A Multifaceted Legacy: Remembering Hal Sidney Spradling

Posted by Leslie Kellen on Jun 25, 2024 7:33:21 PM

In the tapestry of life, few threads are woven as richly and with such vibrant colors as those of Hal Sidney Spradling’s. It is with profound sadness and a deep sense of loss that we announce his passing on Fri., Feb. 16, 2024, at St. Michael’s Hospital. At the age of 83, Spradling left us peacefully, leaving behind a legacy that is as remarkable as the life he led—a life that was a testament to passion, dedication, and an undying zeal for every new day. From his humble beginnings to becoming a pioneering figure in the self-storage industry, Spradling’s journey was marked by resilience, innovation, and a commitment to making a difference. 


Formative Experiences 

His story began amidst the rugged landscapes of rural Texas, where the harsh realities of life instilled in him a formidable work ethic and a deep appreciation for hard work. Born into modest means, Spradling learned the value of perseverance and determination from an early age. His childhood was marked by experiences of toiling under the scorching sun, picking cotton barefoot. These early challenges shaped his character and laid the foundation for his future successes. 


Despite the hardships he faced, Spradling remained undeterred in his pursuit of a better life. His innate resilience and determination drove him to seek opportunities for growth and advancement. From an early age, he displayed a thirst for knowledge and a keen interest in exploring new horizons. He understood that education and hard work were the keys to unlocking a brighter future, and he pursued these goals with unwavering determination. 


Beyond his professional achievements, Spradling was a man of great kindness and generosity. A proud veteran of the United States military, he served his country with the same toughness and stoicism that defined his character. Throughout his life, he remained a mentor and friend to many, always willing to lend a hand both publicly and privately. 


Quest For Cultural Enrichment 

Spradling’s path took him beyond the confines of North America to explore the vast beauty that, as a child, he was never able to experience. He elected for a European discharge upon completing his military service, a decision that allowed him to travel the world and immerse himself in the rich tapestry of European culture and history. Throughout his time in Europe, Spradling found himself captivated by the timeless charm of Italy, particularly the city of Verona. 


Spending extended periods in Verona, he indulged in the simple pleasures of life: reading, sipping wine, and engaging in lively conversations with locals. He embraced the Italian way of life, savoring every moment and gaining a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of Italian culture. Spradling's love for Verona and Italy as a whole stemmed not only from its picturesque landscapes but also from the warmth and hospitality of its people. It was a transformative experience for him, enriching his perspective and leaving an indelible mark on his soul. 


Hal Chef


From Textiles To Storage 

Spradling’s journey into the world of business began with a venture into textiles, where he discovered a passion for fabrics and a keen eye for detail and style. His experiences in the textile industry took him to Mexico, honed his entrepreneurial skills, and provided him with valuable insights into the world of commerce. His innate ability to identify market trends and capitalize on emerging opportunities set him apart as a visionary businessman. 


However, it was in the self-storage industry that he would leave his most enduring mark. Spradling’s initial steps in the self-storage sector were taken as a laborer for Watson and Taylor, where he learned the intricacies of self-storage construction, laying the foundation for a storied career that would see him revolutionize the industry. His tenure at Watson and Taylor was not just a job; it was a masterclass in understanding the nuts and bolts of the business from the ground up. This experience proved invaluable, as he would later go on to innovate and improve many areas within the self-storage industry. 


An Industry Pioneer  

In the 1980s, Spradling’s journey took an unexpected turn as he embarked on a new chapter in Toronto, Ont. It was there that he would make his mark on the self-storage industry and cement his legacy as a pioneering figure. Co-founding All Canadian Self-Storage, later known as XYZ Storage, in 1997, he brought his vision to life and revolutionized the industry with innovative solutions and customer-centric approaches. 


One of his most notable achievements was the creation of the first drive-thru self-storage facility in Ontario. This groundbreaking concept not only transformed the way people accessed storage but also set a new standard for convenience and security. His visionary thinking and willingness to challenge the status quo propelled XYZ Storage to new heights of success, establishing it as a leader in the industry. 


Hal Bike


Partner And Innovator 

Spradling’s contributions to XYZ Storage extended far beyond his role as a co-founder and ultimately president emeritus. He was not only a visionary businessman but also a great partner whose collaborative spirit and inclusive approach helped shape the company’s culture and success. 


His diverse background, from textiles to self-storage, brought a unique perspective to XYZ Storage. He understood the value of different viewpoints and encouraged innovation and creativity among his team. Spradling’s hands-on approach was legendary; he led by example, never hesitating to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty. Whether it was clearing snow during winter storms or tackling challenging projects, he was always at the forefront, inspiring his team with his work ethic and dedication. 


Moreover, Spradling believed in investing in people. He recognized that a diverse team with varied skills and perspectives was essential for success. That’s why he encouraged participation from all levels of the organization, from frontline staff to senior management. His commitment to fostering talent and nurturing a culture of learning and growth contributed significantly to XYZ Storage’s success. 


Spradling’s impact extended beyond the business realm. He was deeply involved in industry associations, such as the Canadian Self Storage Association (CSSA), where he advocated for inclusivity and collaboration. He understood the importance of building strong networks and partnerships, both within the industry and the community at large. His efforts to bring together operators from different regions not only enriched the industry but also fostered a sense of camaraderie and mutual support. 


Hal People


Community Compassion 

Spradling was deeply invested in giving back to the communities that supported him. One notable example of his dedication to community engagement was his support for the Leaside community in Toronto, Ont. 


