Forget the phrase “as American as apple pie.” We should really be saying “as American as self storage.” While self storage isn’t unique to America, it certainly thrives here. Ninety percent of the world’s self storage is in the U.S. One out of every ten American households leased a storage locker somewhere at any given time.
Even self storage’s origin is categorically American: sons of immigrants leaving the farm to strike it rich in the big city. The first storage facility in America was created by Martin Bekius, who moved off his family farm to the nearby city of Grand Rapids to work as a teamster. Martin eventually changed his name to Bekins to sound less Dutch (his parents’ names were Sjoerd and Triertje) and founded Bekins Van Lines, one of the first companies to specialize in moving household goods and still one of the largest moving companies today. In a bid to show his clients how safe their possessions would be under the care of his company, Belkins developed large, fortress-like warehouses in highly visible areas. Eventually, they would start renting these out in a similar fashion to what we now call self storage.
The warehouse on 929 S. Brand Blvd. in Glendale, California, is typical of the architectural style that Bekins chose for his self-storage facilities.
Since then self storage has developed into a massive industry. Americans spend just under $40 billion on self storage annually; the total square footage of rental self storage space is 1.