California Dreamer

Over the last 28 years, Jay Sundher, owner and manager of Hollywood Storage Center (HSC) in Newbury Park, Calif., has strategically turned his facility into one of the largest and most unique storage businesses in the world.

HSC was developed in three phases over 28 years. The first phase, built in 1988, hit it big through an unfortunate circumstance: the infamous Northridge Earthquake. More than 20 miles from the epicenter, HSC (then called Thousand Oaks Self Storage), filled to above capacity, sheltering the goods of many who lost their homes in the disaster.

Years later, still in phase I, occupancies again surged, but this time it was the result of Sundhers own creativity. During a midterm local election, he decided to apply with the Registrar of Voters for a polling place at HSC. Sundher ordered signs and balloons. He set up his music system with patriotic tunes by John Philip Sousa and laid out all-American refreshments.

The results: More than 1,200 flocked to HSC to vote and wolf down hot dogs and apple pie. During the evening commute-time, voters jammed the intersection to get into HSC. Police were even summoned to control traffic and safely route voters into the facilitys parking lot. HSC turned citizens into voters and voters into tenantsa great equation for any self-storage facility.

Take Two

In 2001, Sundher purchased four acres adjacent to Thousand Oaks Self Storage and built a second phase. Re-named Hollywood Storage Center in an effort to brand the growing storage business, the office was themed as a Hollywood studio replete with wax look-alikes of Batman, Marilyn Monroe and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator. Full-length motion pictures are a daily treat for tenants and customers perusing the 2,500-square-foot office and retail store.

Popcorn, candy and soda add to the entertainment and shopping experience in the lobby, where wine and fine arts are stored near safe deposit boxes and Penske trucks are rented.

Phase IIconsisting of 40,000 square feet of new state-of-the-art storage, wine and high-value storage, in addition to climate-controlled spacehad to be leased as fast as possible to help provide financing for the final phase. Sundhal decided to promote the newly named facility with a big splash: an evening fully adorned with costumed staff, dressed as Dracula, The Tin Man, Dorothy and other characters, two live bands and live-radio spots. Businesses were invited to share the exposure and expenses, providing wine, appetizers, sandwiches and fine desserts to 1,500 guests. Other local businesses supplied tents, balloons, party furniture and costumes for staff. The event was a rousing success. The bill totaled $5,000, shared by HSC and 10 local businesses.

As a result of the success and interest in HSCs second phase, Sundher implemented an aggressive lease-up plan involving an improved website, promotions from Penske Truck Leasing, direct mail, street signs, off-site referral programs, business-to-business promotions and continued influence from pharmaceutical companies. Business grew even more.

Take Three

In August 2006, HSC attempted the impossible: the Phase III grand opening to coincide with the date a certificate of occupancy was issued. Sundher decided to tag this effort onto a benefit for a local charity, Many Mansions, whose charter and mission is to provide housing to the poor and disfranchised. Sundher dedicated 20 percent of all HSC revenue for the day.

He also set up a community garage sale whereby neighbors were invited to use newly completed 10-by-10 spaces to set up their sale items. Eighty of these spaces became occupied by local businesses and residents who also agreed to donate 20 percent of their proceeds to Many Mansions. A fee of $20 was charged for the 10-by-10s during the sale, with the provision the space could be rented ongoing for the list rate. Results: 40 out of 80 participating in the sale signed rental contracts.

Two bands were slated and games were planned for kids entertainment. A raffle gave away gifts provided by local businesses and vendors. Also contracted were live-radio spots52 spots at 30 seconds each. Approximately 2,000 attended the event, and gained exposure to HSC and its offerings. Rents soared. Promotions had paid off once again.

Happy Endings

HSC has enjoyed great success, much of it due to creative, unique promotional opportunities. Perhaps your facility might do the same. According to Sundhers experience, the best onsite promotions are those that benefit a charity or a cause.

Your gains will be twofold: Your business gains exposure and a charity reaps the rewards. Why not dream up a few promotional events of your own? 

Greg Call is the president and CEO of Irvine, Calif.-based Self StorageWorks, a management, consulting and development firm that provides feasibility studies, startup services, design, unit-mix planning, staff hiring and training, facility management, marketing plans and brokerage. For more information, call 800.779.6797; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.self-storageworks.com

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