Hoots and Heart-Warming Stories at Penn Valley Mini Storage
As told to Susan George by Don Young, owner of Penn Valley Mini Storage.
In 1975 Don Young bought 100 acres in Penn Valley, including the Creekside Village Mobile Home Park and moved up to the area from San Fernando Valley. When Don arrived there were no local water or fire protection services. With vision and determination, in 1978 Don began construction on the Penn Valley Shopping Center, transforming a cow pasture and old house into the Center that today houses several Penn Valley businesses.
Over the last 30 years a multitude of Don’s contributions and entrepreneurial enterprises have helped develop the Penn Valley we know today. Some of the hats he has worn include: mobile home broker, postmaster, real estate broker, real estate developer, and in the early 1990’s he helped build the original ball fields at Western Gateway Park. And, not taking no for an answer, he enticed Placer Sierra Bank to locate in Penn Valley by offering the bank one year free rent!
In 1985 the construction of Penn Valley Mini Storage was completed. The facility offers 475 spaces + 72 parking spaces for motor homes and other vehicles, ranging from an antique fire engine to a $350,000 motor home. Don’s customers come from as far away as Australia and Japan. One customer actually stored an art collection valued at one quarter million dollars. Along the way Don has experienced challenges, hard work, financial risk and reward and plenty of fun experiences at the Mini Storage. Don relishes the stories and wants to share the fun times with the community. So here we go!
One afternoon the facility manager at the time placed a frantic phone call to Don. He was certain he had found a body in one of the units. The ominus object was wrapped and bound. When Don went to inspect the situation he was certain they had discovered a mummy. With much trepidation, he carefully removed his jack knife from his pocket, opened it, and began to gingerly cut through the shroud binding the “body”. The weight of fear of what he might find made it difficult to breath. Carefully his knife penetrated the figure revealing a white powdery substance. The weight lifted and they all began to laugh. The “mummified body” was a plaster-of-Paris figure.
A young, rather shady looking man was in the office completing the paperwork required prior to renting a storage unit. Don told him that his possessions would be well protected, as the Sheriff Department was renting five storage units right there at Penn Valley Storage. Sheriffs often patrolled the facility to ensure the security of their own possessions. Without a word the young man picked up his paperwork and walked out the door.
A musician rented one of the larger units. It seemed he needed a large area in which to store his equipment. A couple of days later loud rock tunes could be heard in and around Penn Valley Storage. The musician had brought his band back to his storage unit to rehearse their music.
A local woman couldn’t keep her prized possession at home. However, she was clever and thought of a great solution. She came in and rented a 5x5 storage unit, spread some straw on the floor and moved her prized pot belly pig into his new home.
Don has quite a sense of humor and in 1995 on his way to Stanford Hospital for a heart transplant he telephoned his newly hired managers, Doc and Candy Springer. Disguising his voice he spoke to Candy, explaining that he was looking for a large storage unit, one that would accommodate a number of used coffins, a collection of all sizes. He then asked Candy how tall she was, saying that he may have a coffin to fit her. Of course, being new on the job and wanting to make a favorable impression on customers, Candy did not know what to say. Finally, Don broke the silence with a sly chuckle and told her she was doing a good job.
Auctions are a sad, but necessary course of action at storage facilities. Due to job loss, death, incarceration, mental instability or any number of reasons, if rental payments are not made over a substantial period of time, it becomes necessary to liquidate the contents of the unit to pay the bill. One customer was a collector of fine antiques. His collection was large, varied and well organized from floor to ceiling in a large storage unit. The customer was overcome by illness and medical bills. He became a vagabond and lived under a bridge in Reno. Don had no choice but to hold the auction. Antique dealers came from all over. The unit was so full they had to spread the contents out over 4 units to display the antiques to potential buyers. The proceeds from the sale were about $50,000. The customer owed $1,800. Don paid himself the amount due, then drove to Reno and gave his customer the difference!
Another auction turned out to be a wonderful bonus for a woman from Germany who was new to the area. Many boxes filled with odds and ends and a refrigerator were left behind in a storage unit. The woman was interested and Don encouraged her to bid on it. However, she was broke and was unable to bid. Don gave her $1 and she made the bid, securing the contents of the storage unit. Not only did she gain a nearly new refrigerator, Don later learned she acquired a box of collectable baseball trading cards valued at nearly $1,200.
On August 1, 2007, Don once again touched the Penn Valley Community. He donated nearly five acres in “downtown” Penn Valley to the Penn Valley Community Foundation, a very significant step toward building a much needed Community Center for Penn Valley. Thanks Don!