Paul Cooper, 66, used to spend his Saturdays and summers in the offices of his family’s auction business, watching his father, uncles and grandfather work. Now he is vice president of the company.

Alex Cooper Auctioneers turned 100 this year — a rare accomplishment for a small business. Named after its founder, Paul Cooper’s grandfather, it opened in 1924 on Howard Street in Baltimore. For nearly 44 years, Alex Cooper has been based in Towson.

About ‘In Good Company’

This is the third in a series of casual conversations with Maryland small-business owners. If you or someone you know wants to participate, send an email to reporter Bria Overs:

Over the years, the auction house has handled notable sales, including the Belvedere Hotel near Mount Vernon, the infamous Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., and a 1782 letter from President George Washington.

It continues to auction furniture, fine art, antiques and real estate out of its offices, under the leadership of the Cooper family’s third and fourth generations. Alex Cooper also has expanded to Washington, D.C., and Florida, and has customers across the country and in Europe, Asia, and Australia, Cooper told The Baltimore Banner.

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After so many years in the business, Cooper could navigate the preparation and process for an auction with his eyes closed.

The Baltimore Banner: What’s the highlight of your day or your favorite aspect of what you do?

Paul Cooper: My favorite aspect is completing the transaction, where you bring a buyer and seller together and both are pleased with the end result.

I’m here to provide a service for people. People call me, and I respond. People text me; I respond. It can be overwhelming, but I’m one of those people who work day, night, weekends, whatever.

I never take my customers and clients for granted. I’ve been very blessed. It’s a gift that I’m able to work with so many people, that I can provide a service, and have been successful for all these years.

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A gallery auction at Alex Cooper Auctioneers is held at the store’s headquarters in Towson on June 14, 2024. While just a few people come to bid in person, hundreds participate online. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

The Banner: What’s something you wish people knew about your business or the auction industry?

Cooper: There are many different ways to buy and sell. People have choices, and many prefer the auction route because it’s relatively quicker and a very transparent way of doing business.

We advertise where the prices are, and we archive it. If you give me your ring to sell, you know what it brings. You have that transparency.

And I have very good relationships with my fellow auctioneers. We often talk about what’s going on trying to keep up with current events and things that affect our industry.

Baltimore is a small fishbowl, as far as I’m concerned. That’s why they sometimes call it “Smalltimore” instead of Baltimore. There are so many interrelationships between people I work with — somebody knows somebody who knows somebody.

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It’s enjoyable, all of the commonality I find in our business. And I go back with some people in the industry 45 years, to when I first started. It’s been very enjoyable, and I hope to continue for quite a while.

The Banner: After so many years in business, what’s the next big ambition?

Cooper: I’m trying to digitize as much information as we can. Right now, so much of it is paper transaction, and my next goal is to do away with paper, basically.

Now, to a certain extent, it is already digital in that we use DocuSign. A lot of our transactions are done digitally, but not all of them, and that’s what I’m going to strive for.

An “Arab Horseman” bronze statue is seen at Alex Cooper Auctioneers in Towson on June 14, 2024. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

The Banner: As a Baltimore native, what do you think is the appeal of doing business here?

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Cooper: My familiarity with Baltimore, having grown up here, it’s just a very familiar, comfortable place to do business. I enjoy the relationships that have grown over the years and the new ones.

I want repeat customers, and with them, you have to give them good advice. I do a lot of charity auction work as well, where we volunteer our time for various charities doing auctions on their behalf.

I have the benefit of knowledge from so many years of doing business and it’s like giving back to the community.