The auctioneer started the bid at $65,000, then scanned the sidewalk for signs of deeper pockets.
The bid came tepidly in the form of an index finger pointed skyward by a man dressed in blue jeans and work boots. He was soft-spoken and casually dressed, a stranger to most - if not all - of the locals standing around.
But, by the end of the afternoon, it would be clear that Kebrab Tekla had come to York City to buy buildings Thursday.
The businessman scarfed up three downtown properties put up for auction by a Maryland developer who said he'd over-extended himself in York's real-estate market.
Tekla said he was in York on behalf of a Washington, D.C.-based investment group looking to diversify its investments. He said he wasn't sure what the company might do with its new properties, purchased for a combined price of $460,000.
He didn't say much else, except, "We like York."
The auctioned properties include the former Market Street Saloon at 29-31 W. Market St., where Neil A. Katz had planned to build a food court in the city's momentum-gaining downtown business district. Katz said he had a difficult time finding a business partner to move the project forward, though he was bummed to walk away from it.
Tekla also bought Katz's buildings at 108-112 and 116-118 E. Market St., both vacant buildings Katz had planned to convert to apartments and retail space.
Thursday's proceeding, conducted on the sidewalk and complete with a fast-talking auctioneer, provided a rare glimpse into the minds of men who buy buildings the way most people buy furniture.
Curiosity had gotten the best of Don Miller, a Maryland-based investor who'd heard York was "a happening area."
"It's a very good buyers' market. Prices are still low," he said. "I figure it's a beautiful day. See what happens."
Like any skilled shopper, Miller said he's always on the lookout for a deal. But when it came time to bid, Miller - along with about a dozen other professional building buyers - was mum.
Tekla was the only person to bid on the first building, which sold for $165,000. At 108-112 E. Market St., he faced competition from one other bidder, who backed off when the price reached $100,000. By the time it was the former saloon's turn, Tekla was the only investor who'd stuck around.
Of course, not everyone on the sidewalk Thursday had come with a checkbook in tow.
"Today, I'm looking," said Tory Burkey, a York-based investor. "I'm just here to look, to see who else is playing in the real-estate game."
For Dora Markle, the auction was a chance to network with fellow developers. Markle, the leasing agent at Midor Property Management in York, said she was hoping to meet the building's new owners and lay the groundwork for future collaboration.
Midor has its own project under way in York City to turn an old building into market-rate apartments. There are people who want to move back into urban areas, Markle said, but renovating old buildings is not always a profitable business.
"There is a demand," she said. "But it's not easy."
- Reach Erin James at 505-5439 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ydcity.