Johnny Lisotta started selling bibles and encyclopedias in the mid. 50s while working his way through college. He was the number one bible salesman in the nation for seven straight years. When Johnny first went to the McAllen/Brownsville area to sell his Bibles he began to notice little storage facilities and his curiosity made him start asking questions to find out what they were for. He was told that these were used by Snow Birds, who were retired people from the North and Midwest, that would drive down to the Valley every fall to get away from the cold winters. When they left, they needed a place to store their personal belongings until they came back the following year. Johnny learned the basics of their business model by asking a lot of questions of the mini storage managers and touring some of the units.
The challenge was to figure out how he could make them work in his hometown of Beaumont, Texas. He chose the current College Street location because it was easily accessible and had good visibility. He personally knew several bankers in Beaumont that he approached about a construction loan. Since he did not have a business plan laid out in a manner they were familiar with, they didn’t understand the concept and how he was going to make a profit to pay back the loan. Subsequently all but one bank turned him down. The banker that approved the loan somehow was able to understand the concept. Several weeks later his formalized plans were completed and the construction loan and building permit was approved. He started construction on his first Mini Storage in 1971.
Johnny decided to be his own general contractor and developed not only the first mini storage in Beaumont but in the Golden Triangle as well. He decided to name them A-Lisotta Mini Stor-All so he would be the first listing in the yellow pages. Although there were initial concerns, the concept slowly started catching on. Once he proved that there was consistent cash flow to cover the debt and make a sustainable profit he was able to get his second loan. In the short span of 12 years he became the largest and most known Mini Storage Developer and Owner in the Golden Triangle with six locations totaling 2900 units.
The I-10 location in Beaumont with 670 rooms is home of the famous Lisotta’s sign. What he placed on the signs were sometimes controversial and attracted a lot of attention. As a matter of fact the Dallas Time Herald published an article about the impact it was having on companies and people’s lives in the Golden Triangle. Johnny’s signs touched on everything from national to local politics with a touch of his witty sense of humor. All of the local politicians who were running for office would ask Johnny for his support by endorsing them on his sign. Upon his death in June 2005, his daughter Teresa Lisotta Lee and her husband Elgin carried on the tradition of the Lisotta’s Sign. They continue to provide excellent service at a fair price. The sign is still there today, so keep your eyes open when passing by the 1-10 location. Your name may be on it.