When Storage Wars arrived on the reality TV scene in 2010, it did so with a bang. As A&E shared in a press release (via The Futon Critic), the series premiere racked up a cool two million viewers, and it would go on to become the network’s biggest non-fiction show that year. Before long, rival networks were tripping over themselves to launch copycat versions. "There are now so many shows trading on this treasures-in-trash theme that there’s a risk good titles will run out before concepts do," USA Today noted at the time. Programs like Auction Kings and Auction Hunters came and went, however, while Storage Wars endured, largely because of its cast of colorful characters. And yes, it’s still going strong: Season 13 of Storage Wars kicks off on April 20, 2021.
Names like Darrell "The Gambler" Sheets, Dave "The Mogul" Hester, Brandi Passante and Jarrod Schulz (a.k.a "The Young Guns") became household ones as the seasons rolled on. Though, despite the fact that the show is over a decade old at this point, not a lot has been written about the past lives of the Storage Wars crew. What were they like before they found fame and occasional fortune bidding on the contents of abandoned storage lockers? Read on to find out.
Dan and Laura Dotson have never changed
As fans of the show well know, things can sometimes get a little feisty when the Storage Wars bidders start battling over a locker, and that’s when Dan and Laura Dotson have to crack the whip. It was the husband-and-wife auctioneer team that first captured the attention of the critics when the show began its run back in 2010, praised for their professionalism and winning personalities. "The attention the Dotsons command is impressive; tattooed toughs are hushed by Dan’s barrel-chested patter and Laura’s impossibly sunny demeanor," said USA Today in a glowing write-up.
Dan and Laura’s love story began — where else — at an auction. "I met her first in 1993," Dan said in an interview posted to the Storage Auctions website. "She would come and buy restaurant equipment because she was a restaurateur and owned a couple of restaurants. By the third or fourth time I met her, I realized I needed to ask her out and hoped my timing was right, and by the second date, she never left." Laura took over for Dan at an auction when he fell ill one day, and loved it. Life has changed a lot since then, but they’ve never let the fame go to their heads. "We’re basically the same people we were before the show, and we still have a big business that we’re running every day," Dan added.
Jarrod Schulz turned to auctions after his career collapsed
Jarrod Schulz of Storage Wars decided to start dabbling in storage auctions with former partner Brandi Passante when his previous career was cut short. "I was in the mortgage and real estate industry for, like, nine years," Schulz told IOL shortly after he and Passante shot to stardom. "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." Schulz and Passante (who share a son, Cameron, and a daughter, Payton) turned a profit and caught the auction bug. Before long, they had amassed so much stuff that their own storage units were at capacity.
"It started taking over the house and the city was like, ‘Hey, you guys should probably open a store because pretty soon we are going to start fining you for keeping the stuff at your house,’" Schulz recalled to IOL. They followed that advice, opening the Now and Then Second-Hand Store in Orange County together. A second location at Long Beach followed. "We were already out there running a business and buying storage units when we were approached by the executive producer [of Storage Wars] at an auction," Schulz said. "We were asked if we could speak for a few minutes on camera, and I guess we said the right thing!"
Brandi Passante had a ‘tumultuous childhood’ in Texas
Storage Wars star Brandi Passante had been separated from Jarrod Schulz for over two years when she appeared on YouTube show Spirit Talk Hosted by Shavaun and Sabrina in 2021. She happily dished about her love life when quizzed by the co-hosts (she’s been dating but hasn’t made a connection with anyone yet), and she gave viewers a rare glimpse into her past, too. The reality star revealed that she had a "tumultuous childhood" in Texas, where she often felt like an outsider, even at home. "I was constantly questioning if I was adopted or something, because I just felt like I never belonged in that situation," Passante said. "Some people just kind of, I guess, accept their lot in life, and I just never could."
