The belongings of seven students were stolen from an East Side Storage unit during their summer break (Photo by Sadie Wittenberg ’22). The students returned to an empty storage; one student lost items totaled to at least $7,000
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When Jerry Bronson ’21 arrived on campus ready to start his junior year at Wooster, he was not expecting to find an empty storage unit.
“I was at a loss for words,” Bronson said, recalling the moment he discovered his clothing, saxophone, television, keyboard and other items were gone. “My soul was crushed with feelings of despair, anger, frustration and, of course, confusion.”
Bronson and his mother arrived at East Side Storage, where Bronson shared a unit with with several other students, prepared to move all his items from the unit to his dorm room. However, when they saw his unit, they immediately knew something was wrong.
“I noticed that our original blue and silver master lock was switched with another silver lock,” Bronson said. “The lock had the code written in pen on the back.”
After opening the new lock, Bronson discovered that his and the other students’ items were gone. When the summer began, the unit stored mini fridges, chests and over 50 boxes. The space was now completely empty except for a mirror and an ironing board.
When he saw the empty unit, Bronson spoke to Jon Hochstetler, the son of the owner of East Side Storage. According to Bronson, there was a noticeable change in Hochstetler’s disposition when he was told about the unit.
“His eyes dilated, he started to fidget his hands, he stuttered and his overall appearance shifted to that of a nervous child,” said Bronson.
In a video recorded by Bronson’s mother, Hochstetler states, “We didn’t do anything,” over and over.
The unit was shared with six other College of Wooster students, and they were all offended and shocked by the company’s callous response to the incident.
“Losing everything already feels painful for me, but the treatment and feedback we got from the storage company was even more unacceptable,” said Muyao Li ’20, who lost items which totaled to at least $7,000. Among Li’s lost items were family belongings, notes and outlines for her I.S., textbooks, clothes and art pieces with special meaning.
“They treated us like a joke, and laughed and smiled in our face about the situation,” Bronson said. “They had no empathy whatsoever.”
Yasmine Meadows ’21 also stored most of her things in the unit.
“When I moved to college I brought everything I owned, and now 80% of that is gone,” Meadows said. “The owner of East Side Storage was very rude and unprofessional … I believe that they are very inconsiderate and terrible businessmen.”
According to the police report, Bronson reported the incident on Aug. 5 around 7:33 a.m.
While waiting for the police to arrive, Bronson and his mother continued talking to East Side Storage staff. Hochstetler thought the incident was an inside job.
“Nothing else looks broken into, I mean it had to be somebody that was in that unit,” Hochstetler said in the video. “No, somebody had to have the code to get your old lock off and put that lock on.”
The owner of the storage unit believed the person who stole all the items was someone who knew the code.
The East Side Storage staff continued to say they “didn’t touch it,” didn’t “know what happened to it,” and claimed “we didn’t do anything.”
The staff says they check on their units periodically, but they didn’t notice that the lock was different on Bronson’s unit.
“We have 500-plus units, I can’t check every lock,” Hochstetler said in the video.
When called, one East Side Storage worker wouldn’t provide his name, but he echoed what Hochstetler said in the video.
“It was an inside job,” the worker said.
When asked about what security systems are in place at the storage facility, he said, “Well, there’s a lock on every door.” He also said there are security cameras in other parts of the facility, but not where Bronson’s unit is.
The worker said they are now looking into getting cameras for that particular area.
“We don’t want anything like this to happen again,” the worker said.
He maintained that robberies like this haven’t happened at East Side Storage before.
“This was a very suspicious, isolated incident,” the worker said. “Even the police thought it was very odd. The police cleared us of any wrongdoing.”
But Bronson believes East Side Storage was involved in the incident.
“They obviously know something about the issue,” Bronson said. “It just doesn’t seem right. All six students live outside of Wooster and there were about 50-plus boxes in the unit. It would be theoretically impossible for one of us to steal everything out of the unit.”
Yaz Nizar ’22 is another student whose belongings were stolen. He estimates he lost over $3,000 worth of things. Although Nizar and the other students lost a great amount, they have no way of getting compensation for their stolen items.
“Insurance is on an individual level, it’s usually covered by home owner’s insurance,” the worker said. The students did not have insurance for their items.
Nizar is currently involved in a lawsuit against East Side Storage.
The police are investigating the robbery.