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Breaking News

Self Storage Pioneer Don Temple Passes

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 5

A local entrepreneur who started the self-storage business nationwide and the first in the LA basin died early Friday morning in his sleep at a local hospital. Don Temple, 85, was being treated for a heart attack in recent weeks and – at last report – his health was improving.

Temple was born August 19, 1927 in Olatha, Kansas, and first arrived in Southern California as a member of the Merchant Marines during World War II. “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven” is how he would describe his first visit to Long Beach with Beachcomber Publisher Jay Beeler.

He opened his first self-storage facility with 200 units at 3750 E. Spring St. in 1969, next to a recreational vehicle storage facility started a year earlier. The number of facilities he was involved with grew to nine over the years, including a stake in an indoor parking facility near LAX, Auto Airporter, which was later sold by Temple to one of his three partners in that enterprise.

Temple got the idea for self-storage units from a businessman in Tempe, Arizona, who rented 100 garages for storage purposes to the "snow birds" who came south during the winter months from the north.

Today there are 46,000 such self-storage facilities operated by about 30,000 owners (mostly mom and pop) in the United States. The industry has $22 billion in 2011 annual sales, according to spokesman Tim Dietz of the Self Storage Association.

Without the benefit of a college degree Temple went on to make millions from his storage operations and investments. He was well-known for his philanthropic activities, including the creation of the Don and Ruth Temple Family Cancer Center near Community Hospital. Don’s first wife, Ruth, died in 1991 of cancer and he has been married to his second wife, Marlene, for the past 15 years, living in the Lakewood Village area of Long Beach.

The marriage of Don and Ruth Temple produced two daughters – Penny and Becky.

In July 1992 Temple was one of 22 pilots participating in a 12-plane Around-the-World Air Rally in his twin-engine Cessna 421C – one of 32 planes he owned and flew over the years with an instrument rating. The plane was specially outfitted with extra fuel storage tanks in the cabin area to extend its normal flying distance range. The average travel speed was 200 mph. Temple – whose birthday was the same as aviation pioneer Orville Wright's – used "The Ultimate Trip" as painted on the side of his plane to raise funds for Community Hospital.

In Russia he was very impressed with a teenage, female interpreter who spoke perfect English named Natasha Khrushova. Temple sponsored her to come to the United States and attend college with the help of former Congressman Steve Horn. She went on to obtain a masters degree and currently lives in San Diego.

"Don would often tear up telling the story about that experience and his 'adopted granddaughter' Natasha," said Beeler, whose firm, Beeler & Associates, publicized the air rally event and the marketing of Auto Airporter to Southern California travelers.

When Community Hospital closed in 2000 and reopened nine months later Temple became involved in raising money to make the reopening happen and served on its board of directors.

The Grand Event Center on Willow St. and a strip of stores in the southwest corner of Spring. St. and Palo Verde Ave. were two local properties owned by Temple.

"Whenever he was asked how many people worked for him Don would laughingly say 'About half of them,'" Beeler recalled and added "When asked about retiring Don would say 'I can't. Marlene still has a credit card.'"

Temple was inducted into National Self Storage Association's "Wall of Fame" in September 2009.

Temple’s granddaughter, Sumer Temple, has been involved in managing the three existing self-storage operations in recent years. They include the original Don Temple U-Store & Lock at 3750 E. Spring St., Long Beach U-Store & Lock at 3490 E. Spring St. and Lakewood U-Store & Lock at 2100 E. Market St.

The Rotary Club of Long Beach and the Executives Association of Long Beach were two organizations that Temple remained active in for many decades. He was a past president of EALB.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

[Updated 3/16/13, 5 p.m.]

Reader Comments

I am very sad to hear of the passing of Don Temple. He was an innovative businessman who cared deeply about Long Beach and contributed to our City in many ways. Don was very engaged in civic issues and was always positive. He was my friend and I will deeply miss him.

Mayor Bob Foster

This was very sad news. I always enjoyed when he came to our ESSBA meetings. He would tell the history of Spring St. and how he started in business from scratch. He will be missed. A few years ago I was bringing flowers to his daughter, Sumer, when we were working on the health insurance. Don says laughingly "Why flowers? No one died!"

I am grateful that I was able to meet him and to talk with him. He was a good and charitable man with his time and money. He even took the time to bring me a big bag of socks to give to the homeless. We will miss him.

Joan Stiehl
East Spring Street Business Association

Don Temple gave as much as he received for all to share. Community Hospital was just one cause he supported. He was a visionary who earned lots in the community and built a foundation for the next generation.

Sail on Don.

John Patrick McNaughton