As seen on TV: Storage Wars in Natchez

Published 12:12 am Sunday, December 25, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Gus Perry looks through items in the storage locker that he won during an auction Tuesday morning at Guido Mini Storage on Lower Woodville Road.

NATCHEZ — No BMW motorcycles, priceless antiques or shiny handguns were prizes of Guido storage auctions on Tuesday, but bidders did score a few items to keep or sell.

By law, storage facility owners must advertise and auction items that have been abandoned in storage units. Approximately 15 people from the region showed up at Guido Mini Storage on Lower Woodville Road Tuesday with fists of cash and high hopes. Following the first auction, the group caravanned across town to Guido Self Storage for the second scheduled auction.

Katherine Clark, right, walks away from a locker in which she was not interested during a storage locker auction at Guido Self Storage on U.S. 61 North in Natchez.

Gary Guido said he’d never had so many bidders at a storage unit auction as he did Tuesday. He speculated that perhaps several people noticed the legal advertisement printed in The Natchez Democrat. Bidders at the auction said the activity has drawn more curious bidders as A&E’s TV reality show “Storage Wars” became popular.

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“The TV show started this mess,” said Jonesville resident Richard O’Neal, a 20-year veteran of storage unit auctions.

O’Neal said he attends up to 100 storage unit auctions a year. He called the activity a hobby that brings in a little extra income.

He said probably 70 percent of units contain nothing of impressive value, but he has come across treasures in his 20 years of bidding, including rings and a magazine from 1939 about former Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long’s death.

“You can spend a lot and walk away with nothing,” O’Neal said. “But auctions get in your blood.”

Keene and Ruthie Baker were first-time bidders at the storage unit auction. They said they weren’t hoping to find any item in particular.

“On ‘Storage Wars’ they find all kinds of stuff,” Ruthie said. “I wouldn’t mind finding furniture. Keene wants to find treasure and make one million dollars.”

Carolyn Guido leads the auction at Guido Self Storage Tuesday morning on U.S. 61 North in Natchez.

Bidders beheld a gently-used dresser full of clothes as the door rolled up on the first unit Tuesday morning. It was sold for $50. Other units contained old TV sets, beds, exercise equipment, clothes, end tables and more.

Gus and Dawn Perry of Natchez had help from friends as they unloaded the contents of their unit. Of the items were a practically new washer and dryer and full bed set.

“We will probably give the washer and dryer to our son,” Gus said. “He’s getting married.”

The Perry’s friend Tim Jackson found a nickel in the washing machine.

“It’s paying off already,” he joked.

Contents also included old, used bed sheets that Gus placed in the discard pile.

“I sure don’t need these bed clothes,” he said. “But I do hate it for the people who lost their stuff.”

Guido said unfortunately there is an element of sadness to the business, and the auctions especially.

“Divorce creates business for us,” Guido said. “It splits a household, and between houses, it creates a need. So does death. A lot of sad things create business for us.

“Auction days — disposing of people’s property — are not pleasant,” Guido added. “We lose money on every auction too.”

Guido said he works with renters, and gives them multiple chances to pay past the deadline. His goal is to get back at least part of the balance owed on abandoned units. Guido’s wife and auctioneer, Carolyn, said they call the clients and every person on their contact list before auction. Guido said renters can even pay on their storage unit the day of the auction to prevent the sale.

Carolyn said it is especially sad when people abandon the things that cannot be replaced, like photos.

Katherine Clark of Fayette attended the auctions Tuesday. Armed with flashlights, Clark and other bidders stood at the entrance to the units, and were given about one minute to evaluate the contents without entering or touching anything.

Clark said she is looking for small things to resell.

“I try to find glassware, jewelry and cookware — small items that I can handle and sell on eBay,” said Clark, who first heard about storage unit auctions on “Storage Wars.” Clark said he has traveled to auctions in Jackson and Vicksburg too.

“I started going on my days off,” Clark said. “Now it’s part of my income.”

While most units are scattered with personal belongings, Guido said the possibility of treasures within keeps bidders coming back for more.

“There are two or three regulars who keep up with the auctions,” Guido said. “You never know. You can have a jackpot unit, but that hasn’t really been the case for us.”