Abandoned storage: Never know what you’re going to find

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Jay Baxter of Corinth says he once discovered the makings of a fast-food store inside a defaulted storage unit.
“I paid $125 for it and sold it the next day,” the warehouse owner said Thursday as he waited to bid on the contents of a Personal Storage Rooms unit in downtown Tupelo.
In less than a minute, on the third bid, Baxter paid $60 for Unit 26 and came away with a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner and various household odds and ends, which he’ll sell at his warehouse or at flea markets throughout the region.
Nancy Dees, PSR’s manager, says she sees more renters walk away from their personal goods during the winter and now, she thinks it’s partly because they’re having tough financial times from losing their jobs.
“I give as much leeway as I can,” she noted about delinquent accounts. “I try to work with them as much as I can.”
And a lot of customers in jeopardy of losing their stuff make good on their arrears, she said.
Auctions are a major way storage-unit businesses make a little money and clean out the defaulted bins.
Charlotte Crump, manager at StorageMax on Cliff Gookin Boulevard, agrees she’s seeing more delinquencies this winter than others.
But she also sees a pickup in rental payments now that Christmas is over and customers are receiving income tax refunds.
“We hardly ever have an abandonment here,” Crump observed. “I try to let them make partial payments or catch up, if they can.”
As for Baxter, he and sidekick LaDron Kennedy are ready to roll for other storage auctions in Memphis, Nashville and Florence, Ala.
He hopes to pick up good used furniture and kitchen appliances, which he says sell well.
“Clothes are terrible,” Kennedy chimed in. They sell clothing very cheap at flea markets just to get rid of it, they say.
They also try to return personal items like photographs, Bibles and documents to the storage owner, in case the former customers still want it.
Best find? Baxter says one unit yielded a brand new 7,000-watt generator worth about $800. A side-by-side refrigerator also was a good find.
“Probably the weirdest thing we ever found was a full Kentucky Fried Chicken store’s equipment,” Baxter recalled.
Other odd items include 50 gallons of pinto beans and buckets of outdated pancake mix.
“It’s a hit and a miss, just like rolling the dice,” Kennedy noted.
The worst find? Mattresses.
“But it’s always interesting,” Baxter said. “You never know what you’re going to get, when they open up the unit.”
He’s seen bins go for $15 and one for $5,700. That one, in Memphis, contained a large dining room table and motorcycle and go-cart parts.
“I never thought they’d never stop bidding,” he laughed. “I stopped at $300.”

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.