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What The Cast Of Storage Wars Looked Like Before Hitting It Big

Who'd have thought that there could be so much drama in putting old things up for auction? Based on the legality declaring that people forfeit their storage lockers after a certain number of days, A&E's "Storage Wars" follows a group of bargaining experts as they compete to find the best hidden treasures to auction off. First airing in 2010, it's a reality show that has no shortage of drama — on and off camera. Cast members have had frequent physical altercations, set bidding war pranks against each other, and either lost out or hit the big time with unexpected fights. As a result, key figures have been able to rake in the big bucks and set themselves on brand-new paths.

Behind the scenes, things haven't been smooth sailing either. "Storage Wars" has often been surrounded by controversy, from cast deaths and accidents to allegations about the show's transparency. Though the program is full of big personalities that fuel the drama, the cast wasn't always shuffling around in storage lockers and hoping for the best. From promising football stars to former journalists, here's what the cast of "Storage Wars" looked like before they hit their TV stride.

Darrell Sheets

As the daddy of "Storage Wars," it's difficult to imagine the show without Darrell Sheets. Affectionately termed "The Gambler," Sheets went big even before his time on the show. Born in California in 1958, Sheets accrued a number of skills over his 30-year career that are on full display on "Storage Wars." He'd seen his share of unpleasantness long before — according to an interview with the former magazine Reality Weekly, he once found a plastic-wrapped human corpse in 1988. It's not a memory that Sheets looks back on with glee. "It wasn't a pleasant situation," he recalled. "But in this business, it does happen. I've found ashes, coffins..."

While Sheets recalls happy times with his family in his childhood — with fond memories of brand-new bike he particularly appreciated as a 9-year-old — it wasn't until later that he came into seeking out treasures. During an interview with RiverScene Magazine, Sheets revealed that his beginnings had started in landscaping, realizing that he could make money from storage auctions after being fired from a previous job. His gamble paid off in the end, with Sheets finding some of the most lucrative deals ever seen on "Storage Wars." Though he had a health scare in 2019, he later returned to the show in 2021.

Brandi Passante

Possibly best known for making up half of the duo known as "The Young Guns" on "Storage Wars," Brandi Passante has a backstory that's much bigger than just marrying into the business with her ex-husband, Jarrod Schulz. Growing up in Texas in the '80s, Passante described her childhood as "tumultuous" in an interview with the YouTube series "Spirit Talk Hosted by Shavaun and Sabrina." Though her younger days sound like they were relatively carefree and happy, Passante described spending plenty of her earlier years feeling as though she couldn't settle for what she had.

She definitely grew up with a competitive nature that put her in good stead for her time on "Storage Wars." "I grew up with brothers, and they used to beat the crap out of me when we were younger, and I think that toughened me up a bit!" she said in a 2013 interview with Lifetime Moms. Before juggling motherhood and rival men on the show, Passante was scouted to appear thanks to her secondhand store in Orange County. Speaking to The Saline Courier, Passante recalled, "We really didn't think it would go anywhere, but it became a big deal."

Jarrod Schulz

As the other half of "The Young Guns," Jarrod Schulz has had a lot on his plate in recent years. Way before Schulz and his ex appeared on "Storage Wars," they first met back in 1999. In an interview on "The Mystery Men Show," Schulz recalled their meeting differently from Passante. "I was Brandi's boss. My boss hired her, and then she pretty much stalked me after that." This was later expanded on in The Philippine Daily Enquirer, with Schulz adding, "Obviously, I don't get by on my looks! So I gotta be witty. I have to do things to compensate."

Before appearing on "Storage Wars," Schulz and Passante ran a secondhand store called Now and Then, which later expanded to a second location. Speaking to IOL, Schulz explained that their move to being in front of the camera was never the game plan, with their stores evolving as a result of keeping auction stuff at their house. "Everything evolved out of necessity for us," he said — which could also explain fate's hand in an executive producer of the show asking them to speak on camera for a few minutes shortly after. While their early relationship feels playful and affectionate, Schulz later faced charges of domestic violence against Passante in 2021.