She previously told MyLifetime.com (via Starcasm) that she was "shy as a child," which will likely come as a surprise to fans of Storage Wars and short-lived spin-off series, Brandi & Jarrod: Married to the Job. Passante has always held her own among the hustle and bustle of the boys, but she’s not like that when she’s out in public. The likelihood of being approached by strangers fills her with "anxiety" at times, she revealed to the outlet. Her Storage Wars fame has been both "a blessing and a curse," Passante told The Orange County Register. "Sometimes you just want to go to the grocery store and pick up some milk."
Mary Padian worked at a major magazine
Mary Padian joined Storage Wars: Texas in 2011 and switched over to the main series upon the spin-off’s cancellation in 2014. Nicknamed "The Junker" by A&E, the Dallas native graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in journalism and then moved to New York, where she landed a coveted job at a top magazine. According to the bio on her official website, Padian had a spell as Assistant Editor at Architectural Digest, where "she was mentored by famed editor-in-chief, Paige Rense." Five years later, she returned to Dallas and opened up a store called Mary’s Finds.
As her website bio notes, Padian sold "an eclectic mix of refurbished and repurposed furniture" as well as a selection of "unique vintage, handmade, and one-of-a-kind wares" in her store, which caught the eye of a Storage Wars producer who happened to be passing one day. "She came in and said, ‘Do you fix all this stuff up yourself?’" Padian recalled to D Magazine. "I was like, ‘Yeah.’ She didn’t tell me who she was or anything. The next day, she came in with someone else. They were just going to do, like, a how-to on their website. And then the rest is history." She’s best-known for her appearances on the main show nowadays, but Padian is still super close with the people she worked with on Storage Wars: Texas. "All the film guys are like my brothers now," she told the magazine.
Rene and Casey Nezhoda were always ‘the real deal’
Known as "The Bargain Hunters" on the show, husband-and-wife team Rene and Casey Nezhoda joined Storage Wars during Season 4 and quickly became fan favorites. Rene, who was born in Germany, discussed how he achieved the American dream via storage auctions in an interview with TV Shows Ace. "You get out of it what you put into it, and America provides you with the opportunity to work hard and then be successful," the couple told the outlet. "This business, really, anybody can do it."
The Nezhodas started their empire "with less than $1,000" to play with, and (unlike the majority of their Storage Wars peers, it would seem) business is still booming. According to the duo, that’s because they were always "the real deal" among a bunch of relative rookies. "Other people got in the business after 2008 because they needed a job, but didn’t really know what they were doing," the San Diego-based pair told TV Shows Ace. "We have been doing this our whole lives and Rene has been buying and selling since [he was] 11 years old. Plus, you can’t get involved in that ‘I am famous’ attitude." Casey is 24 in the image above (a snap of two old photographs that she shared via Twitter), while Rene is around "15 or 16," she confirmed.
Darrell Sheets worked in landscaping
Storage Wars star Darrell "The Gambler" Sheets has more than lived up to his moniker, creating some of the show’s most memorable moments by taking chances on units. They don’t always work out, but one such gamble paid off big time during the third season — Sheets shelled out $3,600 for a locker that turned out to be "a chamber filled with original art by Frank Gutierrez," according to History. "The drawings, paintings, and decorated objects were estimated by an expert as having a total value of somewhere near three hundred thousand dollars, making Darrell’s the most successful buy on the show to date."
The Gutierrez find marked a high point in a career that began when Sheets was told that landscaping wasn’t for him. "I wasn’t doing a good job, and the guy fired me," he told RiverScene Magazine. "I went back to him and said, ‘Hey, I need my job!’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m going to show you something else and you’ll make money for the rest of your life.’" That something else was, of course, storage auctions. He decided to give it a go, and immediately saw the potential. "From the very first locker I ever bought, I tripled my money," he said. "And I was like, ‘Whoa, I’m onto something.’" He had a health scare in 2019, so fans were thrilled to see him in the first Season 13 trailer when it dropped in 2021.
