The gig: As chief executive of Jan's & Co. Fine French Antiques Inc. in South Los Angeles, Claudio Boltiansky spends his days sifting through the endless pool of inventory available for sale in catalogs, online auctions, email offerings or at estates around the world. When not on buying trips, he meets clients at Jan's 15,000-square-foot showroom or arranges displays. His daily routine can start at 3 a.m. with telephone bidding at auction houses on the other side of the globe.
"I have found myself in the middle of the night with the phone on one ear, where bidding is being made in French, while simultaneously on my cellphone, where the bidding is taking place in German," he said.
The wholesaler recently beat out three other dealers in acquiring a collection of Baccarat chandeliers, antique fireplace mantels and gilt-bronze wall lamps from Candy Spelling's former Holmby Hills residence, the Manor.
A family affair: The 48-year-old, who runs Jan's with his older brother Sergio, is the third generation of his family in the antiques business, which was started during the 1930s by his grandfather in Argentina. The family decided to move the business in the late 1970s to Los Angeles, where their wares could command higher prices. Today, they have a showroom and a 9,000-square-foot warehouse on West Adams Boulevard.
Education: Boltiansky, who completed three years of college, learned the antiques trade from his father. "I was buying with him since 12 years old," he said. "What I learned in all those years is invaluable."
Crisis-proof: Jan's has weathered riots, earthquakes and economic downturns.
"Fine antiques follow money," Boltiansky said. "Wherever there is a recession somewhere in the world, there is always going to be another place that is booming."
Southeast Asia and China are among the areas that are now creating demand in the antiques market.
Securing the 19th century French and English antiques imported by Spelling was a coup for the business. The nine items, restored and online, are generating interest among clients who so far have ended up buying other pieces in the showroom.
Ongoing challenge: "The hardest thing is to find the high-quality items that our clients are looking for and that allow us to make a profit," he said. Although the struggling economy has resulted in a flood of antiques pouring into the marketplace, he said, "we see quantity but not much quality."
Best business decision: Going online in 1996 greatly expanded Jan's reach.
"Most of our clients are from other states or overseas," Boltiansky said. "Selling a six-figure antique online is no longer a rarity. It's a reality."
Working smarter: "Today, location is meaningless," he said. Because Jan's has lower overhead than it would in a high-rent area like Beverly Hills, the Boltianskys can offer to pay more for items such as those purchased from heiress Petra Ecclestone, who bought Spelling's estate this summer for $85 million and wants to redecorate.
Sweet spot: "The best of the best is what people are looking for," he said. "Items in excess of $10,000 up to $1 million are still selling."
Jan's website is beyond discrete, listing no prices, not even for the small collection of clearance items.
Quality advice: "The biggest mistake is to buy inventory just for inventory's sake," he said. "My father always taught me you can make a mistake in price but never compromise in the quality of the items you acquire. Even in hard times, quality will always sell."
Mantra: "Quality never lies," Boltiansky said.
Community matters: After the 1992 riots the family looked at their options and decided to stay in South L.A. Boltiansky became a member of the Community Redevelopment Agency's Project Action Committee working to bring back investment and improve the area. "It's still a work in progress," he said.
The payoff: "I am passionate about this business. I get a bigger kick when I buy a fabulous item than when I sell it," Boltiansky said. "It is a fascinating business, dealing in beautiful things."