportunity, something more than the traditional 8-5 job. One day, some of his partners joined with him to start a trailer court here in Columbus down on East Main Street. It was one of the most prominent and nicest trailer courts at the time.
AR: What year was this?
Jacobs: Oh, this was either in the late ‘40s or the early ‘50s, I’m not sure. Actually, it is interesting that our family’s ownership in that trailer court continued until about three or four years ago when I sold it out to the other partners.
AR: How did your Dad get into auctions?
Jacobs: He had a friend up in the Cleveland (OH) area who told him one day, “You need to get into the auto auction business. It is great. All you have to do is sit back and count the money as it rolls in!” (laughter)
Well, he counted the money as it rolled…but it was rolling out the front door for many years! In fact, he used to joke that he would have to commit suicide so we could take the insurance money to pay all the debts we had accumulated.
AR: Did he have an interest in automobiles, or was this just another business interest he saw?