The Stars Of Storage Wars Before They Got Famous

There are approximately a million and one reality TV shows out there, and they can loosely be sorted into two categories. On one hand, there are the billionaires doing billionaire things in their mansions, private jets, and on their yachts. Then, there are the shows that feature the sort of nearly ordinary people it's possible to picture going through the McD's drive-thru ... not in a $100,000 car, and not for the first time. (Isn't this quaint? It's what they call a "Big Mac." It's what, like $1,000? Pocket change, Jeeves, put it on the gold card.)

The "Storage Wars" stars are definitely among the more relatable, everyday sort of people ... even if they are flashing an insane amount of cash when they bid on storage lockers that may or may not pay off in a big way. While not everyone can be a Kardashian, there's a chance that anyone can be a Dave Hester, right?

Sort of. Way back in 2012, NBC News reported that because of the popularity of the show, the prices of storage lockers had skyrocketed. Crowds were bigger, regular buyers were bailing because they knew the money just wasn't there at those prices, and values on the show were cited by experts as being on the high side. Still, anyone can go to an auction, and anyone can buy. So, for fans of the show, that brings up the question: What kind of "anyone" were the stars of "Storage Wars" before they made it big?

Dan and Laura Dotson

"Storage Wars," it turns out, is something of a cautionary tale: Pay attention to recurring images that pop up in your dreams, because there's no telling where it might lead. When Dan and Laura Dotson sat down with Monsters & Critics, Laura said the whole show started when she kept dreaming of cameras filming the auctions they ran: They realized that their everyday jobs had the potential to be some serious entertainment. By the time the first shows were ordered, the Dotsons had been at it for a long time. Both Dan's mother and grandfather were auctioneers, and in 1983, he opened his own business — American Auctioneers — doing exactly what he does on the show: Selling storage units. They knew what was going to work, and what wasn't — and who was just the sort of character the show needed.

Laura's background is a little different. According to what Dan told (which they own), she started showing up at auctions he was running to buy equipment for her restaurants. The first one she attended was in 1993, and although she showed up again the following year, it wasn't until 1995 that Dan asked her on a date. They were married in 2000.

Have they changed? Not really — aside from an overhaul in wardrobe, Dan says, "We're basically the same people we were before the show, and we still have a big business we're running every day, and our friends are the same."

Dave Hester

When it comes to the regular buyers, there's none that are perhaps more infamous than Dave Hester. With his "Yuuuuup!" and his lawsuits lambasting the show for being fake, it's easy to see why The Orange County Register was a little intimidated to talk to him.

He was, however, reported to be perfectly charming, and he was more than happy to talk about his pre-"Storage Wars" life. Hester gave them a tour of his Costa Mesa thrift shop called the Newport Consignment Gallery, and he's actually been in the auction/thrift/consignment business since the mid-1980s. According to what he told Online Storage Auctions in an interview, that's about the time he started using his "Yuuuup!" catchphrase: "I used to be a bid catcher at an auction house ... I used the 'Yuuup!' yell so the auctioneer would know I had a bidder." That's just the business, though, and he said that the first time he dipped his toes in the water was in 1969, when his father took him to his first swap meet.

Hester isn't just a bidder, he's an auctioneer, too — and has been bonded since 1992. It's something he's put to good use: In addition to donating to St. Jude's Children's Hospital for decades, he's also volunteered as an auctioneer at charity fundraisers.

Darrell Sheets

When RiverScene Magazine sat down to interview Darrell Sheets in 2016, they asked him how long he had been in the business. His response? About 40 years. That's not to say it was his passion from the time he was young, and Sheets went on to say that originally, he had owned his own landscaping business. He admitted: "I wasn't doing a good job, and the guy fired me." 

Sheets went back to ask for his job back, and while his client refused to re-hire him as a landscaper, he did introduce him to another way to make some money. An introduction to buying and flipping storage lockers came with a promise that it would keep Sheets going for the rest of his life, and it did. "He showed me this business and I never looked back. From the very first locker I ever bought, I tripled my money ... and I was like, 'Whoa. I'm onto something.' ... I'm forever indebted to that guy for showing me this."

