By Charlotte Helston
Cardboard boxes full of food, heaps of old VHS movies, garbage bags of kids clothes. These are the things Mike Carey discovered he had paid $210 for at Stor-It Place's Storage Wars event Thursday.
But he expects to make his money back with the contents of a second unit which cost him $1,200.
"I'll probably make $4000 in that one," Carey says, pointing out a stackable washer-dryer, exercise equipment and high end fishing gear. Participants get just one quick glimpse into the units before the bidding starts. Something might catch your eye, or everything could be concealed in boxes. Carey says he didn't see anything he had to have upon his peek inside the unit, rather, he had the cash and wanted to spend it.
As he pokes around in the $1,200 unit, he says you get a hint of what the owners were like based on their stuff. "They were obviously rich," he says.
But they didn't pay their storage bills.
Stor-It owner Ariel Tyk says he waits at least six months before surrendering units to the event. The law in Canada only requires 60 days, so he gives the owners a fair chance to reclaim their possessions. And while the big day is filled with thrill and anticipation for the bidders and onlookers, Tyk doesn't share in their glee.
"For us, it's not a happy day, we hate to do it," Tyk says. He asks the successful bidders to box up personal items like photographs, documents, and sentimental things like Teddy Bears before hauling their treasures off the premises. He tries his hardest to reunite these things with their former owners.
"With (the event) we're doing our best to turn a bad scenario into a good one," Tyk says. He runs a business, and unpaid units cost him money. By clearing them out, he can welcome new customers.
The money raised by auctioning off the units goes toward the unpaid rental fees while the $2 registration fee is donated to the Upper Room Mission, a local homeless shelter and soup kitchen. For people that don't have boxes upon boxes of possessions, the event helps to provide them with food and other necessities.
Sometimes the storage-hunters make donations too. Tyk says people have donated numerous antiques to the Vernon museum.
Others choose to hold on to their items, if they can see the worth in them. "Some people's junk is another man's treasure," says Tyk. One year, a unit that went for $500 revealed a bible from the 1700s.
"It was valued at $10,000," Tyk says. "You never know what secrets are hiding."
The event has its regulars, including storage-hunters from Surrey and Prince George that add the destination to their circuit. Justin Altunin, a regular onlooker who never bids, says you need a trained eye to be successful in the risky hobby.
"If you notice nice leather furniture, maybe a pair of dirty overalls, you figure it belonged to an oil rigger. If you see a pair of Nike shoes, you think athlete," Altunin says.
"And neatly packed boxes, that's how you know people cared about their stuff... it'll probably be in good condition."
Admiring the contents of his unit, Carey—a first-timer—says he'll be a storage-hunter from now on.
"I own Spring Movers, so I have trucks. It makes it pretty convenient," Carey says.
Whether you're taking items home or to the dump, it's essential to have something to move them in. Clint Bazel, a first time storage wars winner, paid $5 for his unit, and is taking most of it to the dump.
"There's some stuff here worth five bucks, but there's just so much to get rid of," Bazel says, looking at the mountain old furniture and junk occupying his pick-up.
"But," he says, "It was exciting."
To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call (250)309-5230