Photo by Madalyn Ruggiero/MCT
Dennis Beauchamp, left, director of "Cash & Cari," chats with Cari Cucksey, 35, from Northville, owner of RePurpose Estate Services, an estate sales company, while filming the HGTV's reality show in Livonia, Michigan.
DETROIT -- Morris Cucksey would burst through the door, excited about showing off his newfound treasure.
"Wait till you see what I have," he'd say.
"Grandpa, where did you get it?" Cari Cucksey recalled asking.
"Alongside the road," he'd tell her, time after time in his gruff voice.
Furniture, tables, chairs -- "anything and everything that he thought he could salvage," Cari said.
Morris Cucksey, a World War II veteran, taught Cari that everything had potential. All it took was some creativity and vision to uncover it. "He went through the Depression, so he couldn't throw anything away," she said. "If he saw a computer on the side of the road, he'd pick it up and get all of the screws and nuts out of it because he didn't want to see anything go in the garbage."
She sat on a stool in RePurpose, a resale shop she opened last year in Northville, Mich., and looked around at the things she sells: furniture, tables, chairs and countless home items that have been salvaged and transformed, including a bowling alley lane turned into a kitchen table.
"I heard my name," she said, her head snapping to the big-screen television tuned to HGTV. She watched a commercial for her new reality show, "Cash & Cari," which is based on her estate-sales business.
In many ways, Cari Cucksey, 35, has taken her grandfather's advice and applied it to her life. This one-time fitness instructor has evolved into a businesswoman, entrepreneur and budding TV star. "With the way the world is, you have to re-create and repurpose yourself just to keep up with technology," she said.
It all started in 1998, when Cucksey wanted to go to Europe after graduating from Central Michigan University. She didn't have enough money, so she started buying and selling things on eBay, making enough to go overseas for two weeks.
When she returned to Michigan, she started shopping estate sales for items with resale potential. "I started realizing I knew a little about a lot of things," she said. So she started an estate-sales business.
Now, Cucksey and her team go into homes, hunt for treasures, research what each item is worth and conduct a two- or three-day sale for clients, trying to liquidate everything before someone moves or sells a house. "It's really grown because there are so many aging baby boomers dealing with liquidating their parents' estates," she said.
In early 2010, TV executives were scouting for a female liquidator for a reality show on estate sales. A woman with a British accent saw Cucksey's website, called her and said: "Cari, I'm on your Facebook page, and you are very tele-worthy."
Producers came to Michigan and filmed 12 hours of Cucksey in action. The series was sold to HGTV and premiered Jan. 3. "We already have a contract for a second season," said Cucksey's fiance and business partner, Vincenzo Iafano.
The final episode of the first series was being filmed through Jan. 30, when Cucksey planned to hold an estate sale at her grandparents' home in Lake Orion, Mich.
Morris Cucksey, 88, and his wife, Rosa Lee, 88, are in an assisted-living facility.
"My grandmother has a little bit of Alzheimer's, and my grandfather is getting dementia," Cari Cucksey said.
The basement is filled to the ceiling and the garage is jam-packed with tools. The family wants to sell the house, so an estate sale is needed. But it will also make for great TV.
"This is going to be extraordinary for Cari because she is going to be able to see the history of her family, going through her grandfather's belongings," Beauchamp said.