Storage wars

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Auctioneer Greg Jensen works to get bids for the contents of a storage unit Saturday at Stow & Go Self Storage in Albert Lea. -- Scott Schmeltzer/Albert Lea Tribune

A new reality TV show has had some effects in Albert Lea — even getting more than 100 people to an event that only had 25 people attend in earlier years.

“Storage Wars,” a reality TV show on A&E Network airing since 2010, has been televising something storage businesses have been doing for years. Kelvin Rehnelt, owner of Stow & Go Self Storage with Dan Dorman, said the owners can legally auction off items from storage units once the renter has been delinquent with payments after 65 days.

“Our goal is to never have an auction,” Rehnelt said. “People care about their stuff and want to keep it.”

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On Saturday an auction was held at Stow & Go’s units, both the ones near Bridge Avenue and Garfield Avenue. There are 320 units, with prices ranging from $35 to $135 per month.

Auction attendees move to the next storage unit up for auction Saturday morning at Stow & Go Self Storage in Albert Lea. -- Scott Schmeltzer/Albert Lea Tribune

In advertising for the auctions, Rehnelt borrowed the “Storage Wars” theme. He said he’s had many more calls about auctions since the TV show began airing, so he wasn’t surprised at the attendance. There were even fewer units up for auction than in previous years — 10 were auctioned Saturday, 16 in 2010 and 15 in 2009.

At the auction Saturday, attendants were allowed to walk by the unit and look inside only; there was no time to dig through items. Any unit bought would be paid for and cleaned out the same day, and the goal is to pay a small amount and hopefully find some treasure to turn a profit.

Steve Frondal won the first bidding war for a unit and paid $230.

“I do flea markets and have been to a few auctions,” he said.

Auctioneer Greg Jensen on Saturday kept the audience interested with some jokes thrown in. One unit had some blackened mattresses, and Jensen joked that they were probably full of cash.

Tom King ended up getting the unit’s contents for $56, and said he was intrigued by a stainless steel grill he could see from the front.

“I’ll look at buying more today,” King said.

For now, Rehnelt said Stow & Go will hold about one auction per year. He said he understands why the auctions are entertaining and said many people do fill storage units with items they want but don’t have space for. He said he was grateful to those who won bids Saturday because they were professional and completely cleaned out the units.

“They did a great job,” Rehnelt said.

See a video here.