The reality often left out of the hit TV show "Storage Wars" and others like it is the items up for sale once belonged to someone.
In some cases, it may be everything the person owns.
Brian Fuhs and Xandra Belletto, manager and assistant manager of 16th Avenue Mini-Storage in Lewiston, get to know their customers pretty well and say the reasons items are stored range from eviction to divorce to relocation.
Belletto said the stories are often, though not always, heartbreaking. There are those who are hoarders, she said, as well as those who are just temporarily between houses.
The economy has brought in people who have lost their homes, Fuhs said. "In good times they store their stuff because they want to hoard it, and in bad times they store it because they have to."
But when storage unit renters default, and Fuhs and Belletto have exhausted all options, they know what they have to do.
"When you get to know the customers -- it makes it hard when you know situations," Belletto said, fighting back tears. She admits she has a hard time leading up to auction day. But she said that sometimes you get "beauty from ashes" and she just has to keep that in mind.
"It's just something we have to do," Belletto said, but even at that point the two of them say they still hope the customer will come in to pay.
She said she can sense something is wrong when they cut the locks off some units, "My heart is just broken, and Brian too. It's like, this is sad but it's what we've got to do."
The hard ones are when they know someone has been sick, or when the items in the unit are what Belletto refers to as "a life" -- toys, pictures, clothes -- that mean something to someone.
Belletto said she once heard from an auction participant that it appeared someone had been living in the unit.
"It just made me heart-sick to think of it," she said.
Once, an urn with ashes in it was returned by a person who had purchased the contents of a unit at auction. Fuhs said they were able to contact the funeral home and get the name of the deceased. From there they contacted a family member and were able to return the remains.
(c)2011 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)
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