Race Car Driver Develops Winning Formula For Business


Jeff Sievert's life would make a terrible movie.

Nobody would believe it.

After all, who's going to accept a central character who creates his own mini-storage business from scratch while owning and operating three restaurants and selling two others ... all to help subsidize his love of Formula 2000 automobile racing?

Sounds like a bad "Rocky" retread, soaked in high-octane gasoline and set in Payson.

Fortunately for Sievert, he's far too busy to concern himself with the Hollywood market value of his biography.

Change of business plans

The owner/manager of both the Ponderosa Steakhouse and the Country Kitchen here in town and another Country Kitchen in Globe, Sievert opened his newest enterprise -- Rim Country Self-Storage -- on May 1.

The idea to expand his business interest came to Sievert a few years ago when he and his wife, Joy, were between homes and in need of storage space for their belongings.

That initial encounter with the mini-storage concept was an eye-opener, he said.

"I immediately saw the appeal of this business, because you have no employees, or minimal employees. And there I was, slipping $100 a month through a crack in the door."

When this realization came to Sievert, he was overseeing 200 employees and "selling stuff for $5 and $6 for people to put into their mouths. My primary thought was, 'There is a better idea!'"

So Sievert bought an acre of land at the end of Tonto Street north of Longhorn, built 76 mini-storage units of varying square footages (5 by 10, 10 by 20 and 25 by 30), and opened the gates.

What's in storage

In highly populated areas such as the Valley -- where the Yellow Pages list 32 pages of mini-storage advertising -- we're talking about an extremely competitive business. Between Payson and Star Valley, there are a total of nine listings in the phone book, not counting Sievert's.

In other words, while Valley mini-storage owners try to outdo each other with air-conditioned units and lobbies full of items for sale -- packing boxes, strapping tape, dollies, complicated electronic combination padlocks with LCD readouts, and anything else one could imagine peddling to someone in need of storage -- a mini-storage owner Payson can stick to the basics.

"Putting up a tin shed and renting it is pretty much what we've done," Sievert said. "I don't know that Payson is ready for air-conditioned units -- or if our climate even warrants it. We sell padlocks and rent storage space, and that's it."

Well, not exactly. Rim Country Self-Storage is well secured, with a gated entry and keypad access allowing tenants to enter from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, after which there is "no activity at all," Sievert said.

Until recently, Sievert and his wife owned four Country Kitchen restaurants, but recently sold those located in Show Low and Cottonwood.

"I'm actually trying to make my life easier. I don't need to create any more headaches for myself," Sievert said.

"(The Payson Country Kitchen) is an adventure of its own. Joy and I like it. We did have thoughts of selling everything -- but as time went on and we got closer to actually doing it, we thought, 'We really like what we're doing here.'

"When things are good, when you can walk around the dining room and talk with the customers and everybody's happy, that is the best."

On the fast track

Well -- not exactly.

To Sievert, the best is the Formula One race team he's run for the past five years, and which is sponsored by his various businesses.

The sign that identifies Rim Country Self-Storage gives equal space to the words, "Home of J. Sievert Formula Motorsports."

Sievert, 45, starting racing in 1995."I got into it later than most racers," he said. "My wife bought me four days at a Formula One driving school, thinking that would get it out of my system. Ha ha ha ha ha."

Sievert's team just finished their season in Arizona with a Division One championship. "It's fun running against these young little (poop)'s from California who have the full run of dad's pocketbook and visions of Indy."

The National Championships are to be held in Ohio this October.

"There's serious money there," Sievert said. "I'm probably too old, but I'm looking for a new car, and I plan on going. The adrenaline rush is like nothing you've ever experienced."

You mean ...?

"Yes, it even beats owning a mini-storage business."

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