Focus on a father-son business

A chat with Stephen Skinner

Frank and Stephen Skinner are men who know business. They’re also hard-working men of faith.

The father-son duo owns In-N-Out Self Storage in Cullman. They are also both retired pharmacists/pharmacy owners. Frank owned and operated Medical Arts Apothecary for 50 years until his health would not allow him to stand up all day, and Stephen owned and operated Specialty Pharmacy for almost 20 years.

“We have been in commercial real estate investing and developing for several years as a ‘side business,’” Stephen said. “We built medical offices, shopping centers and a car wash. We opened the self-storage business for two reasons: to give him something to do – I knew he would be dead from boredom within a few months of not being able to work and help people – and because we liked the challenge and opportunity of taking a run-down, neglected facility in the heart of Cullman and reviving it."

When asked what the biggest perk of working with his dad is, Stephen smiled, “So many! Getting to spend time with him over morning coffee, talking old stories, business strategy, faith, family, sports, investing, watching someone who refuses to let his health struggles keep him down stand up and greet anyone who comes in the door, ready and willing to help in any way he can! He is the definition of a servant leader! At 86, he still comes in every day, and his mind is still very sharp. He often comes up with great ideas to make the business better and gives me much needed advice! I am truly blessed to learn from and work with him!”

He continued, “Our model of clean, quality storage was growing, and I was working on expanding the In-N-Out brand to other locations in Alabama and spreading myself too thin. One day dad said, ‘We keep growing here, so why do you want to expand where you have to drive an hour or more to check on things, when you could just focus on growing this location until it reaches maximum capacity?’ He was right! I dropped my expansion plans and refocused on Cullman, where we live and raise our families, and it was a great decision. We have been blessed with the time and resources to reinvest  in Cullman through involvement in organizations, schools, churches and other local ministries."

What does Stephen think his dad would say is the biggest perk about working with his son? “I believe maybe I help keep him young with all my energy and ideas," he laughed, "and I can fix his phone or iPad!”

I asked Stephen what advice he and his dad would give young men starting out in business.

“Funny you ask that because that is what my next book, ‘THRIVE’ will be about (if I ever get it written). We would say always put the customer first, put yourself in the customer's shoes and always be thinking about their experience, and business will come as a result. We did a lot of things here with women in mind, like making most doors into our storage buildings double glass instead of metal, to give more light so it doesn't feel creepy or unsafe for a woman who may be alone. We also tried to add a lot of lighting as well as music, which also helps to make the moving experience a little better. Moving is stressful and not much fun, but if you hear a good song or, during Christmas, a Christmas jingle you love, it may be just what you need to get that one last load moved in! I have other advice, but they will have to wait until my book comes out!”

What services does In-N-Out provide?

“We provide a secure, clean, easy-to-rent and store facility for people who are relocating, remodeling, need more space and for businesses,” said Stephen Skinner. “We have traditional drive-up storage units, indoor temperature and humidity-controlled units, as well as a few covered and non-covered parking spaces for vehicles, boats and RVs. We are Cullman's only facility that works to conserve energy with solar power. We have over 70 security cameras and we allow 24/7 access.”

106 13th St. SW
Cullman, AL 35055

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