Tucked between the 405 Freeway and the Pacific Ocean, just south of Los Angeles International Airport, is the town of El Segundo. The part of it that’s visible from the freeway is largely corporate office towers, mostly aerospace, shopping centers and a Chevron oil refinery.
But head toward the sea, and beyond the refinery is the true El Segundo. It’s a charming town of not quite 17,000 people, with American flags lining its business district and quiet, tree-shaded streets that could be anywhere in the U.S.
On one of these is Studio Antiques, so named because it was once the location of an artist’s studio. British-born Laurence Martin and wife Sally have owned it for more than 20 years, after former aerospace engineer — and antiques enthusiast — Laurence purchased it from the previous owner.
The producers of “Storage Wars” called upon the Martins to do appraisals for the reality show about people who bid on abandoned storage units. Then last April, the Martins joined the cast for Season 1 of Travel Channel’s “Baggage Battles,“ which put its focus on people who buy lost and unclaimed luggage, hoping to find treasures inside.
Season 2 launches on Wednesday, Nov. 14, and according to the Martins, this time there’s a lot more than just lost bags involved.
Sitting around a table near a Halloween-themed “ghost town” in the backyard of their store — which, along with the second shop next to it, is stuffed from floor to ceiling with objects of every description — the Martins recall their travels.
“The show started off specifically around airports and airport auctions,” Sally Martin tells Zap2it, “but it’s really expanded beyond that. We just came from an auction that was a combination. There were police and seized items; there were storage units.
“We’ve been to customs auctions, where people have imported things, not paid their duties, and then they don’t claim them, and they go up for sale. … We went to an estate auction in Boston not long ago. We could see the things [for sale], but there was a question about whether certain things were authentic or not. So that becomes the turn in that case.”
Among the items from that sale, says Laurence Martin, is a historical document.
“This document is from the 1700s,” he says. “It’s about the first president, by the second president, OK? Now, because we are the owners of this document, we are actually now part of American history. It’s going to be a really interesting show.”
The couple are talking just after returning from a trip to Phoenix.
“We took two days to come back,” Laurence says, “and filled up the truck on the way.”
They’ve also traveled to Ireland and the U.K. The Irish trip featured a bit of magic, while the English one yielded something unexpected.
“The reveal,” says Laurence, “when we open the bags, the reveal in London took everybody by surprise.”
“Oh, my God,” says Sally. “O.M.G.”
“It was a big, added bonus,” says her husband. “It was unreal.”
During the hour-long conversation, two men come through the shop and into the area to talk to the Martins. Both of them saw the first season of “Baggage Battles.”
One takes a picture with the Martins; the other shares stories about his family while explaining he’s in town to close up his elderly mother’s house nearby (prompting Laurence Martin to ask to be allowed to see any items he intends to sell or discard).
Because of the travel demands of the show, the Martins have reduced the number of days the shop is open, but the notoriety has allowed them to sell more items on the online auction site eBay.
It’s also garnered them fans from unexpected demographics.
“A lot of people like to watch our show,” Laurence says, “because it is family-oriented, and a lot of shows, they can’t watch together. They say, ‘We like your show because it’s straightforward.’ “
“We get a lot of children,” Sally says. “When we were going to England, I think, and this family came up and said, ‘We hardly watch television, but this is one of the things that we sit down together, as a family, and watch.’ It’s nice.
“It makes us feel good that people think it’s OK.”
“It’s like a new lease on life for us,” Laurence says. “You don’t expect to be, like, 65 and be running around doing all this, flying here, there and everywhere. You never know what’s around the corner.”
As for their neighbors in El Segundo, Laurence says, “To be honest with you, we haven’t been in town a lot. Obviously, we’ve had the shop 20-odd years, so everybody knows us. People are surprised that they see you on TV.
“Even for us, to see ourselves on TV — you can’t really comprehend that it’s actually happening.”