Here at A-1 Self Storage, we know our success is due to our wonderful team. The care they give our customers is unparalleled and we want to highlight their milestones along the way. Below is an interview with Susan, who is celebrating her 22-year anniversary with A-1 Self Storage.
Susan works at A-1 Self Storage in El Monte, CA.
Shannon: I heard that you will be celebrating 22 years with A-1 Self Storage this year. Is that right?
Susan: Yes, it is!
Shannon: That’s great. Has your position with the company changed much over the years?
Susan: It has changed! When I was hired I was an Associate Manager. Now I’m a Manager and have been since 1999.
Shannon: Has the company changed much since you first started?
Susan: The company has changed since I started. It’s grown quite a bit. They have acquired many, many stores and the technology has changed for the better. With technology changing, my job has always been changing as well. There are always different programs to learn, discounts, specials, and the rates have changed.
Shannon: Interesting. Has the company becoming bigger affected your work?
Susan: I’m busier. There are quite a few more tenants that we work with on a daily basis. We have a lot of movement: a lot of vacates and rentals. It just changes everything when you have more people to watch over. The customers are very kind and very nice. We do have some who aren't, but it’s just a matter of doing the work.
Shannon: That makes sense. Have you always worked at the A-1 Self Storage facility in El Monte?
Susan: I have mostly been at El Monte. I started here, then I worked at A-1 Self Storage in Paramount, California, for two years and then came back to El Monte. So in total, I’ve worked at this facility for 20 years.
Shannon: Do you know much about the history of the El Monte facility?
Susan: The Caster family purchased this store, they didn’t build it from the ground up. I think it’s the second store they purchased. A-1 Self Storage in Anaheim, California was first and then this one here. Going off track a little bit, back in the ’70s when I was a little girl, this facility was a hardware store and lumber yard. My father would bring me here when he was working on projects at home to pick up supplies. If you were to Google El Monte back in the ’70s or ’80s then you could probably find a picture of it, but it used to be Angel’s Hardware.
Shannon: Oh, wow! It sounds like you must have lived most of your life in El Monte then.
Susan: Yes, I lived here for most of my life. Then, when I got married, I moved to the state of Maryland, and then I moved back here. It’s funny, because I’ve been in El Monte forever and I went to El Monte high school and sometimes people that I know from high school or just from the town will come and rent here. Those people will also sometimes remember that this used to be Angel’s Hardware!
Shannon: That’s really great that you have such deep roots here in El Monte. Speaking of people renting at the facility, is there anyone in particular that has left an impression on you over the years?
Susan: You know, the ones that leave an impression are me are those that come to us that are in between homes. They are moving because the landlord said they are going to take their house back or something. So they come here, and it’s stressful to move, and it really leaves an impression on me when they come in and after three or six months of renting they tell me that they’ve found a new home! Life is hard. Life is very, very hard, and for them to be in a situation and raise themselves up and be able to save their money and find a new place or even purchase a new home, it’s a great accomplishment.
Shannon: That is true. You have a really positive perspective on things! Do you have any advice for someone who may want to become a manager or make self storage a life-long career?
Susan: I think having patience is a very good recipe for success here. Like I mentioned before, you have customers that come in and are very stressed. Moving is very stressful, so they come in and they may be very emotional. Could be anger or sadness. Here on our end, we need to handle situations with patience and humility. If someone comes in angry, we don’t know why they may be that way, but you just need to be able to get them through the process and help them in every way we can. It feels good when after the process is done and they come back a month or two later and they come in and you see them happy. A lot of people will open up to you after the first interaction. Us helping them and being kind helps them through their transition.
Shannon: That’s stellar advice. Is there anything else that you feel is important for success here?
Susan: Time management is also very important. Being a manager is not that difficult. There are just a lot of little things that need to be done. In self storage you are also assisting customers. You aren’t just in an office by yourself doing administrative work. You are also working with customers every day. Everything has to go by the law, and there is paperwork that is time sensitive, so you can’t let time get away from you. So time management is important.
Shannon: Why do you like to work at this company?
Susan: The company has been a good company from day one. Like I said, there have been many, many changes, but for the better. They have put money back into the company that they used to give to us within little perks. But for that reason, when the time came in 2008 when a lot of people were being laid off and the economy wasn’t doing so good, I was glad to be a part of a strong company. They didn’t say “We’re closing our doors, because we can’t afford it”. That’s one of the main reasons that I am still here.
Shannon: Do you like working in the self storage industry in particular?
Susan: It’s not the industry that attracts me. In the beginning, when I started here and my kids were small, it was convenient for me to go home, to their school for things like Halloween parades, award assemblies, all of that stuff. My kids got older and through the years you still have the mortgage that you’re paying, so I stayed here and it was close to home. I did go to college for a while, but because of the financial situation I stopped going. The job has always been here. It’s been a stable income for me. It gives me what I need in my life. I thank god every day for my job. This job helps me pay for my car, my home, the food on my table, and I’m grateful for all of it.
Shannon: It sounds like it has really been a positive thing in your life! Moving farther away from work and more toward your home life, you mentioned having kids. Can you tell me about your family?
Susan: I call them kids, but they’re not really kids. What do you call them when they’re older? My young adults? Ha! My Daughter has acquired her master’s degree and my son, the younger of the two, he’s actually going into the air force. Also, I just found out that I’m going to be a grandma! It’s my son’s and in May they are due. My parents and family are still here. My father is 81 and my mom is 74 and February of next year will be the two-year anniversary of them moving in with me. My job with the Caster family gives me a home for me, my son, daughter, and my mother and father. And we have dogs! It’s a very busy household.
Shannon: Sounds like it! Having three generations under one roof is impressive. What kind of dogs do you guys have?
Susan: They are all some form of Chihuahua. I have two, and my parents brought two, so we have four.
Shannon: That seems like fun! Do they all get along?
Susan: They do now! My daughter's dog, Jasmine, She was the head of the household. But then my dad’s dog Leighla sort of took over, so it was sort of a tough time for all the dogs. Now they all know where they belong. I guess when you merge families, everyone is just trying to find their place.