Dave Hester

It might seem as though Dave Hester has always been a guy with a "Yuuup!" cap stuck on his head, and that's actually not too far from the truth. Introduced in the very first season of "Storage Wars," his reputation as a mogul has created a trademark that fans can literally buy into. Before the hype, his love of all things auctionable arguably began in his family home. In an interview with Online Storage Auctions, Hester explained, "I was raised around a house full of Lionel Trains, so when I see them it brings back good memories." It's also how he remembers making "good money" on the auctions themselves, later becoming hooked.

Long after his first outing as a bonded auctioneer in 1992, his legacy of being abrasive and often boisterous continued to blossom during his time on "Storage Wars." Taking up the role of the show's villain, Hester was later involved in a lawsuit that was settled for an undisclosed amount in 2014. If that wasn't enough, he ended up being fired from the program itself, after making claims that "Storage Wars" was completely staged.

Laura Dotson

She may look like a young woman having the time of her life on "Family Feud," but Laura Dotson grew up to be one of the American Auctioneers on "Storage Wars." Having hosted over 1,500 auctions with her husband Dan Dotson outside of the show, Dotson told "Monday Night Carlo" that her start on the auction podium was all thanks to him. "I was in the restaurant business buying restaurant equipment, saw Danny 18 years ago, fell in love, our eyes met, and it's been history ever since." Dotson described almost immediately selling her business to try and keep up with him while clerking before Dan's mother threw her into the deep end to cover his auctioneering.

Dotson frequently implies that the pair's success comes down to the dynamics of their marriage. In an interview with The Huffington Post, she discussed their time on the spin-off show "Storage Wars Canada," saying, "None of these auctioneers are as high-energy as my husband. On the other shows that we weren't part of, the auctioneers weren't as charismatic as Danny or as vivacious, and they were actually using our voices over theirs." Laura still helps Dan to run American Auctioneers, which was founded in 1983 and continues to expand.

Barry Weiss

Though this photo featured on an episode of "Storage Wars" might show a young man who is unrecognizable, the luscious locks of Barry Weiss have held firm over time. Joining the show in 2010, Weiss became known as "The Collector" before spearheading his own spinoff series "Barry'd Treasure" in 2014. Known for his habit of keeping treasures rather than choosing to auction them, Weiss explained in an interview with the YouTube channel ISHOOTPEOPLE that he was persuaded to film the pilot after a trip to a Formula 1 race. "The other people [in the cast] had done this for a living. I had never met them until the first day of filming ... As you can see, I don't take it nearly as serious as the others."

It's perhaps Weiss' vastly different life before "Storage Wars" that means he's able to have more fun with the show. Speaking to AOL (via Life and Style Magazine), Weiss explained that he formerly owned a produce company, which is where the bulk of his money comes from. "I was in the produce business for 20‑25 years, and I retired about four years ago. I just was traveling around the world and enjoying life, really." Though Weiss was involved in a nasty motorcycle accident, he was able to bounce back stronger than ever in Season 13.

Brandon Sheets

As the son of Darrell Sheets, it makes sense that a skill for finding treasures is in Brandon Sheets' blood. Initially brought into "Storage Wars" to accompany his dad, Sheets was eventually able to branch out on his own before swapping the auction life for interacting with customers daily as a UPS driver. Born in 1983 in North County San Diego, Sheets' appreciation for his father's work started young. "I've seen my family's life change from just one locker. I'm life-committed to this now," Sheets stated in an interview with History.

Before he eventually left "Storage Wars" surprisingly early due to suspected financial issues with A&E, Sheets was well aware of how grueling the auctioneering game can be. "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." It's a shame that viewers no longer get to see the Sheets duo teaming up — or occasionally bidding against each other in a storage family standoff.

Dan Dotson

As the face of America Auctioneers since 1983, Dan Dotson is a true stalwart in the game. Speaking to Famous Interview, he recalled first meeting his wife Laura with total affection. "I'm flirting with her big time. I'm auctioneering. I'm down there working stuff. 'Hey look at that blonde-haired, green-eyed girl. You and I would make a good couple' or whatever. Anyway, we just left and that happened about three years ago." Dan and Laura's partnership has been instrumental in shaping the legacy of "Storage Wars," with the couple even going on to star in the spin-off series "Storage Wars Canada."

