Who is Mary Padian?
Mary Padian is a businesswoman and reality TV star, who shot to fame thanks to her appearances on “Storage Wars”. The stunning brunette, who was born in Texas in 1980, is affectionately nicknamed “The Junkyard Queen” or “The Junkster”, and well-known for her expansive collection of antiques which are sourced from storage units, auctions, and estate sales.
The media sensation’s entrepreneurial streak comes from her father, John Gerard Padian, who was a businessman in charge of a scrap metal recycling plant. Mary grew up in a two-parent household alongside her younger brother Luke, and surprisingly, isn’t the only famous member of the family: her uncle, Bady Sassin, is a famous Texas attorney, who has specialized in high-profile cases.
Mary, who boasts a large extended family with over 40 cousins, is of Irish-Lebanese descent. The antiques collector began working as an intern for D Magazine during her senior year in high school, and enrolled at the University of Texas to graduate with a photo-journalism degree in 2003. She then moved to New York City for a fresh start and better career opportunities.
Life in the Big Apple wasn’t all glitz and glamor, as Mary spent her first year in a new city, floating from job to job in search of a steady income. Finally, she struck gold – a role with the international design magazine Architectural Digest, where she was mentored by the founder and editor-in-chief Paige Rense.
— Mary Padian (@MaryPadian) June 26, 2014
Eventually, Mary became the magazine’s assistant director, thanks to her work ethic and unique abilities, and started her own section. “Mary’s Finds” included informative videos aimed at helping the magazine’s audience find or make attractive and affordable furniture. Despite things going great on the work front, the fast-paced lifestyle in NYC took its toll, and Mary decided to move back to Texas following Paige’s retirement in 2010.
Once in Texas, Mary made the brave decision of opening her own store, “Mary’s Finds”, featuring antique and refurbished furniture and other interesting finds. Although her store became famous in the area, it didn’t provide Mary with the financial stability that she yearned for, and so the hardworking businesswoman decided to close it.
However, just when the store was on the verge of closing, a producer from A&E Television walked in, and was charmed by its atmosphere and the history behind each piece; eventually, she offered Mary the chance to join her in a new and exciting project – “Storage Wars: Texas”, which ultimately ran from 2011 to 2014 and followed the lives of professional buyers; obviously, Mary said yes.
A fast learner, Mary made the most of being partnered with the experienced buyer Moe Pringoff, who mentored her and passed down valuable knowledge. Eventually, the pair began visiting auctions together in search of rarer items, and Mary became a fan favorite thanks to her cheerful attitude and creativity.
Thanks to the publicity and money she earned from the show, Mary was able to keep her store running when not busy filming. When “Storage Wars: Texas” finished, the media personality switched over to the original version, which was mostly filmed in California, and became a full-time cast member in season six.
NEW Storage Wars on A&E EPISODE ON TONIGHT! 9:30pm on A&E
Some of the brunette’s rarest finds to date include a pair of 18th century camel saddles from Asia, a trunk full of World War II memorabilia, and a pricey ceramic grenade from the Byzantine Empire. Mary’s love for vintage décor and junk items, which she discussed at length in a 2017 podcast, have helped her turn a profit on almost every storage unit she’s bid on, and to expand her business from local to international.
Mary currently resides in Los Angeles to focus on her career, juggling her ever-growing store with a jam-packed filming schedule, as well as selling her accumulated treasures at local auctions. Thanks to the exposure and positive attention she’s received in the limelight, the Texan has over 340,000 Instagram followers, and has also become a brand ambassador for Ancient Nutrition, Elderberry Hill, and Juice Bar Dallas to name a few.
“Storage Wars” & Lawsuits
In California, when storage facility customers fail to pay rent for three months, the entire locker goes up for auction. That’s where the lively cast of “Storage Wars” step in – and thanks to the show’s success, a whole subgenre of storage locker and auction programs has been born, such as “Baggage Battles”, “Container Wars”, and “Storage Hunters”.
Since its 2010 premiere on A&E, “Storage Wars” has earned the title of the channel’s top-rated non-scripted series, averaging over two million viewers. Cast members include Brandi Passante, Barry Weiss, Ivy Calvin and Brandon Sheets; most are professional buyers who make a living flipping the treasures they find in abandoned storage units.
Despite the occasional loss, popular cast members are paid handsomely for their time: one of the show’s stars claimed to be making $25,000 per episode. In fact, most of the original bidders have since become household names, and branched out into their own businesses, such as the husband-and-wife team Dan and Laura Dotson, who now run a private auctioneering company operating throughout California.
There’s never a dull moment on the show, partly thanks to its “bad guys”, with a prime example being Dave Hester. From picking fights with fellow bidders to raising prices on lockers he had no intention of buying, the sly businessman made himself a highly unlikeable figure, gaining further notoriety after filing a lawsuit against Original Productions and A&E Network, in which he complained of salting and fake storylines.
Apparently, Dave’s suspicions began when producers helped him “discover” valuable items – such as a BMW mini car, and a pile of old newspapers announcing Elvis Presley’s death – every time he won a bid. Dave accused the producers of planting said items in the storage units before filming, which is known as “salting”, and was promptly fired by A&E when the news hit the headlines and the show’s authenticity was questioned.
