'Storage Wars' -- Hundreds gather west of Park Rapids in hopes of finding treasure
Hubbard County got its own taste of the hit A&E show "Storage Wars" Saturday.
Hundreds of people swamped DLI Storage west of Park Rapids to participate in an auction of delinquent storage units.
The auction, slated for 10 a.m., had to delay because so many bargain hunters were trying to register for auction bidding cards. The line snaked around the storage units. Parking was scarce and everybody there was hoping to hit the lottery.
And everyone in line watches the A&E show, which likely contributed to the outpouring of humanity. The series "follows four professional buyers and their teams as they scour repossessed storage units in search of hidden treasure," according to show producers. "Part gamblers, part detectives, these seasoned veterans have found everything from coffins to the world's most valuable comic book collection, paying as little as ten dollars for items valued in the millions."
"It went very, very, very very well," said Dave Bitker, owner of the storage facility on Highway 34 west of town. Of his 82 units, 18 went up for auction.
One facility had been rented for eight years, only to have the renters default on their monthly payments.
For those unfamiliar with the TV show, units were opened just before the bidding starts. Prospective bidders get a quick look at the merchandise. They cannot touch or sift through the goods. They must file by and take a chance.
You could tell some of the bidders were not greenhorns.
One bidder came with a high-powered Maglite that he shined into the units to view the contents at the back of the locker.
Auctioneer Delano Schultz of North County Auction kept the action moving and the humor rolling.
"Sometimes you're better off not looking before you buy," he joked.
"Ma'am are you bidding or waving?" He asked a woman in the crowd who had just spotted a friend.
"You don't do that at an auction," he chided her to laughter.
Unit 59 was first off the auction block. It brought $225.
"Our lock stays on until it's paid and clear," said Cherie Lundberg, Bitker's sister-in-law. "Some units were behind 22 months," she explained. "We sent registered letters" to the renters before the auction began.
The second unit went for $60. Generally the bidding for the larger storage units started at $100. Buyers had until 5 p.m. Monday to reclaim their loot.
One 12-by-20 unit went for nearly $1,000. "There was a train set and an antique meat slicer," Bitker reported Monday. "When I talked to them Saturday afternoon, they'd found some porcelain dolls."
A smaller unit went for nearly as much.
"The biggest complaint I had was that people didn't get long enough to look and there were too many people in the way," Bitker said, acknowledging his first auction overwhelmed him and his staff.
Daryl Robbins of Park Rapids, a "Storage Wars" fan, was looking for nothing in particular, but said tools and lawn equipment were on his wish list. A chainsaw might have sweetened the deal.
"It's kind of clumsy but it's going," he said of the mayhem surrounding him.
Crowds surged from storage unit to storage unit as each was opened with an industrial bolt cutter.
"Keep moving," Lundberg yelled out to the curious, trying to keep the traffic flowing so everyone could get a glimpse of what they were bidding on.
Chad Brasel had driven up from Le Mars, Iowa, Saturday morning. The Perham railroad worker was also a fan of the A&E show.
"I'm just looking, maybe outdoors stuff, fishing, electronics," he said.
Bitker said he likely would hold another auction next spring "but not with 18 units," he said, letting out a whew.
"There was a woman here in a wheelchair," Bitker said. "Going to a storage war was on her bucket list," he chuckled. "Most of the merchandise went within 50 miles from Park Rapids."
He started ticking off various neighboring towns, New York Mills, Pillager and other burgs in the region.