A real-life Grinch burglarized a downtown storage unit belonging to Napa resident Jeri Hansen last week, stealing a big part of how Hansen has celebrated Christmas for decades.

Hansen’s unit, located at Napa Midtown Storage at 895 Jackson St., was one of several that were burglarized on March 7 or the morning of March 8.

After Hansen got a call about the break-in, she immediately thought of her treasured ornaments that she’d just placed in the unit — right by the door — for storage.

“I bet those are gone,” she recalled thinking with dread.

Sure enough, when she arrived at the space, her fears were realized.

Three red, fabric storage containers, filled with more than 100 ornaments she’d saved over her whole life, including childhood favorites, were gone.

“I feel sick,” she recalled thinking.

“I think it was a smash and grab,” Hansen said. She imagined the thief later opening the boxes only to find something with little to no monetary value.

“I’m sure they just ended up in the trash. It’s terrible to think they are buried somewhere in a dumpster.”

Hoping against hope, Hansen drove around the surrounding streets looking for the red boxes. She even looked in nearby dumpsters and garbage cans.

“They were touchpoints,” she said of her ornaments. “I tried to buy one or two a year that was a representative of that year or a milestone.”

Decorating her tree every December was a cherished ritual. “I’d unwrap them and spread them out on the dining room table,” and then turn on Christmas music and decorate her tree.

In an interview on Tuesday afternoon, Hansen said she’s come to accept her ornaments “are only things.”

“They are physical manifestations of memories. But it’s not the memory,” she said.

“There are people who lost their entire homes in a wildfire or flood. I have no business being upset over ornaments,” she said.

She even managed to make a joke.

“Of all the things in the storage unit, why didn’t they take the stuff I wanted to get rid of?” she said.

“It’s a reverse Kondo,” she said, referring to the popular TV show starring Marie Kondo who helps people declutter and clean out their homes.

Kondo tells owners to keep items that “spark joy.” Unfortunately, in her case, the thieves stole the items that give her joy, said Hansen.

“I can’t control the situation,” she acknowledged. “I can only control how it makes me feel.”

Maybe it’s time for new traditions, she said. Hansen already has an idea.

“Anything can become a Christmas ornament if you put a string on it,” she said.

“So I’m going to get some string and make ornaments out of other things,” like her first belt buckle or even photos of her decorating the tree.

“I’m trying to make up for the fact that they’re all gone.”

She knows the storage unit business isn’t liable or responsible for her contents but, “I feel their security should be better,” she said.

Spencer Bunting’s family has owned the downtown storage facility since 1987. This is the first time something like this has happened at the business, he said.

“We’re very sympathetic to our tenants,” said Bunting.

“We’re taking this extremely seriously. We want our tenants to know we are looking out” for them.

As of Wednesday, the company was installing a new $25,000 “state-of-the art camera system,” he said. Napa police were contacted.

In addition, “We have 24-hour security guards on site now to ensure this isn’t going to happen again.”

He’s not sure how the thieves got into the facility but, “We feel like we’ve been targeted by these criminals.”

Bunting didn’t have a total number of tenants that were burglarized. “We’re still talking to our tenants (and) trying to make it right.”

Regardless, Hansen will soon be vacating her rental unit.

“I was planning on moving anyway because I moved to a new house with more room.”

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.