In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Leaside community, Spradling and XYZ Storage played a pivotal role in hosting a Gala event at their flagship facility. This event, which brought together residents, local businesses, and dignitaries from all levels of government, was a testament to the strength and resilience of the Leaside community. 


His decision to donate the space of XYZ Storage’s flagship facility for the Gala exemplified his belief in the importance of supporting and celebrating community milestones. By providing a venue for the event, Spradling demonstrated his commitment to fostering a sense of unity and belonging among Leaside residents. 

The Gala itself was a resounding success, with attendees including Stephen Harper, Canada’s prime minister at the time. Spradling and Prime Minister Harper shared the stage, speaking passionately about the importance of community and entrepreneurship. Both men emphasized the values of hard work, dedication, and innovation, highlighting the vital role that small businesses and community organizations play in driving economic growth and prosperity. 


Hal Neon


The event served as a platform for celebrating the achievements of the Leaside community over the past century and inspiring future generations to continue the legacy of innovation and community spirit. His involvement in organizing and hosting the Gala underscored his deep-rooted commitment to giving back to the communities that had supported him throughout his career. 


In supporting the Leaside community and hosting the Gala event, Spradling not only demonstrated his philanthropic spirit but also embodied the values of leadership, generosity, and community engagement. His legacy of community support continues to inspire others to make a positive impact in their own communities, ensuring that his contributions to society endure for generations to come. 


Spradling was also a devoted gardener; he poured his heart and soul into his beloved garden. Every weekend, he could be found on his hands and knees, meticulously tending to every aspect of his oasis, from design to flower selection, and especially weeding. His passion for gardening extended beyond mere aesthetics; he carefully chose plants and flowers not only for their beauty but also for their culinary potential, using them to craft delicious meals for friends and staff at the facility where he worked. His dedication and expertise did not go unnoticed, as he was honored with the prestigious Garden of the Year award in Leaside.


Remarkably, Spradling’s garden was the first and only business-affiliated garden to receive this accolade, a testament to his exceptional skill and commitment. The recognition was a source of immense pride for him; he cherished his garden as a labor of love and a reflection of his unwavering passion for horticulture. 


Embracing The Pura Vida 

Spradling’s affinity for exploration and adventure led him to the verdant forests and pristine beaches of Costa Rica, a country known for its breathtaking natural beauty and the ethos of "Pura Vida"—a phrase encapsulating the essence of living a pure life full of joy and gratitude. In Costa Rica, he embarked on a project that was as ambitious as it was reflective of his values: developing properties and vacation rentals that harmonized with the natural environment. 


Determined to create spaces that offered a sanctuary for relaxation and a deep connection with nature, Spradling was hands-on in every aspect of the development process. From the initial planning stages to the execution of detailed construction and landscaping work, he was involved in the “dirty work” himself. His approach to developing these properties was guided by his vision of sustainability and community engagement. He designed vacation rentals that not only provided a luxurious retreat for visitors but also respected and enhanced the natural surroundings. 


A Haven in Texas 

Returning to Texas, Spradling’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for nature took on a new dimension through the development of large architectural projects in proximity to major thoroughfares. His ventures in Texas were characterized by a keen eye for location and a visionary approach to creating spaces that blended seamlessly with the landscape. One of his most personal projects involved purchasing and developing a property that featured a pond. True to his hands-on philosophy, he undertook the task of excavating and enlarging the pond himself. His efforts transformed it into a vibrant ecosystem, stocked with fish and teeming with life, offering a serene getaway for friends and family to reconnect with nature and enjoy the simple pleasure of fishing. 


Hal Hat


A Dock For Friendship 

Among the many projects Spradling undertook, one stands out for its testament to friendship and inclusivity. Recognizing the challenges faced by a friend of similar vintage who was no longer able to walk, he decided to build a special dock on his property. This wasn't just any dock; it was designed with wheelchair accessibility in mind to ensure that his friend could enjoy fishing and the beauty of the outdoors without limitation. He constructed the dock himself, pouring his heart and craftsmanship into creating a space that was not just accessible but also welcoming and comfortable. 


This gesture of kindness and the dedication with which Spradling approached the project exemplify his character: a man for whom friendship and community were as important as any of his professional achievements. His friend’s gratitude for this thoughtful and practical gift was profound, serving as a reminder of the impact personal gestures can make in the lives of others. 


Lasting Legacy 

Spradling’s ventures in Texas and Costa Rica, his development of properties and vacation rentals, and his thoughtful creation of inclusive spaces like the accessible dock, all contribute to the mosaic of his legacy. These endeavors highlight his entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to innovation as well as his commitment to community, environmental stewardship, and the deep bonds of friendship. 

In every chapter of his life, Spradling embodied the values of hard work, compassion, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. His legacy will continue to inspire generations to come, reminding us all of the profound impact one individual can have on the world around them.  


Hal Sidney Spradling’s life journey is a testament to the transformative power of resilience, innovation, and compassion. From his humble beginnings in rural Texas to his pioneering contributions in the self-storage industry and his ventures across continents, his legacy continues to inspire and uplift those who knew him. His unwavering commitment to excellence, coupled with his kindness and generosity, leaves an indelible mark on the world. Though he has left this earthly realm, his spirit lives on in the countless lives he touched and the incalculable memories he created. As we reflect on his remarkable life, let us honor his legacy by embodying the values of hard work, compassion, and a relentless pursuit of excellence in all that we do. His legacy will endure for generations to come as a shining beacon of hope and inspiration in an ever-changing world. 



Leslie Kellen is the director of operations and a partner at XYZ Storage.