A Brief History of the Self Storage Industry

12 December 2015 by

As Derek Naylor, president of Storage Marketing Solutions, says, ““Human laziness has always been a big friend of self-storage operators.”

The self storage industry has been around since the ‘60s Texas, mid-nineteenth century Britain, 750 BC Roman Empire, or 4,000 BC ancient China—depending on where you get your info from. Taking into account Naylor’s wise words, I think it’s safe to say that self storage has been an official industry since the 4th millennium BC when writing was invented. I mean, we all know how paper—or in this case, stone tablets—can pile up!

According to Texas Mini News, Self Storage Finders, and Small Business Chron, respectively, here’s the timeline:

  • China, 6,000 years ago: people started storing their worldly goods in “public underground storage pits.”
  • 750 BC: with the rise of the Roman Empire came a lot more people, and “finding a place to but your business-casual togas and stash of designer Corinthian columns was important.”
  • 19th century England: because Queen Victoria was hogging so much space in the bank vaults with her stash of royal loot, banks turned to the storage facilities that were popular with moving companies to store customers’ personal belongings.
  • Texas, 1960s: the most recent update to storage facilities, like climate control, storage accessories sold on site, and storage auctions for non-paying tenants.

Because someone had to oversee the storing tons of junk, the Self Storage Association (SSA) came into existence. Think of them as the parental unit to a litter of messy kids. “Clean up your room or I’ll sell it all in a massive yard sale!” is to mom and dad what “Pay your storage unit rent or I’ll sell it all in an auction!” is to storage facility managers.

Since 1975 the SSA has been representing the 48,500-plus facilities in this country alone and has devoted $3 million to updating lien laws, such as “adding specialty licenses for the offering of tenant insurance, and authorizing reasonable late fees, dealing with abandoned records and vehicles and fighting the imposition of sales taxes on self storage rents.”

Most of these laws were probably decided upon during the Roman Empire when the conquering of other peoples was all the rage. The emperors needed somewhere to put all their new goods, from mosaics to funeral pyres, and came up with rules and regulations to prevent the conquerees from taking it all back. The emperor Justinian (482 AD – 14 November 565 AD) actually compiled a cohesive code of laws called, surprise, surprise, The Justinian Code which was the foundation for all law in the western world. For example, law #1 went something like: “Thou shalt build facilities for my collection of captured infidels and heretics.”

But times have changed, and while many of these laws were fitting back in 500 AD, these days they need to be updated. Hence, the SSA.