The same interview reveals how the A&E network first spotted the Dotsons, all the way back in 2009. "We've invented ourselves in this industry. We've been in Self-Storage for 25 years. After ABC, NBC, and KCGL did this thrift economy story we had 20 separate production companies contact us in 18 months. Thom Beers was Number 16. Laura and I had been to contract with two other production companies six months at a time. Both of them failed." Three weeks later, the A&E concept made its way to the couple, who cite the cross-section of the team involved as the reason for its success.

Mary Padian

Before Mary "The Junker" Padian joined the main cast of "Storage Wars" back in 2014, she was originally drafted for the short-lived spin-off series "Storage Wars: Texas." Before stepping in front of the camera in Dallas, Padian previously worked at Architectural Digest in New York, as she told "Totally Driven Radio." 

"I started out as the assistant to the Editor-in-Chief, Paige. She was awesome and really wanted to promote me, and thought I had a great eye." From there, Padian started her own video series for them titled "Mary's Finds," before investing all of her time into the idea and opening a store.

Though she's now best known for being one of the most-liked buyers on "Storage Wars," fame arguably found its way to Padian much earlier on. During an appearance on "The Mystery Men," she explained that she once lived with Jenna Bush while she was the first daughter. Having met while they were in college, Padian also hinted that she spent time within Secret Service protection while hanging out with Bush. "It was crazy, but it was her life. She didn't choose it. She was indifferent to it. It was fine but it wasn't."

Casey and Rene Nezhoda

Having been married for the better part of two decades, Casey and Rene Nezhoda have brought their bargain-hunting dynamic to "Storage Wars" since its fourth season. As one of the longest-standing duos on the show, the pair put their continued success down to staying authentic since the beginning. "Other people got in the business after 2008 because they needed a job, but didn't really know what they were doing," Casey 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. We are working just as hard as we always have!" 

With the pair still active on their YouTube channel (which boasts 180,000 subscribers), the Nezhodas' reputation for treasure hunting has been present from the word go. Not only did they buy a locker that once belonged to Farrah Fawcett, but they also doubled down on value when they acquired Lamar Odom's storage unit in 2018. "We have a happy, grounded, family relationship and I think that helps a lot. For us, it just works!" they told TV Shows Ace.

Ivy Calvin

Known as "The King" of "Storage Wars," Ivy Calvin has been a recurring figure on the show since Season 3. Known for his aggressive and well-planned bidding techniques, Calvin's groundwork put in beforehand stood him in great stead to compete. He started out by opening his own thrift store called Grandma's Attic, which now has a huge digital presence through Calvin's Facebook page. Though it was initially founded as a way to supplement his income, it led to Calvin frequenting his local auction scene — giving birth to his nickname "The King of Palmdale."

Before he dabbled in finding treasures and auctioneering, Calvin's life looked completely different. He spent much of the '90s as a promising football player, eventually signing to the San Jose Sabrecats in 1995. Though Calvin's time on the field didn't last for too long, he also decided to give mixed martial arts a spin, clocking up one cage fighting win back in 2002. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times at age 23, Calvin explained the significance of his signed football helmet: "I wear it so no one forgets who I am." Thanks to his hard work on "Storage Wars," that certainly is never going to be the case.

Emily Wears

One "Storage Wars" star who made an impact on fans despite a brief amount of screen time is auctioneer Emily Wears, who was a main cast member in Season 10. Though she didn't appear on the show until 2017, it wasn't the first treasure-related reality show to feature her talents. Wears was originally a cast member of "Money Barn" back in 2013, which followed auctioneers as they traveled across the U.S. to find collectibles and artifacts. According to her blog, it was this stint on "Money Wars" that led to her being scouted for "Storage Wars." 

Though she now spends a great deal of her time raising her family, Wears has never strayed too far from her auctioneering roots. Learning the computerized clerking system at age 10, she graduated from auctioneering school and went on to win numerous awards for her work. Wears then went on to work at benefit auctions across the U.S. before hitting our screens for the first time on Animal Planet.