Photos by Libby Rogers
When Tom Conner moved to Huntsville a few years ago, he discovered he had a problem. He had some really big items that needed proper storage, but he couldn’t find anywhere in the area that could meet his needs. Every storage facility he looked at was either too far away or the units weren’t big enough or they were not fully enclosed. Being the entrepreneur Tom is, though, it wasn’t a problem for long. He decided to do what came naturally to him and created his own solution—Huntsville Big Storage.
A little more than four miles northwest of Texas Prison Museum on Highway 75, just before you get to Barney’s Country Store at FM 1696, sits a beautiful 12-acre pasture complete with wildflowers and a fish pond. It blends naturally into the countryside, and you’d miss the entrance if you didn’t know it was there. That works just fine for the customers of Huntsville Big Storage, who are storing some of their most precious belongings in the extra-large units tucked back behind an unassuming house that serves as the storage facility’s offices. The inconspicuous nature of the property, combined with a state-of-the-art security system, provides an extra layer of protection for the items being stored there.
“We offer a lighted, fenced facility that can only be accessed via a secure keycard,” Tom said. “We want to let people know we are committed to keeping our customers’ prized possessions safe.” The fact that Tom has his own possessions stored at the facility underscores that commitment.
The units themselves are exactly what Tom needed for himself, and they are what has brought people to Huntsville Big Storage. At 14 feet wide, 48 feet long, and 15 feet high, each unit is large enough to easily accommodate a large motor home, boat, trailer, or car. All of the units have electric outlets, and there are 220-volt plugs for RVs in six of them.
While there are just 25 units on the property currently, Tom’s track record as an entrepreneur indicates that it won’t stay a small facility for long.
“I create these children—these businesses are like little children to me—and I want to see them thrive,” Tom said.
And thrive they do. A native Houstonian with family ties to Australia, he moved to the suburbs of Sydney in 1967. After two years as a motorcycle mechanic and a brief stint working on outboard motors for boats, Tom moved 100 miles north to a town named Cessnock and opened his own Suzuki motorcycle dealership. A year into that venture, Tom was looking for some Suzuki jerseys for customer Christmas presents and could not find anywhere that made them.
“It was incredible. Nobody made a shirt in Australia with the name of a motorcycle on it. Everybody was racing in rugby shirts. It was crazy,” Tom said.
With an investment of just $690, he began his own motocross jersey company, Tycon Motocross Jerseys, which went nationwide within 90 days. The company owned the motocross jersey market for years and eventually expanded into other specialty clothing lines.
In the early 1980s, Tom and his wife Lyn moved to the Houston area. Tom worked as a service manager at an American Honda dealership for five years, and then left to start his own independent dealership for motorcycle parts, accessories and service. By the end of his first 90 days in business, he had a deal to become a BMW dealership, and before he even had a showroom, he made a big sale to some people at NASA. Kawasaki came in and offered him a franchise as well.
“It took about two years to make that transition, but in that time we went from a 1,200-square-foot shop to a 15,000-square-foot building—a 5,000-square-foot warehouse and a 10,000-square-foot showroom. We just exploded, just like the motocross clothing company,” Tom recalled.
Tom explained that the secret to his entrepreneurial success is that he and Lyn have always been able to see a need for something in the market—oftentimes beginning with their own need for it—and started businesses to meet that need.
“Like this (Huntsville Big Storage), it’s because there are no other storage units (this size) in town. With Tycon, you couldn’t buy shirts anywhere else. I’ve started two other businesses as well because you couldn’t get the product,” Tom continued, sharing a story of when his son was 13 years old and needed to modify a motorcycle cylinder. He couldn’t find good quality nickel-plated parts, and so he just decided to start a nickel plating business himself.
When the Conners moved to Huntsville three years ago, they weren’t planning to start another business, but rather to just enjoy retirement at their home in Elkins Lake. Fate prevailed, however, and they found themselves at it again with Huntsville Big Storage.
Tom anticipates the need for Huntsville Big Storage will grow as the community around it expands, and when that happens, they will be ready for it, with an additional four acres on-site that will enable them to build up to 100 more units.
Whether it stays at 25 units or grows to 100, Tom and Lynn manage their storage facility with personal service and a smile. According to Tom, their biggest challenge is just keeping it mowed, and he laughs as he shares how he and Lyn mow it together. “It’s just us!”
More information on Huntsville Big Storage is available on the Web at huntsvillebigstorage.com.
1735 Hwy 75N, Huntsville