Where We Live: Ridgefield, the birthplace of U-Haul

Clark County

U-Haul celebrating its 75th anniversary

RIDGEFIELD, Wash. (KOIN) — One of America’s best-known brands, U-Haul, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. And it got its start here in the Pacific Northwest.

The old shop where it all began still stands on a wildlife refuge in Ridgefield, Washington. It was once a family farm where L.S. “Sam” Shoen and his wife, Anna Mary, lived,

The Shoens had to leave many of their possessions behind when they moved to Ridgefield from California. So in 1945 they and Anna Mary’s brother, Hap Carty, started the company that keeps America moving.

“This was just after World War II, so a lot of people had a need for moving across the country,” said U-Haul’s Don Flatten. “They saw that need and acted on it.”

Sam and Hap, both military veterans, started with building and renting trailers in Southwest Washington and Portland. Hap was the first U-Haul employee and led the nationwide expansion for the Shoens that made U-Haul a household name.

“They were concerned about service people and other people in general. The migration- immigration and so on- was big time,” Hap said. “They thought it would be great if people had Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine and every other city in America on your horizon in a practical way.”

U-Haul started renting trucks in addition to trailers in 1957 by partnering with local businesses like self-storage companies. U-Haul dealerships are now everywhere.

“We’re now over 20,000 now and growing,” Flatten said.

Despite being its birthplace, Ridgefield went without a U-Haul for years. Until recently.

“I know that Ridgefield’s very proud of U-Haul being created and started here, and again, just happy to be here,” said Erika Lasee with Ridgefield Self-Storage.

U-Haul was based in Portland until the mid-1980s and is now headquartered in Phoenix. But its roots remain in Ridgefield.

U-Haul — a simple idea that revolutionized moving from one place to another.

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