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How did Joe and Donna get into Self Storage?

Joseph and Donna Krezdorn were the owners of Distinction Painting, Ltd. before getting into the storage industry. They specialized in new construction painting. Working for some of the largest builders in Berks County they built a reputation of high quality, low cost painting. In 1991 while painting in the Villages of Spring Ridge, Nestled between Van Reed, State Hill, Papermill and Broadcasting Roads just North-West of Wyomissing. One day while painting townhouses with no attic or basement in the spot where the Former Tulpehoken Dairy was located, Joe mentioned to Donna “Where do people put their stuff?”

Joe started doing research on Self Storage. This was before you could find everything you can think of on the Internet. After extensive research on Mini Storage, they both realized that it was going to be hard to finance without continuing to paint.

After many years and all but forgetting about Self Storage, in1997 they came across an opportunity to paint small jobs at a local Pretzel Factory. After many paint jobs there; including installing the giant Pretzel Factory Logo on the Silo outside of the factory, the plant Manager asked them to bid on 30,000 square feet of ceiling damaged by a fire. The bid was placed and awarded to Distinction Painting, Ltd. Unfortunately, the job was to be completed over the factory Christmas shutdown. They had to scramble to hire Sub Contractors willing to work over this time. This was no small feat as the Factory job required about 14 contractors to complete the job between the morning of Saturday, December 20th and the Evening of Saturday, December 27th, before they were to restart the 200 foot long ovens, all while trying to keep the home builders happy, too. Keep in mind Christmas was Thursday, so no one worked that day. In fact the sub contractors all left at lunch, after telling Joe they would work the full day. They painted several new homes and the ceiling in that short period of time. To everyone’s amazement and much stress it was completed before the Factory workers came in to fire up the ovens for the following week. After payment and a well deserved vacation in February, Joe and Donna decided to use the profits to buy land and start a Self Storage Facility, although they could not imagine the scale and costs of such a project. The dream could finally be realized.

They hired a realtor and started looking for land near their home in Bern Township. After several months they found the property DAK Self Storage is on today. Several things happened in this period of time. While walking the land with the realtor Joe asked about a sign on Route 61 (Centre Ave) because Dr.Hottenstien, the Dentist across the street, had a sign near where the Hoss’s Restaurant now stands. The realtor looked at the Public sale sign in the yard of the house on Route 61 and Peach and said “Why don’t you buy that and put a sign there?” When Joe told Donna about this idea her reaction was, “You want to buy a house to put up a sign? You are crazy.” Ok… I have toned down that quote to the PG version for this blog. Donna grew up with three brothers and worked with me in construction. Can you picture her exact response? During the auction for the house, as Joe was bidding and Donna was giving him dirty looks, the auctioneer was doing his chant and said, “You gotta live with her!” The house was actually purchased before the 3 acres of vacant land at the South-West corner of Peach and First Streets. This land turned out to be part of the Ferdinand Thun Empire. They owned large chunks of  land in Berks County by purchasing much farmland in the area; including the land where the Berkshire Mall now stands. This was funded through the profits of The Textile Knitting Mills in Berkshire Heights. If you drive over the Warren Street Bypass Bridge, just east of Reading, PA and look at the Railroad Bridge to the right, you will notice a sign for the Thun Trail.

The land contract was contingent upon the Borough of Leesport giving approval for a Self Storage Facility. That’s a story in itself. After many Leesport Borough meetings and changes to the Engineers plan, they finally got approval. They also decided it was time for a trip to Las Vegas for a trade show hosted by ISS (Inside Self Storage). This was a very informative trip, as they needed software to run the facility while they continued to work as Paint contractors. After returning they forged ahead with land development. Joe decided he would be the General Contractor on the job as he had done all of the leg work and pricing of the construction. The Bank would not approve a loan with that arrangement. The bank wanted all the liability issues to fall onto someone else. This fact alone added 10% to the  total construction. They hired Tony Folino of Pennaco Excavating as the general contractor. He was very kind in the fact he only added 10% onto any bill that passed through his office. That covered the additional insurance he needed and his company’s’ time. This could have been much more had any other general contractor been hired. (Thanks Tony).

