Storage warriors do battle in St. Albert

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Auctioneer Roy Hoetmer looks for bids Friday at St. Albert Self Storage in Campbell Business Park. (GLENN COOK, St. Albert Leader)

 

 

It was a chilly Friday morning in St. Albert’s Campbell Business Park, but that didn’t stop the crowd from coming out to look for a hot deal.

Perhaps inspired by the hit A&E TV show Storage Wars, about 40 people turned out Friday to St. Albert Self Storage on Carnegie Drive hoping to strike it rich by buying storage units lock, stock and barrel.

When people renting units default on their payments, the contents are put up for auction. In the past, St. Albert Self Storage had sent the items in the locker to auction individually, but gave the whole unit approach a go for the first time Friday.

“It’s a new thing, and we get people calling and asking every day,” said Tri Nguyen, manager at St. Albert Self Storage, with a laugh. “It triggered our mind that this could be something we want to try out.”

Bidders are given five minutes to look inside the locker. They cannot enter the unit, nor can they touch anything. Once time is up, the bidding begins.

“It’s a lot simpler for everybody,” said Ron Knutson with Yellowhead Auctions, which conducted the sale. “There’s less travelling, less expense for hauling. … It’s a lot more cost-effective for everybody.”

In addition to their bid, winning bidders must also pay a 15 per cent buyers’ fee, five per cent GST and a $100 deposit that is refunded if the unit is cleaned out within 48 hours.

Unlike the TV show — which debuted in December 2010 and soon became A&E’s highest-rated show ever — there was no “Yuuup!” There was no “wow factor,” no young gun, no eccentric antique collector. But that’s not to say the auction was without characters.

The first of four units on this day — and probably the best, filled with stereo equipment, hockey sticks, mattresses and a sofa — was won by a gentleman in a vest and a cowboy hat. A few metres away stood Larry Yakiwczuk, decked out in an orange jumpsuit.

“High visibility,” he said with a chuckle. “Auctioneers miss a lot of bids a lot of the time, so you’ve got to be visible.”

Strolling past a unit tucked away in a corner of the facility that’s filled with free weights and a microwave, Yakiwczuk said he looks for clues to what may be buried underneath.

“You’ve got exercise equipment. There’s a hard hat, so it’s probably a construction worker, so there’s probably some tools buried underneath there,” he said. “You never know what you’ll find.”

Yakiwczuk and his partner, Jonathan Stachyruk, run a consignment and thrift store in Edmonton called Crap 2 Cash. They’re no strangers to the auction business, although fairly new to storage auctions.

The prospect of finding a bargain is what drew him out in the first place — although, thanks to Storage Wars, many more now have the same idea.

“People who know what they’re doing are always going to be able to make [money],” Yakiwczuk said. “You get the newbies who come out and spend a fortune on crap. They show up once and they’re gone because they can’t afford it anymore.”

Stachyruk counts some antique swords as his best find in a storage unit, while other tales bounced around about finding cold hard cash.

“But most of the time, you find crap,” Stachyruk said.

Still, storage auctions have become more and more popular over the past few months, something that is not lost on the auctioneers.

“You’re getting all ages — young, old, in between,” Knutson said. “That show has spurred the whole auction business, not just the storage.”

Nguyen was happy to see such a large crowd come out for the trial run, and he hopes to keep that going in the future.

“This was amazing,” he said. “We’re very happy with the crowd that showed up.”

At St. Albert Self Storage, the four units are sold for anywhere from $45 — a unit containing only some dusty patio furniture and a vacuum cleaner — to $350.

But, while he went home empty-handed from this auction, Yakiwczuk said he wasn’t discouraged.

“They have no idea what they’re in for to move it or anything like that, or don’t realize how much trouble it is to sell it, so we’ll just consign it for them,” he said.

— GLENN COOK, St. Albert Leader

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