Tell readers about yourself and how you ended up in Palm Coast. 

My parents’ friend’s retired to Flagler Beach in the late 1980’s, my sister followed in 1991, then my parents by 1993, then my aunt and uncle…we were the last NY hold out.   We had our son, Joseph in March of 2004.  My dear friend Donna suggested taking Joseph to my parents for the month of August and teach the baby how to swim since the art world shuts down in New York City and heads to the Hamptons.  The real estate market was peaking for Flagler County, for it was the fastest growing county in the nation and continued for four years in a row.  I remember calling my husband Perry in New York saying if we don’t get a house now we may never be able to afford Palm Coast.  He said, “Go for It!” I got the house bug and my family started taking us to view the builder’s model homes.  I fell in love with Amaral’s largest model at the time, the “Brittany” and found the exact lot after seeing a Masterpiece spec house on London Drive.  I put my hand in clay and it all just felt right.  We contracted a house, lot, pool package, left a deposit and came back down to make paint, tile, rug, appliances selections.  It all went so smoothly that it was truly meant to be.  We moved into our new home in October 2005.

You have a fascinating business. How did you get into the world of fine art and estate sales, and what types of certifications are needed, if any, to do what you do? 

In New York City I was a Corporate Art Consultant from 1987 – 2005.  I worked with Interior Designers, Architects and Facility Managers to procure art collections for mainly corporations and from time to time worked on institutional and hospitality projects such as hotels and hospitals.  I learned how to read blueprints and many times created the concepts and then commissioned artists to do site specific works for primarily banks and insurance companies.

As my newspaper and magazine company clients started to shrink the .com companies were on the rise with unique spaces crying out for creative works of art.  I was an artist and had a studio on campus at college so coming up with ideas and understanding how art was created was helpful in the commissioning process.  After earning my BFA in Fine Art from the College of New Rochelle I went on to Fashion Institute of Technology for my Master’s Degree in Art Administration.

When the financial market fell, “Black Monday” which was 1987 and continued through 1989, the Dot com bubble 1999 – 2000 and the Mortgage Crisis 2008 taught me to be thankful I had continued my education at New York University.  I had followed through in their Certificate Program of Appraisal Studies in 1992 and finished in 1996.

When the market is down and buying stops APPRAISALS are in demand.  People want to find out what their collections are worth and liquidate them.  At that time I also began to teach.

For ten years I was an Adjunct Professor at my alma mater, College of New Rochelle and did various other art gigs as an Instructor at the Music Conservatory of Westchester and the Pelham Art Center.  I had become a Licensed New York City Tour Guide and then created my own Art Appreciation Slide Lecture Series for Seniors.  I contracted with Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Facilities for the year with monthly presentations.  I either borrow education kits from museums or create my own on history and cultural topics that would be of interest to my World War II, Korea and Vietnam generation of folks.  I was shooting my own pictures and developing my own slides with music and show and tell items.

I have been an entrepreneur my entire career, always reinventing myself.  Once I established myself in Palm Coast I knew I would not be working as a Corporate Art Consultant for I had no desire to travel to Jacksonville or Orlando.  I needed something to do in my own backyard.  I sought out Interior Designers, but by the end of 2007 the designers dwindled down.  There were no projects to be had in the residential field.  I visited a few of the area nursing homes only to find out there were no budgets, but I could volunteer and do my lecture series.

At the time I sincerely needed to earn a living so I went to Jacksonville for a Certificate in Staging.  The Instructor had asked me if I wanted to teach the class…I was that good of a student.  So I hit all of the Real Estate Companies looking for staging jobs.  In 2008 the market was at a halt and the foreclosures were rolling in.  Home Owners couldn’t pay their mortgage let alone pay for a staging to sell their house.  Realtors weren’t going to pay for staging.  One day a Watson Realtor called me with a question.  He had a client who packed up his Mom’s Pennsylvania House maple bedroom set and wanted to leave town.  The Realtor had a closing date and a house full of furniture and accessories…what can you do?  The client, David, was an oil guy from Texas.  He was only taking the American furniture and wanted no part of the rest of the house.  Dad was an engineer who designed nuclear power plants around the world.  All I saw was treasure from exotic places.  I suggested an on-site Estate Sale in memory of his Dad.  On a handshake David and I made a deal and I went to work.  My sister was a tenacious sales girl, and my Avon girl, Judy was my cashier and to this day sits at my side at every sale fourteen years later!   Antique Dealers married couple John and Arlene volunteered to help and became my original crew.  We shaped and grew throughout the years for we snowballed into an avalanche with sales every weekend ever since!

The Estate Sales Business is not licensed, however there are associations. We currently are a member of ASEL – The American Society of Estate Liquidators and I am an Accredited Member of the highest standards.  I am a Qualified USPAP Appraiser and continue my certification every two years via the Appraisers Association of America.  Both my husband, Perry Mitrano and I are Florida State Licensed Auctioneers.  We have a brick and mortar business 5,000 square feet.  We carry business, liability and errors and omissions insurances.  All of these credentials are what sets us worlds apart from the local competition.

We’ve talked about how you attract shoppers from around the world, especially ones who are traveling. How does your gallery and showroom help put Palm Coast on the map?

