Derrel’s Mini Storage founder dies at 88
It’s difficult to drive through Fresno without finding a piece of Derrel J. Ridenour’s legacy along the way. Thanks to his mechanical and business skills, and aided by a partnership with his son, the namesake of Derrel’s Mini Storage spent most of his life setting the foundation for a Valley empire.
Mr. Ridenour, who built his businesses with a “do-it-yourself” motto, died at his home on Aug. 9. He was 88.
Mr. Ridenour came to the Valley as a teen from Puxico, Mo. Growing up during the Great Depression, Mr. Ridenour realized early on that he had to find a way to make money in order to escape poverty, said his son, Derrel A. Ridenour.
After graduating from high school in Tulare, Mr. Ridenour headed to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, to study welding as part of a Depression-era job training program.
He put those welding skills to use in the 1950s when he started an ornamental metal supply company that evolved into Staircraft, a company that developed a quicker and cheaper way to build stairs for apartment complexes.
In the early 1960s, Mr. Ridenour acquired a piece of property near Herndon and Villa avenues that would become the start of a business empire. Mr. Ridenour’s son constructed a fence around the property and they rented out space to contractors for supplies and equipment.
In 1963, Mr. Ridenour added a storage building for contractors but found that residents were renting space and storing furniture and other belongings when they were moving.
Soon after the first Derrel’s Mini Storage opened, Mr. Ridenour and his son saw a competitor open — and quickly fill — a mini-storage facility on Clovis Avenue. They saw an opportunity.
Their self-storage venture grew with the help of Staircraft workers, who built storage buildings whenever the stair company had downtime, the younger Ridenour said.
In the late 1970s, Mr. Ridenour left the stair business and partnered with his son, who began running the company full time with hopes of expanding. But banks refused to loan money to a business built on a “fad,” Derrel A. Ridenour said.
Derrel’s now has 56 self-storage facilities from Sacramento to Bakersfield.
“We mortgaged our homes and did everything ourselves,” the younger Ridenour said. “[My father] grew up during the Depression and he had to do everything himself. It was something he passed on to us.”
Derrel J. Ridenour
Born: March 24, 1924
Died: Aug. 9
Occupation: Founder and owner, Derrel’s Mini Storage
Survivors: Sisters Geraldine Giotto and Peggy Parker; daughter Dianne Dalich; son Derrel A. Ridenour
Services:Friday at 10 a.m. at Whitehurst, Sullivan, Burns and Blair Funeral Home
By Alex Tavlian