One Saturday morning while driving over to the land,  Joe, Donna and the girls were joking around trying to come up with names. Aardvark was brought up so as to be first in a now fading thing called the Yellow Pages. They decided on the name DAK, the initials of Donna, Amanda and Kelly.

DAK Self Storage rented their first storage unit in December of 1999, with only 72 units available and a large outdoor gravel parking area for about 30-40 boats, cars and campers. The second building was erected in 2000 with 66 more units. To keep up with demand, the third and final building with 59 units was finished by 2001. This was the last of the outdoor regular units to be built.

One morning around 6:30 am just before Christmas in 2000 John Smith, the President of Forino Builders called Joe and Donna. John said he knew they owned DAK Self Storage and wanted to know if they had interest in the purchase of AOK Self Storage in Sinking Spring. After going over the numbers they realized the property had potential. Some tenants did not have a rent raise since it was built in 1991, and all the tenants were far under the going rate in the area. The property was purchased in 2001 with a loan from the bank and a second mortgage of 20% held by Tony  Forino and Ronald Landis, to be paid within five years. Ron, DAK Self Storage still gets calls asking for Ron Landis the owner of AOK Self Storage.

In the early 2000’s the demand for Heated and Air conditioned units started to grow in the area. So the
development of a new Climate Controlled building was started. Unfortunately, this took over the space for the outdoor parking. The way the land was sloped, they opted for a Bank Barn type of building in which the need for stairs or a lift were eliminated. Tenants could simply drive up to the upper or lower level doors to unload their belongings. Joe and Donna had the same issue with the Bank as in the past. The Bank Loan officer told him “no” to being the General Contractor. This time he dug in his heals and told him there are many other banks looking to loan us the funds for the project. The bank finally reconsidered saving the general contracting costs. Although, the price of the building went up $26,000 due to China’s growing economy.

 

The new building would have a keypad at each entrance to allow only tenants that rent in each level access to that floor. Outdoor tenant codes would not allow access. This zoning of the keypads even separates upper and lower floor tenants from getting onto the wrong floor. This in their opinion is just one more barrier to keep people away from your belonging that do not belong there. The First Unit L38 was rented late October of 2004 to a Pharmaceutical Sales representative. From the start of this project Joe insisted to Donna they would sell Distinction Painting, Ltd. when the new climate controlled building hit 30% occupancy. This happened far quicker than they expected and they started to inform the builders they could no longer paint for them. The last house was painted for Omega Builders before year’s end.

While continuing to manage the two facilities a friend, George Apsokardu, who is a realtor asked if they wished to sell AOK or both facilities. Donna and Joe discussed the sale and decided if George could get a set price for one or both they would sell. Keep in mind several other people asked this in the past and the answer was always, “No, this is going to be our retirement income, we can’t paint forever.” It was at that point they decided everything has a price tag. George marketed the facilities for about a year with many nibbles. In 2007, he found a buyer for AOK close enough to the set price they agreed upon. The buyer asked them to hold 20% and pay interest only payments for three years. After all that is how they purchased AOK Self Storage. What could go wrong with that? The market was booming. Again, that’s another story.

So to sum it up it takes a lot of hard work, determination and many sleepless nights to get into Self Storage.

Joe and Donna would like to thank the people and businesses mentioned above. Without their help and support they would still be painting. Maybe?

 

 

4 Comments
  1. The American spirit lives on, …way to take a chance and make something happen. Nice buildings!

    • Thank you Louis. You guys were a large part of the plan. You may not remember I told you, but one of your competitors came to our home, flipped open a binder with photos and began trashing his competitors. Donna got up and left the table and did not return. I tried to be nice and let him finish. I knew why Donna left. I felt the same way. He should have focused on the positive. They did not get the job. You did.
      While we were painting, builders would often ask us to come see a house to bid on. Then ask what we thought of another painters work. We always said it looks good or nice. After we left the job site, Donna and I always pointed out the same issues in their painting work. I guess great minds think alike.
      Sorry I did not get to mention Miller Buildings. I was looking for my start to finish photos and can’t find them. When I find them I may be able to do a blog on construction.

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