While they’re certainly well-known in El Segundo, Richmond Street antique shop proprietors Laurence and Sally Martin just got their 15 minutes of fame and potentially then some, thanks to a heralded appearance on the new hit A & E reality series Storage Wars. The show, which airs Wednesday nights on the popular cable channel, has already broken records in its inaugural season, garnering the highest ratings in A & E history with a whopping 3.3 million viewers tuned in for a recent episode. The Martins and their store Studio Antiques were featured on a January 19 Storage Wars entitled “Collector’s Last Stand,” and made such a splash that they are slated to appear in additional episodes, including one tentatively set to air next Wednesday, February 16.
According to A & E’s website, Storage Wars “follows four professional buyers and their teams as they scour repossessed storage units in search of hidden treasure. 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.” In order to attach a value to the items in question, the buyers will consult an appraiser, which is where the Martins come in. “We found the antique store by doing research--we wanted to find a cool mom and pop store,” said show producer Andrea Capelli. “The owners were real characters and they seemed to really know their stuff.”
In the episode in question, buyer Barry Weiss popped into Studio Antiques carrying a small, silver flask with a window on the side that he found in one of the storage units. Having no clue what it was, he asked the Martins for help. Laurence quickly identified the item as a circa 1840s pocket spittoon that people back in the day would carry around with them in case they felt the urge to rid themselves of a little phlegm. “The ancient Chinese had a gold one,” Laurence remarked. Curious as to the spittoon’s value, Weiss received conflicting estimates between $250 and $450, but ultimately decided to keep it even though the item, as he put it, walked “a real fine line between gross and cool.”
In addition to displaying the interior and exterior of Studio Antiques with a quick, wide-angle view of Richmond Street in the process, camera crews also presented an aerial shot of El Segundo as well as Weiss riding down Sepulveda Boulevard on his motorcycle—all of which pleased Laurence to no end. “This is a great promotion for El Segundo,” he said. “It puts us on the map because the whole of America is hearing about El Segundo. Meanwhile, a lot of people from all over America have called and emailed to congratulate us, saying they’ve seen the show and liked it. It has helped our business, although it also means more people are calling us up trying to sell us stuff.”
Storage Wars is the latest success story for Original Productions, which is also responsible for such notable reality programs as Deadliest Catch, 1000 Ways to Die, Coal, Icy Road Truckers, and Ax Men, among others. “We do well in finding talent and making a show that’s not contrived that can capture the realness behind the scenes,” Capelli explained.
With the new show’s burgeoning popularity, Capelli reported that attendance at storage unit auctions has exploded. “We found out these auctions would have 20 people and now there are 120,” she said, but warned viewers that the process isn’t as easy as it may seem. “People are now wanting to quit their jobs to go into these storage auctions, thinking they can strike it rich,” she said. “Our guys own consignment stores and thrift stores and they know how to process these units.”
Inaddition to the footage in El Segundo, Storage Wars has featured several Southland communities in other episodes, including nearby Gardena, Cerritos, Long Beach and Fullerton, to name a few. It’s very possible that the Martins, and with them El Segundo, could become fixtures on the show for the long haul. “Because Laurence is such a great talent, we wouldn’t be opposed to have him keep appraising for us,” said Capelli of the decidedly eccentric Brit. “He and Sally may be featured regularly.” Continued filming in El Segundo will also give Capelli and cast members another excuse to hang out in town. “I want to live here,” Capelli admitted. “El Segundo was awesome and I’m looking forward to appraising there again.”
For more information on Storage Wars, go to www.aetv.com. A & E can be found on channels 59 (Time Warner Cable) and 265 (DirecTV). Storage Wars typically airs at 7:30 p.m., but new episodes sometimes don’t go on until 10:30 p.m. To view the Studio Antiques portion of the January 19 episode, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8BZDvBH3lc