"Storage Wars" inspires Dubuque business - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

"Storage Wars" inspires Dubuque business

One Dubuque business modeled itself after the popular TV show Storage Wars One Dubuque business modeled itself after the popular TV show Storage Wars

One Dubuque business is thriving thanks to the TV show Storage Wars.

Like on the show, the owners of the Dubuque business bid on storage units up for auction. They then sell the contents in their store, which can mean good deals for customers.

Gloria Heitz and her husband Gene live in Freeport, Ill. and spent Sunday afternoon in Dubuque. They're regular antique and consignment shoppers.

"I feel like I'm on a treasure hunt," Gloria Heitz said.

On Sunday, the Heitzes browsed a new kind of inventory at Old Main Market and Consignment in Dubuque.

"You might find a valuable antique that was in the storage and the person never got it out," Heitz said. "Maybe they didn't have a place to put it, but they found it and they stored it, but now maybe it might be here."

Old Main Market and Consignment co-owner Cristina Lenz said she and her boyfriend Steve Mathias got more than 70 percent of their store's inventory from storage unit auctions.

"We just decided to go to a storage auction, and we've purchased about 70 storage units since then," Lenz said, "so we have a lot of merchandise coming and going all the time."

The store opened at its current location on the corner of First and Main Streets in Dubuque in April, completely inspired by the TV show Storage Wars.

"You never know what you're going to get, just like on the TV show. They open up the garage door and you have a few minutes to look and that's about it. So it's like Christmas," Lenz said. "It is a lot of work. There is a lot of garbage. There's no $30,000 diamond rings like on TV, but it's a lot of fun."

Items don't just go from auction sale to shelf. Every storage unit requires hours of sorting, from Christmas lights and koozies to babydolls and books. Buyers also never know when an item in the unit they just bought, such as a VHS case, might turn up empty.

"I have a basement full of things from the storage auctions and a sorting room full, so there's always new things," Lenz said.

There's so much stuff to sort through that items are priced to move, so thrifty customers can find some good deals.

Lenz finds everything from tools and utensils to furniture.

"All these Barbie Dolls came from a unit that we had purchased," Lenz said, gesturing to a shelf of the dolls.

She said the items found in storage reflect changing times.

"A lot of televisions because everybody's basically going to a flat screen, so every storage unit I think we've ever had has at least one or two TVs in it," Lenz said.

The storage unit items also tell stories about the former owners.

"A lot of them, I think, may have gotten in trouble with the law, so there's a lot of those kinds of letters and stuff in there. A lot of times it's divorce, so you can really see a lot that goes through in the storage units," Lenz said.

The industry of bidding on and re-selling storage unit items has received some criticism. Some people say business owners are benefiting from the misfortune of those who couldn't afford the units.

Lenz said she and her boyfriend mainly attend storage unit auctions in the Madison, Wis. area to avoid selling Dubuque items back to Dubuque people.

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