Written by Jill McElheny Wilson
Before automation and electronic order entry, emails, and websites, there was just “The Locker Man,” as employees liked to call him. The guy who would write down his orders on a napkin or a stray piece of paper. The guy who would walk into the office with bags full of snacks and beverages for his coworkers… and everyone would excitedly peek out of their offices to guess what goodies Mac had brought with him.
Richard (“Dick”) McElheny started what is now Storage Solutions back in 1978 under the name “Penco Indiana.” Back then, the focus was on providing lockers and shelving to customers throughout the state. In 1983, Dick’s son Craig came to work with him upon graduating from Ball State, followed by his daughter Deana shortly after that. From there the Storage Solutions, as we now know it, began to take shape before he sold the business to his son, Craig, in 1992. He retired in 1995.
There is something to be said for the immense pride I have felt working for this company these last 11.5 years. And most of that pride stems from knowing how deep my roots are here… seeing something that started as an idea with my Grandpa Mac, that was then developed and expanded by my dad. All the people whose lives have been positively impacted by working here. And the ways the work we do has benefitted so many others all over the country.
Whenever I’d go to trade shows or meetings with our partners, people would see the name “McElheny” on my name tag and would immediately launch into a story about back in the day with my Grandpa Mac and my dad. And it always struck me that the things they’d say were always about how he wasn’t just a knowledgeable industry man, but he was also a noble one. A person they truly loved working with and appreciated knowing.
Outside of his legacy at Storage Solutions, Dick was known for his great sense of humor, love of golf and Frank Sinatra, and anything sweet (particularly vanilla ice cream, chocolate drops, and peanut clusters). Dick spent 63 years married to the love of his life, Esther, before she passed away on August 23, 2019. He leaves behind his son Craig (Diane), daughter Deana Purevich, grandchildren Jill Wilson (Grady), Claire Rouse (Josh), Ross McElheny, Samantha Stipp (Tom), and Logan Purevich; as well as three beloved great-granddaughters, Ryan Rouse, Kendall Rouse, and Quinn Wilson. He also leaves behind friends and other family members who loved him very much.
When I asked a few employees who have been with Storage Solutions for a few decades, they all also had fond things to say about him.
Tim Fonderoli: When I first started with the company 20 years ago, he had all this knowledge of lockers and shelving. He shared all of this with me; he taught me how to count all the parts needed for a run of shelving and what we needed to do in a row of lockers. Plus, he would go on weekly runs to Sam’s Club and come back with all kinds of snacks and treats that all of us enjoyed. The fridge in the break room had cold beer as well as soda and water. The golf outings that Craig would put on for his birthdays were the greatest times. His wife would come; the days and nights were full of laughter and great stories. I’m so glad I was able to be a part of Storage Solutions and the greatest family that shared it with us.
Angie Rajski: I think my best memories are of when he would come through the doors at Tiller Court with handfuls of grocery bags. He would go to Sam’s or Costco and load up on snacks, pop, and BEER for the fridge!!! Whenever we looked over the 2nd-floor ledge and saw him coming, we would run down to see what new treats he had! 😊
Also – Sales Order Forms? Automated? Hell No!!!! He would use notebook paper or a napkin to write up his orders! “The Locker Master,” we would call him. He would always greet me with a huge smile and say, “Angelina —- how are you?” and then give me a big hug!
Kevin Rowles: Even though I had anticipated the news of Dick’s passing, it occurred to me how fortunate I am to have him and his wife Esther as mentors in my life. Like second parents – they cared about me and all of us more than I ever recognized. They made it look easy, and I took it for granted. I get it now –in short, their unconditional love and sacrifice helped pave my future.
Their encouragement and support were critical at an important time of my adolescence. Helping to mold a shy, curly-headed, skinny, and awkward kid with braces into a confident young man ready to tackle the world! I will forever appreciate the caring love and support that I experienced at the McElheny home. And I hope to honor them by passing on the legacy of unconditional love and providing opportunities for success to others. May they together rest in peace…
Chastity Wilke: I am very thankful for being at SSI when Dick was still coming into the office. He was so patient and kind when I started. I don’t think he really knew what to do with me – but he showed me the ropes – taught me so many things, and smiled all the way. Knowing the history of how SSI began is with me every day. I work hard each day to ensure that I am helping to keep the integrity and carry on the tradition for what was built for us over the past 40 years.
He was a special man and– I know he never dreamt of this company being what it is today. He raised a couple of amazing kids and was an inspiration to dream big and do great things. I am so thankful to be a part of this amazing journey!