By 2011 our son Steven was running the Gallery and his fiancé and our daughter-in-law to be now wife, Jennifer was my body double.  We were doing double sales and beefed up the Gallery.  We moved from a lovely business studio of 1500 square feet at Mark Langello’s Atlantis Business Park off US 1 to Jack Barbosa’s Barbosa Plaza 5,000 square feet as a Fine Art, Antiques and Collectibles shop.  Jenn and Steve created our first online store with eBay.  And it was at this time that we met Aleksey Volchek.  Alek was working for Google in California and was in town visiting his parents in Palm Coast.  He had stopped in the shop and loved what he saw.  He asked if we wanted a 360 Tour of the Gallery and would launch it on the internet.  The 360 tour was a new technology at the time!  He put us on Google Maps and made our website an ecommerce website on Shopify.  We became an antique destination for those travelling up and down the I-95 Corridor for we are less than a mile off the interstate with gas stations and eateries surrounding us.

We launch our sales on EstateSales.net that gives us a local, regional and national presence.  Many dealers visit us from all over Florida State as well as Georgia.  Many make a weekend out of it, and some have actually relocated because they love the area so much.  Since the pandemic we have ramped up all of our online stores now consisting of eBay, Poshmark, Shopify and Marketplace.  We ship all over the world, and some prefer making a trip to pick up and explore the area.  Our weekend sales attract over 500 visitors weekly and we run estate sales on the average over 40 weekends of the year.

Quite a bit of work goes into what you do. How many folks do you employ and what makes it a full-time job? 

Yes, it is a full-time job and then some…a 12-15 hours days is a norm, but I do not do this alone.  With me in the foxhole with my crew hunting for treasure and my husband holding up the fort (the Gallery) we manage these projects with the assistance of 12 dedicated people who each have an important role, yet we are small enough of a company that we must all be able to jump in at any time and do each other’s job.  It’s a fast-paced job where one must think quickly on their feet which they have mastered!

In order to prepare generally Judy and I do the initial Inventory.  Greg, Sarah & Austin and I will stage, and price.  I personally photograph every job and Randy maintains the websites and social media.  Me, Greg, Judy, Mayra, Olaf and Walter hold a sale, and then bail out of a house which is Me, Mayra, Olaf, Walter, Steve and Kevin’s duty.  Once Walter, Steve, Olaf & Kevin do deliveries with our own truck and we are out of the house the project isn’t over until we liquidate every item whether it goes to the Gallery, another sale, or storage.  The aftermath of a sale is intense reconciliation and report production which begins with Judy, then Randy and finally me.  This is all wash, rinse, condition and repeat at the Gallery with Joe, Perry, Mayra online sales, Me, Perry, Mayra & Olaf staging and sales…At times overwhelming.  We find that most individuals and/or families cannot do this task alone.  It may take them months and sometimes years until they finally give up and give in to the fact that they need a pro like us to get them through.

Another division of our business is the appraisal business whether it be for Retail Replacement Value for Insurance Purposes, Fair Market Value for Charitable Contribution or Estate Planning.  As a Member and Vice President of the local chapter of the Estate Planning Council probate work keeps us quite busy.  The USPAP certification is required for the IRS, Insurance Industry and the Courts.

Share a bit about what shoppers or collectors will find in your showroom and are you global?

The Gallery consists primarily of Fine Art, Antiques and Collectibles that did not sell during the Estate Sale.  These selected items are on Consignment for 90 days giving our sellers more selling time rather than just donating or dumping.  Our Estate Sales and the Gallery has antique, vintage, mid-century, retro to contemporary from the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Far East.  For example we have Cut Crystal and Pressed Glass from the United States, Baccarat Crystal from France, Waterford Crystal and Belleek Porcelain from Ireland, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton Porcelain from England, Lladro Porcelain Figurines from Spain, Capodimonte Porcelain and Murano Glass from Italy, Ceramic Steins from Germany, Pottery from Portugal, Pre Columbian Artifacts from the Americas, Hammered Brass Trays from India, Hand Knotted Hand Dyed Rugs from Persia, Cloisonne from China, Woodblocks from Japan, and a Boomerang Collection from Australia and fantastic paintings from around the world!

One must keep in mind that the original Palm Coast “Pioneers” were the ITT folks, then the FAA Pilots who settled here, retired military and expats that all lived and worked around the world and brought unique items here.

We have a very loyal local base who visits us weekly.  Just (recently) both Brokers and Realtors were available at the sale to assist customers who had questions about the house.  They both remarked at how me and my staff knew our customers personally and by name.  We know what they buy and what they enjoy seeing.  These folks have become friends and we share more than just remarks about the sale and weather.  Overall, it’s a friendly atmosphere.  When customers have out of town guests of family and friends they bring them along for the fun and share the experience because you never know what you may find!

Our mission is to keep items out of the landfill as much as possible, but to resell, repurpose, reuse, and recycle.  Visit our website at www.DianaFineArt.com.  You can subscribe to our weekly newsletter that features the Estate Sale of the Weekend and the New Arrivals at the Gallery.  There are buttons to click onto our online shops with eBay, Poshmark and Shopify.  If you have “In Search Of” items or items to liquidate you can call us with your request that will be registered on our “Call Log”.

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