Even before "Storage Wars," The Cinemaholic says that Sheets was already well-known in the auction circuit. In 2011, Sheets shared the story of a storage locker he bought in the late 1980s. When he started going through it, one of the finds was human remains, wrapped in plastic. Sheets said (via Outsider) that the police confiscated the whole thing, and he later learned that the unit was owned by a man who killed his wife, and left her there.

Jarrod Schulz

Jarrod Schulz might be one-half of the team known as the Young Guns for a good number of seasons, but before he found fame on "Storage Wars," he had a shockingly different job. "I was in the mortgage and real estate industry for, like, nine years," he told Iol. "Unfortunately, some time ago, the mortgage industry in California fell apart. I was still working for a mortgage company when I bought my first storage unit, and it was kind of just because I had nothing to do all day."

He went on to say that the next phase of his career was a slow evolution. A relative happened to work at a storage facility and gave him the heads' up about some of the opportunities that were there, and it wasn't long before he had bought so much stuff that he got a warning from the city about keeping so much "junk" at his house. The next step was a store, and by the time they were interviewed for "Storage Wars," the business was fully-fledged.

Starcasm says that mortgages and storage lockers weren't the only things in Schulz's early years, and cites police reports detailing a 1997 arrest for "felony possession of a controlled substance." They say that his original guilty plea to possession of methamphetamine and a 60-day sentence turned into a 16-month one after a parole violation for the same offense.

Brandi Passante

In 2020, @thedaddiary's Danny Jordan interviewed Brandi Passante about her two children, Payton and Cameron, and how life was different before, during, and after "Storage Wars."

Passante revealed that she had become a mother at 23 years old, and prior to kicking off her television career on "Storage Wars," she had been a stay-at-home mom who worked the occasional part-time job. She's spoken (via TV Show Ace) candidly about feeling like an outsider and never really clicking with the other mothers, and it was a sentiment she'd shared in another rare interview. On a YouTube broadcast of Spirit Talk Hosted by Shavaun and Sabrina, she revealed that she had felt like an outsider growing up, too, questioning even whether or not she was really a part of her family.

In an interview with Iol, however, she credited that family with making her feel at ease on the male-dominated set of "Storage Wars," saying: "I grew up with big brothers, so I can take them. It is interesting, though ... it feels like working on a construction site."

Ivy Calvin

ScreenRant says that Ivy Calvin was brought onto "Storage Wars" in 2012: The show needed a big personality to fill the big hole left by Dave Hester, and Calvin was the buyer they needed. At the time he was hired, he had already been running his second-hand thrift store, Grandma's Attic, for about three years. Before that, he had a wildly different career: He was an MMA fighter and a football player.

His official MMA record (via The Underground) is pretty short, and consists only of a single win by submission. And prior to that — way back in 1995 — the Los Angeles Times was doing a profile on 23-year-old Cal State Northridge linebacker turned San Jose Sabrecats newcomer Ivy Calvin. In spite of being described as an almost immediate fan favorite, Calvin was cut after seven games. The team's director of football operations, Terry Malley, explained that it wasn't anything personal or professional and that it had just been a numbers game. Unfortunately for Calvin, his time to shine had coincided with another player switching positions, another moving in from Orlando, and another getting off injured reserve. And just like that, Calvin was out.

Calvin talked about his pre-football life, too: "From the time I was old enough to pick up wood until I went to college, I was a lumberjack. My family used to bring wood to the paper mill. That's how we got by."

Mary Padian

Way back in 2012, Mary Padian talked to D Magazine about how she ended up on "Storage Wars," and it's the kind of story that almost everyone wishes would happen to them. Someone literally walked into her store — called Mary's Finds — and asked if she was the one who had put the whole thing together. She said: "And then, the rest is history!"

She hadn't even really watched the show before she was on it, and she brought a bit of a unique background to the show. Instead of other big stars who had been in the auction business for flipping, she had an eye for design — and it was an eye that she'd developed while working in New York City for Architectural Digest. She told that's where "Mary's Finds" came from: It was the name of the column she wrote under the guidance of Editor-in-Chief Paige Rense Noland. After going to college for photojournalism and leaving her home state of Texas for the Big Apple, she got her foot in the door at the magazine and — over the course of five years — worked her way up to Assistant Editor.

Once Noland retired, Padian said that it just wasn't the same. So, she headed back home with the goal of bringing her funky design style back to Texas, and was discovered for "Storage Wars."