Brandon Sheets had big shoes to fill
The son of Darrell "The Gambler" Sheets used to go by the nickname "The Sidebet" when he was on Storage Wars. Brandon Sheets simply accompanied his knowledgeable father to auctions during the early seasons of the binge-worthy A&E hit, but as time went on he started to pop up himself and, on occasion, would even bid against the man who taught him everything he knows. Having The Gambler as his dad meant he was always likely to go into the auction business, but Brandon actually struggled to be taken seriously before his reality TV fame. "It’s a tough game to get into, more senior guys will try to run you out of the business if they don’t like you," he told History. "They’ll trick you into spending all your money on things that just won’t sell."
Brandon claimed that he would never leave the game ("I’ve seen my family’s life change from just one locker," he said during his run on Storage Wars, which lasted from Season 1 through Season 9, "I’m life-committed to this"), but he’s now working a far more regular job — The Sidebet, he confirmed in an Instagram post, is a UPS driver. "I love what I do, from customer interactions to making sure people are getting their products/merchandise," he captioned the work selfie. "This is what makes me happy."
Edwina Registre and Shana Dahan met on the school bus
By Season 11, Storage Wars was ready for some young blood, and that’s what led producers to longtime friends Edwina Registre and Shana Dahan. They joined the show in 2017 after their YouTube channel Thrifters Anonymous, where they’ve been sharing their rare finds and clothing hauls for years, came to the network’s attention. With an eye on unearthing what they like to call "new vintage" treasures, the duo (who are both insurance brokers by trade) quickly won over viewers with their energy and close relationship, which dates back to high school.
"Shana was the new kid in the high school orchestra who found herself a seat on the bus next to Edwina, another viola player," their A&E bio reads. "The two hit it off instantly and have been nearly inseparable ever since." Dahan went on to study at UNLV and later earned a Master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix, where her bestie also studied. Registre completed her Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and corrections at UOP and then decided to join the U.S. Army as a combat medic. "I had just turned 21 when I was deployed to Kosovo and Bosnia," she captioned a throwback pic from her military days. "I was there for quite a while and worked directly with tanker units."
Dave Hester has always been the ‘YUUUP!’ guy
If you assumed that Dave "The Mogul" Hester was pretty much the same guy before Storage Wars made him and his catchphrase famous, you’d be correct. According to The Orange County Register, the reality star "attended his first swap meet with his dad in 1969." The paper refers to him as the "bad boy of bidding" on account of his often abrasive onscreen behavior (he once got involved in a physical altercation with auctioneers Dan and Laura Dotson after he accused them of ignoring a bid). Hester had been in the auction business for decades when A&E approached him, and, like his fellow bidders on the show, he remembers the first time fondly. "I made good money and I was hooked," he told Online Storage Auctions.
He went on to get involved in the other side of the industry, landing himself a job as an auction house bid catcher. "I used the YUUUP! yell so the auctioneer would know I had a bidder," he explained to Online Storage Auctions. Hester’s "YUUUP!" quickly became synonymous with the show, and he fell into the role of resident villain. He was fired over a row about what he claimed were planted items after Season 3, but settled with A&E out of court and returned to the fold with a huge "YUUUP!".
Ivy Calvin was in MMA
Ivy Calvin began appearing at auctions on a semi-regular basis during Storage Wars Season 3, brought in to fill the considerable gap left by Dave Hester. He made a good impression in the time he was given and was rewarded with a regular bidder spot ahead of Season 5. It was a good fit for Calvin, who was once a promising football player; he signed for the San Jose SabreCats of the Arena Football League after a successful spell as a linebacker at Cal State Northridge. He became a SabreCat in 1995, and the team went on to win the American Conference West Division that year, but indoor football wasn’t Calvin’s calling. Neither was Mixed Martial Arts, though he decided to give that a go, too.
In his one and only bout, Calvin defeated Samu Samu by submission in 2002. Yet, like he did with football, Calvin quit MMA on a high. He left sport behind and set his sights on the world of auctions, selling the stuff he managed to snag for a profit. In 2009, he stopped delaying the inevitable and opened up his very own thrift store (the delightfully named Grandma’s Attic) in Palmdale, where the items that Calvin acquired on Storage Wars would later be sold. It was the success of his shop that put him on A&E’s radar, and he remains one of the show’s biggest stars to this day.