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Meet Sophia C. du Brul of Sophia’s Room–Estate Sales and Appraisals

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sophia C. du Brul.

Sophia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in the art and antiques business. My mother managed an art gallery, so this was always a part of my life. I went on to study art history and then became an art teacher, but I always worked at estate sales as a side job, although I usually got paid in furniture and objects. This is how I furnished my house. Sometimes, I would find a hidden gem that I could resell somewhere, but my real career was teaching high school.

About four years ago, I found out that I had contracted TB at some point while teaching public school. I decided that it was time to quit and address my health, so I started working at an antique store and started “picking” more or less full time. Through that, I got asked to run an estate sale by a nice guy dealing with his uncle’s estate. It was a hoarding situation and no one would take it on. We had a very successful sale, and then I got two more sales and suddenly, I had a business. Last year, I completed the International Society of Appraisers coursework, so I could also offer appraisal services.

The funny thing is, I was always passionate about teaching and thought that I would miss it, but I am still teaching. People have so many objects that they know very little about, except that it is old. I am always educating my clients, so I am still a teacher.

Has it been a smooth road?
I had never run a business before, so there was a definite learning curve: some of it was the basics like book keeping, but other things like marketing, designing a website, writing a contract all took time to learn, including the realization that I finally had to trade in my flip phone and get a smart phone and then learn how to use it. One of the biggest things to learn is to forget your sunk costs, because you will make mistakes and need to redo something. Don’t fret about it! It is part of the learning process. My first set of estate sale signs looked very elegant and matched my business cards. There was this whole nice, consistent look, but they did not read well from a distance. I had to just redo them.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Sophia’s Room–Estate Sales and Appraisals – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I come into to people’s lives when they are experiencing a crisis of some kind: death, divorce, downsizing, foreclosure. No one calls an estate sale company for fun. There is a real situation that needs to be handled. There definitely is a part of this job where one is a social worker. I think this is where my experience as teacher really helps because teenagers are always careening from one crisis to another. So, I am really patient with clients and listen to their stories, some happy, some tragic, and really try to not just empty the house, but be of some comfort as well.

Most estate sale companies forbid the family from being present at sale set up; they put it in the contract. I don’t. I welcome family as long as they are not impeding my process because they are grieving and have to say goodbye to items that may have some sentimental value, and I give them the space to do that. So please, tell me about your grandmother while I sort her teacup collection if that helps you move forward.

As an estate liquidator, you become an expert on everything out of necessity. If you told me a couple of years ago that I would know all about different kinds of snow blowers, I would have laughed. As an appraiser, I mostly handle fine art and furniture, but I also have expertise in porcelain, textiles and post WW2 Hopi katsina dolls. In this business, I am always learning something new. Research is a big part of this field, and it’s a good thing that I really like doing research.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
My family came to Chicago in the 1850’s, so we have several generations of true Chicagoans. I have watched this city grow and change over my lifetime, some good, and some bad.

I miss some of the old things like the way State Street used to be with the real Marshall Field’s and Carson’s, especially at Christmas. I don’t miss the smog or dirty beaches of my childhood. I really like the city’s commitment to be cleaner and greener. Even though it was expensive and controversial, Millennium Park is a fabulous addition to the city. Chicago’s museums keep getting better.

But the continued crime, segregation and devastation of some of the city’s neighborhoods is distressing. I wish more could be done to improve the lives of all Chicagoans and not just some of them.

Pricing:

  • Estate Sales–sliding commission 35%-25%
  • Appraisals–$100 per hour
  • Consignment–50%

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Personal photo: Violet Cue
All other photos: Sophia C. du Brul

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Nancy Attaway

    July 8, 2017 at 2:17 am

    Sophia, this was a great article! I was fascinated. I will have to visit your shop when I am in Chicago. I am so proud of you, and Violet too!

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