If storage unit walls could talk, oh, the stories they would tell. Take for example the maroon Mercedes. It sat in a unit month-after-month for years. When the storage unit rent had not been paid after so long and it was time for the unit to be opened, there she sat in all her beautiful glory. Why would anyone leave such a beautiful car behind?
“My daughter was an Aggie and she really wanted that car,” laughed Barbara Parry, co-owner of Stor-Galore along with husband Bob, and brother Ben Chilcutt. “When we looked into selling it, we found out it had been stolen off the floor of a dealership in Houston! The company had already collected its insurance years earlier, so it was up to us to dispose of it.”
Then there was the time 40 years ago, when their own home was broken into. Through a series of events, Barbara found out the thief was a high school drug user who had stored their goods in a Stor-Galore storage unit.
There are stories galore, pun intended, but as Barbara stated, those were back in the old days. When they asked their employees to live on site, those occurrences stopped. Now with the 24/7 security, lighting, and fencing, problems have been left behind.
In 1972, Barbara’s husband Bob was going to buy a construction company out of state, but her parents didn’t want them to go.
“My dad, Ray Toland, was an entrepreneur, a builder, and a contractor,” Barbara said. “He came up with this idea to build these storage units. Besides himself and my mom, Ada Toland, both of whom are now deceased, he included my husband and me and my brother Ben as partners. My mother simply wanted to keep one of her kids here.”
“We’ll do this,” mother said. “It’ll be good. You’ll see.”
And the fact is, she was right.
“It sounded like something we would enjoy doing and having,” Barbara continued. “I would be the bookkeeper and run it. We started out with a few hundred units. We’ve added on a few times and it has proven to be a successful small mom and pop family business for us for 48 years.”
Barbara credits a major part of their success to their employees.
“We feel very blessed we’ve had the same family working for us since 1972,” she said.
“First the dad worked with us and then the son-in-law, Leo, and his wife, Ida, followed in his footsteps,” she said.
“Everybody who rents from us is so happy because they love our employees,” she said. “They’re also considered part of the family because they’ve been with us so long. They’re so helpful and so kind. There are 533 units, and Leo knows who rents each unit by name. They feel safe with him there.”
Leo and Ida also keep up the grounds and take care of most all maintenance.
Sitting on the southwest corner of Fern and McColl, Stor-Galore was one of the first storage companies in town. Offering five sizes, 10’x5’, 10’x10’, 10’x20’, 10’x30’ and a few 10’x40’, there are specials for long-term customers.
“We have customers who have been with us for 10 to 15 years,” Barbara said.
With Barbara it’s not just about the business.
“I was born in McAllen and I love the city,” she said. “I’ve been a lifetime and active member of the First United Methodist Church of McAllen and a member of the McAllen Junior League. I was a member when we started the International Museum of Art & Science in a detention center before it was rebuilt into the beautiful museum it is now.”
She is also a member of P.E.O., Philanthropic Educational Organization, International which celebrates the advancement of women. Also, a member of a literary luncheon league, she’s proud it gives to a local cancer center and library. And these are just a few of the organizations she has been a member of in order to give back to McAllen.
Member of the Chamber for 36 years, it was her love of McAllen that helped her decide to join.
“I admire what the Chamber of Commerce does for McAllen,” she said. “I think they have done a lot for the city.”
She has stories of the units, stories of hope, stories of loss, stories of the auctions they have every two years for the units that haven’t been paid for in months or years. Some are sad, some leave you pondering what might have been.
There was the small unit that only held a cigar box full of cash, a couple hundred dollars, sitting alone in the middle of the room. Then there was the unit that had wedding gifts never opened, a wedding gown never worn.
Looking at the units sitting there in the daylight, they look like nothing to talk about. But, in reality, Barbara says it best, “There’s a lot that goes into the life of owning and running storage units.”