Everybody Out: Manchester Self-Storage Renters Displaced By Property Developers

Sep 1, 2014

Elpidio Torres and John Fait load their truck with Torres' family belongings.
Credit Emily Corwin / NHPR

  Labor Day was one of the last days customers had to move their stuff out of Extra Space Storage, a self-storage facility in Manchester.

The Manchester mill building that contained the storage company was purchased a developer called Brady-Sullivan, which has  plans to convert the building into luxury condos. The closure came a lot earlier than expected, however, after lead dust was detected in the storage units in January during renovations on the upper floors.  

Diane Skinner and her friend Al say they got 25 days notice to come and get their stuff. Skinner says he is “Not happy. Considering I got two herniated disks, his back is out of whack, and we had to get a U-Haul.”

Carol Backus wasn’t thrilled either.

She and her husband have been storing things here for 10 years. Moving’s never fun, Backus says. She did find some treasures in her old belongings, however.  For example, she says, she finally went through some boxes her father handed down to her when he died.

“There were letters and diaries that he kept when he was in World War II,” she says. “And my grandfather was a supervisor in a CCC camp in the Smokey Mountains. There were materials from him, and that era, letters he had written to his family.”

To store it all, Backus has been paying about $130 dollars a month, which means she spent $15,600 storing her stuff here over 10 years. That, she says, makes her feel pretty stupid. The silver lining, Backus says, is “it can force us to do what we should have done a while ago and get some things taken care of.”

Backus is not renting a new storage unit.  But everybody here has a different story. Elpidio Torres is a homeless veteran. He and his friend John Fait are loading a truck with shopping bags of stuff. There are colorful sneakers, one of those vibrating dumbells, furniture, and a mattress. All of it is headed to another storage space in Nashua.

Torres says he and his wife have been separated for 10 years, and neither of them have anywhere for the stuff to go.  For Torres, that’s because lives in an apartment provided by the Veterans’ Administration. “The apartment is furnished,” he says, “so they won’t allow us to take all this stuff in there.”

Times are tough for Torres, who’s 55 and unable to find a job. He says most of the things in this unit belong to his wife and daughter. Seeing it makes him sentimental. “My daughter, you know, her sneakers, her school stuff, her baby clothes that we never gave away, you know.”

Torres says although at $150 each month, the unit is pretty steep, he’s not getting rid of anything. He hopes he’ll find a job and get his own apartment, and have a place for things.  But, he says, that’s for tomorrow. Today, once they’re done moving, “we’re making plans to have ourselves a nice little BBQ, just enjoy the rest of the day.”

It is Labor Day, after all.