Rene and Casey Nezhoda

In 2020, TV Shows Ace sat down for a chat with Rene and Casey Nezhoda. At the time, they noted they were one of the few old-school "Storage Wars" teams that were still at it, reaching out to fans via YouTube and social media. When asked why, their answer was pretty straightforward: It's what they had always done, long before "Storage Wars," and it was what they were going to continue to do.

"Other people got in the business after 2008 because they needed a job, but didn't really know what they were doing. We have been doing this our whole lives and Rene has been buying and selling since [he was] 11 years old."

At the time of the interview, they were looking forward to placing a $30,000 bid on a celebrity unit, but they stressed that part of the appeal of buying storage lockers was that it didn't take millions to get into. They know: They started their business with $1,000, grew from there, and stayed the best of friends all along the way.

Gunter Nezhoda

Rene Nezhoda's father, Gunter, joined him on quite a few episodes of "Storage Wars," but he absolutely doesn't have the lifetime of auction experience that his son did. His experience came from another place: Music.

When he sat down for a Q&A session on his YouTube channel, he talked about how music is where it's at. While answering questions that people had posted on some of his other videos, he said that it was entirely possible to set up a jam session with him and hire him to play in the studio and on records. "That's music in my ears, because that's what I get paid for," he responded to one person who asked about getting him to play on a new album. He also spoke about living and touring all over Europe: According to his Instagram, he was the former bass player for Pat Tracers, Leslie West, and Michael Schenker.

Barry Weiss

The network gave Barry Weiss the designation of "The Collector," and it was apparent early on that he was on "Storage Wars" not to make money — he was already flashing around enough of that — but to find some neat things. Collecting, he told the Huffington Post, really was in his blood. While he had been an antique collector as sort of a side thing for his entire life, his pay-the-bills job was in produce. "Wholesale fruits and vegetables," he clarified. "I owned a produce company, and we exported and imported, my brother and myself. I did that for years."

After nearly 25 years in the produce business, Weiss retired around 2009. According to Closer Weekly, he actually sold his way out of the business — which might explain some of his estimated $10 million net worth (via Celebrity Net Worth). After retirement, Weiss says that he spent around four years traveling and seeing the world, before a friend of his — who happened to be one of the creators of "Storage Wars" — pitched him the idea of being a part of it.

As far as the flashy style, showy custom cars, and unmistakable attitude, Weiss says that's not for the show — that's just who he is. "I've never really changed my style in terms of the way I dress for the show. That's one of the great things about this show ... everybody is pretty much — it's really how they are. And that's just how I was."

Kenny Crossley

Kenny Crossley was recruited onto "Storage Wars" alongside fan favorite Barry Weiss, and according to his own website, it was a huge jump that got him on the show. Before heading to Los Angeles, California, the New Orleans native was back home in the south, working a career in law enforcement with the Sheriff's Department. Sometimes, you just need a full-blown restart, so Crossley, deciding to give something else a chance, picked up, moved across the country, and got a job managing storage facilities — which led to the fortuitous meeting with Weiss.

That's not his only other career, either: Head on over to Airbit and check out the music-makers who have beats for sale, and Dualpersona is there under a profile that will sound familiar to "Storage Wars" fans: kennydoit. His bio says that he's been producing music for more than 12 years, with no signs of slowing down.

Shana Dahan and Edwina Registre

It didn't take Shana Dahan and Edwina Registre long to become fan favorites once they started appearing on "Storage Wars," and it was clear from the get-go that they weren't just business partners, but they were good friends. Those vibes are real, and according to The Cinemaholic, they go all the way back to when they were in high school together. Dahan was the new kid and had the good fortune to grab a seat on the bus next to the person who would become a lifelong friend.

They didn't start out planning to get into the antique/storage locker business out of school, and had very different paths to get to where they ended up. After high school, Dahan headed to the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, where she finished her Bachelor's — from there, it was on to finish a Master's in Business Administration. Registre, on the other hand, enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as both a combat medic and in the communications field, before enrolling in the University of Phoenix — the same college Dahan got her Master's from — for a degree in criminal justice and corrections.

The paths of true friends might diverge, but sometimes, people are lucky enough that they'll cross again. It was only after college and military service that they decided to give "Storage Wars" a shot, and the rest is television history.