2011-11-25 / Front Page

Storage Wars Texas

Staff Writer

Ricky Smith, left, and Bubba Smith will be stars of the new A&E network’s newest reality show, “Storage Wars: Texas” when it airs in December. 
COURTESY PHOTO Ricky Smith, left, and Bubba Smith will be stars of the new A&E network’s newest reality show, “Storage Wars: Texas” when it airs in December. COURTESY PHOTO Buying and selling is in Ricky Smith’s blood. It’s something the Lampasan has done most of his life.

Early on he watched his mother buy and sell, and Smith knew it was something he wanted to do and could do well.

Now, after nearly four decades in the business, others are taking notice, as the veteran salesman and auctioneer has captured the attention of television producers.

Beginning in December, Smith might find it hard to go out in public without being recognized when “Storage Wars” fans spot him and his nephew/business partner Bubba Smith on the air week after week buying and selling lockers for the A&E spinoff ”Storage Wars: Texas.”

The original “Storage Wars,” set in California, is the television station’s most popular reality program ever to air.

Its counterpart will highlight buyers and sellers in the Lone Star State when “Storage Wars: Texas” is broadcast the first time Dec. 6 at 9:30 p.m.

Ricky Smith said with airing of the show, Lampasas will be thrust into the spotlight because the community is where the new television star and his nephew run their business.

Sixteen episodes will be aired, with an option for 10 additional episodes.

And if the original television series is an indicator, the Texas version should be just as popular with audiences who subscribe to the notion that “everything is bigger in Texas.”

The Smiths’ claim to fame began after a friend of Ricky’s said he wanted to try out as an auctioneer when A&E put out the word that the TV network was seeking Lone Star State talent for a second take on “Storage Wars.”

The friend asked the Smiths to take part in filming a video the auctioneer wanted to use as his promotion for A&E.

After the video shoot in Salado was submitted, Smith’s auctioneer friend called to tell him that A&E was interested in both Bubba and Ricky Smith.

A call to Nat Knight, line producer for both “Storage Wars” shows, followed, and in early spring a film crew was hired to tape the Smiths in action at a storage auction in Dallas.

“After she interviewed us on the phone, Nat said she would call us within 10 days to two weeks,” said Ricky Smith. “It wasn’t 30 minutes later she called and said they wanted us to move to the next level. Out of several hundred, we were chosen to move on.”

A&E asked to see more.

Smith’s wife, Jeanie, shot some film of the storage locker buyers in action at an auction. In addition, Smith demonstrated his auctioneering skills.

“They asked me why I thought I would be good for the show,” Smith said. “I told them I bring an unfair advantage over the competition because I have been on both sides. I have been an auctioneer, and I have been a buyer in the crowd, and I have 38 years’ experience.”

After another round of calls to A&E, the Smiths got the go-ahead, moving them closer to reality television.

They also learned the producer of “Storage Wars,” Steve Robillard, planned a trip to Lampasas to meet the men in person.

Ricky Smith then got the phone call he had been waiting for.

“Steve said, ‘’This is a job, it’s a commitment. You will be working for me. Can you two commit to this? Do you think you can do that?’

“Of course I said yes,” said Ricky Smith. “And he said, ‘Welcome to the Storage Wars family.’ Boy was I shocked.”

Smith said after watching a playback of the first taping, he turned to his wife and said, “Can you believe this? They have a show about something I’ve done forever.”

Smith said the popularity of buying storage lockers has grown as the popularity of the show increases.

“At every sale, the crowds get bigger and bigger,” he said. “People really want to be a part of buying and selling.”

On July 6, the Smiths taped their first episode of “Storage Wars: Texas” at an auction facility in Dallas, and they have been taping each week since.

“After the third episode’s filming, A&E [executives] called me and said they had big news.” Smith said. “They liked what they saw so much that they ordered eight more episodes. They said that is an exceptionally good sign of a successful program – ordering more episodes before the first show has ever even aired.”

And it’s been a busy ride ever since – especially for Ricky Smith.

In addition to “Storage Wars: Texas,” he was tabbed to star in a commercial for Subway, the fastfood sandwich shop.

Two 30-second commercials were filmed with Smith and several “Storage Wars: Texas” stars that will air prior to the start of the “Storage Wars” spinoff’s first airing.

Said Smith of his ride to fame: “I have met so many wonderful people and been to places I never thought I would go. It has been very interesting and exciting.”

Lampasas residents who watch the show will recognize a number of the community’s landmarks.

The A&E crew filmed in various locations around the community, including Courtyard Square, West Third Street’s Silk Stocking Row, at Cloud’s Warehouse where the Smiths sell the storage auction items they purchase, and at entrances and exits in and out of Lampasas.

“As we were driving, the film crew was in a vehicle next to us shooting film.” said Smith.

“We mention Lampasas a lot. It’s definitely going to put us on the map. The crew has shot here numerous times, and Lampasas is mentioned literally hundreds of times.”

Filming also took place at Oakalla where Smith serves as chief of the volunteer fire department. During the community’s annual barbecue and auction fundraiser for the department, he served as the event’s auctioneer.

Working in and giving back to his community is important to Smith. At the conclusion of storage sales in Lampasas, the family donates items to local charities.

“It’s important for us to support our community,” he said. “And it’s very meaningful for us.”

The Smiths’ new gig on “Storage Wars: Texas” also has afforded the Lampasans an opportunity to meet the stars of the original series.

Ricky Smith and Bubba Smith were guests at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas where the original “Storage Wars” crew and stars taped a special episode to conclude its first season.

“I met Darrell and Brandon [Sheets], the father-and-son team in ‘Storage Wars,’ and we had a big conversation,” said Ricky Smith. “Bubba and I rode with them to the set for filming of their special. It was an amazing experience on the set. We got to go into the Green Room, where the show’s stars go before they are on set.”

Then, said Smith, the other characters from “Storage Wars” began to show up. He met Barry Weiss – the show’s elder statesman – and Dave Hester, who came complete with his own security team. Hester is considered a nemesis of the other buyers.

Smith also met Jarrod and Brandi Passante Schulz. Brandi is a San Antonio native, so she and Smith hit it off well, he said.

The Schulzes own a recently expanded resale shop in California and have started their own clothing line.

While Smith said his experiences thus far have been wonderful, he hopes the adventure doesn’t end anytime soon.

“It is said that for a reality show, you can usually count on about a 50 percent chance for a second season, and a 25 percent chance for a third season,” he said. “I would love for it to go on and on. But if it doesn’t, I have had a tremendous ride. It has been unbelievable.”

While the original “Storage Wars” is the gem of the A&E network, Smith hopes “Storage Wars: Texas” also scores gold with the audience.

“Anybody who watches to see what Dave and Darrell find is going to want to watch ‘Storage Wars: Texas’ to see what Ricky and Bubba find, and we find some really good stuff.”

Auctioneering gets the blood pumping, Smith said, but it’s finding good items that keeps things exciting.

“This is reality,” he said. “I’m no actor. We do what we do to make a living and to take care of our families.

“But if we can have some fun in the process, then that’s a real bonus.”

From prosthetic legs to illegal drugs to expensive jewelry, Smith said he and his partner have uncovered all kinds of items after purchasing storage lockers.

“And some of them are just unbelievable. You will just have to tune in to see what we find.

“That’s why people love ‘Storage Wars,’ ” he said. “It’s the thrill of the hunt. It keeps us coming back, and we hope it will keep the viewers coming back, too.”

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