After filing a wrongful termination suit, and demanding $750,000 in damages, Dave gave a scathing interview, claiming to be uncomfortable participating in the “charade”. Other bombshell claims made in the initial suit were that the show paid for units of “weaker cast members who lack skills and financial wherewithal to place winning bids”, that most of the auctions filmed were actually fake, and that producers paid for one of the female cast members to undergo surgery, to give the show more “sex appeal”.
It’s interesting to note that instead of denying the harsh accusations, representatives of the network tacitly admitted to faking storylines and scenes. A&E also cited First Amendment protection in legal documenting relating to the lawsuit. Nevertheless, the lawsuit was settled in 2014 and Dave was welcomed back into the fold, which led some shrewd viewers and netizens to believe that this had all been an elaborate publicity stunt itself.
— Dave Hester (@davethemogul) January 17, 2019
Thom Beers, the show’s creator, also told a panel discussion that the show was roughly 50% scripted, and that pieces from several auctions would sometimes be consolidated in a single locker. Whatever the case, “Storage Wars” remains popular around the world, and most viewers don’t seem to mind its staged or exaggerated elements.
Many cast members of “Storage Wars” are colorful characters with big personalities, so it’s no surprise that some also hide a murky past. Jarrod Schulz, a veteran bidder, made headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2012, when news outlets began reporting on his criminal history. After being arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance, narcotics transportation, and a DUI in 1997, and landing in hot water for parole violation in 1999, the handsome media star served 16 long months in state prison.
Mark Balelo, a lesser-known former cast member who appeared in seasons two to four, also had his fair share of offscreen troubles. In December 2012, Radar Online reported that Mark had pleaded guilty to a felony count of selling or transporting controlled substances three years earlier. After being sentenced to three years on probation, Mark ended up in jail in 2011 after being caught with a gun – which came from one of the storage lockers he purchased on the show – and so violating his probation conditions.
Following another arrest in February 2013, this time for possession of a small amount of methamphetamine, the troubled celebrity committed suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s also reported that he was under the influence of said drug at the time of his arrest.
Brandi, believed by many to be the female cast member who underwent plastic surgery paid for by the show’s producers, was also embroiled in scandal when a man named Hunter Moore began distributing online a pornographic video claiming to feature her. Hunter is infamous for his website, Is Anyone Up?, which was launched in 2010 and made the concept of “revenge porn” mainstream. Users of the website would upload naked images and videos of their exes to publicly humiliate them; luckily, Hunter and his accomplice Charles were eventually sentenced to jail for cybercrimes.
Despite suing Hunter and seeking an astounding $2.5 million in actual and exemplary damages, as well as $5,250 in statutory damages, a judge reduced Brandi’s monetary compensation to $750, and issued a permanent injunction which forced Hunter to remove the content. Nevertheless, it was a very distressing and unpleasant experience for Brandi, who has discussed the incident many times over the years.
Barry, despite being relatively low-key, also faced public scrutiny after the actor and producer Jesse James had a public meltdown. Following his split from Sandra Bullock, Jesse was photographed during said meltdown wearing a Nazi SS officer’s hat while doing the controversial Seig Heil salute, and the images soon began circulating online, causing his popularity to plummet.
Embarking on damage control by going on an apology tour, Jesse gave several interviews explaining that the hat was a “gag gift” to him by Barry Weiss, described as a friend of the family, and his “Jewish godfather”, but then claimed that the hat was part of a Hollywood costume.
In his autobiography, the disgraced celebrity admitted to having begged Barry for support, but apparently the latter declined. Jesse claims that Barry said: “I got a show on A&E this fall… I can’t afford to get mixed up in all this crap. Sorry, Jess. You’re on your own, kiddo.”
Where Are They Now?
As mentioned, Mary now has her hands full with brand sponsorships, her lucrative store, and other projects in the pipeline. She’s also said to be in a serious relationship with an anonymous Texan.
So where are the rest of the cast?
Darrell Sheets, known as “The Gambler”, is known for purchasing a locker for $3,600 and discovering it contained works of art valued at $300,000. Despite being well-liked by viewers, and regularly making big profits on the show, he bowed out after a few seasons, and has now retired from public life.
As of 2022, the affable former star has lost over 40 pounds using a popular weight-loss method, and wants to inspire his fans to do the same. “Hope… is what motivated me to lose weight. Now I want to spread that message of hope to others,” he said in an interview. As Darrell is no longer active on social media, there’s no available information regarding his job or love life.
Brandon, Darrell’s son and another original cast member, grew up learning the business from his father, but was dropped by A&E in 2016 for budget reasons. The abrupt halt to his TV career led to Brandon relocating to Arizona, and becoming a licensed real estate agent. Also dabbling in content creation, Brandon has a prolific online series entitled “#AverageMiddleclass”, a spoof of MTV’s “Cribs”.
Ivy, a former San Jose Sabercats player whose dreams of becoming an NFL star came to a screeching halt after just seven games, was one of the program’s no-nonsense figures. After being dropped by the network to make way for new cast members, he used his newfound fame to open a thrift store in California, named “Grandma’s Attic”.
Last but not least, Rene and Casey Nezhoda are another husband-and-wife duo who joined the show in season four. The couple came equipped with plenty of insider knowledge thanks to owning and running a thrift store, but Rene’s thick German accent and their humorous banter is what helped set them apart from other cast members.
— Rene Nezhoda on A&E (@Rbargainhunters) May 23, 2022
Today, the Nezhodas run a YouTube channel which includes live auctions, fan interactions, and vlogs of their daily lives. They also make sure to spend plenty of quality time with their daughter Tatianna.