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Sarah Smith, Forum Communications Co., Published May 08 2012

Storage unit auction draws hundreds near Park Rapids

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. – Hubbard County got its own taste of the hit A&E show “Storage Wars” on Saturday.

Hundreds swamped DLI Storage west of Park Rapids to participate in an auction of delinquent storage units.

The auction, slated for 10 a.m., was delayed because so many bargain hunters tried 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 crowds. 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 $10 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 got a quick look at the merchandise. They could not touch or sift through the goods. They had to file by and take a chance.

It was apparent that some of the bidders were not greenhorns. One bidder came with a high-powered flashlight 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. Registered letters were sent to the renters before the auction began. Buyers had until 5 p.m. Monday to reclaim their loot.

The second unit went for $60. The bidding for the larger storage units generally started at $100.

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.”

Sarah Smith writes for the Park Rapids Enterprise