FACILITY SPOTLIGHT

Twin Arch Self Storage is a well-established family-owned facility in Mount Airy, Md. The stores locationclose to new upscale residences in a growing community near military basescouldnt be more ideal. As an added bonus, the nearest large competitor is more than 20 miles away. So, why add portable storage to the mix?

We want to draw a wider variety of customers by offering the latest from the industry, says Michele Blackert, daughter of Susan and Bob Blackert, company founders.

The deciding factor came 18 months ago when the company purchased 5 acres adjacent to the facility for future development. We wanted this land for a long time, says Rob Blackert, Micheles brother, explaining land zoned for self-storage is scarce in the area. The addition gave Twin Arch the critical space needed for portable containers.

Storage at Your Door

The Blackerts spent considerable time researching mobile-service options. I put myself in the shoes of the customer, Michele says about selecting which portable product to offer. The family went with Mobile Attic Inc., based in Alabama. Boxes are built of weather-resistant aluminum and steel and dont contain wood that may absorb the odors of previously stored items. Customers feel theyre getting the box for the first time, she says.

Twin Arch offers its portable service throughout Maryland. The facility rents the 8-by-16 unit for $179 a month with delivery and minimum set-up fees of $65. The store launched its service in January 2006 with 36 boxes. In December, 15 boxes were added to prepare for the busy spring season. Demand was surprisingly high, and by the end of the year, 50 percent were rented, Michele says.

The facility has one truck to transport the mobile units. A customer can rent the box to keep on private property as long as needed or have it transported to Twin Arch for storage.

Boxes are stacked in single rows with the doors facing each other. The lot has security fencing and an access-controlled gate from PTI Integrated Systems. Twin Arch supplies locks to customers, who dont have access to the box unless its an emergency.

Mobile consumers are using the boxes as temporary not seasonal storage, Michele says. Some people use them during property renovation or when changing residences, a common occurrence in the area. The portable unit eliminates having to repeatedly pack and unpack trucks during a move.

Although the concept of portable storage isnt new to the region, Twin Arch has an ongoing and assertive program to educate customers about the service. The store uses phone book and newspaper ads and fliers. Customers hear the Mobile Attic name in the stores telephone greeting. When people ask what it is, were given the chance to explain it, Michele says. She credits Thelma Mills, who has been the manager since the facility opened, with assisting in brand recognition for the product.

Vacant boxes are placed on street corners with information on the side. The facility sets boxes up at local home shows, county fairs and tradeshows. And a Twin Arch Mobile Attic box hauled on a truck in annual local parades brings the service before the Mount Airy public.

Biggest Game in Town

Bob Blackert opened Twin Arch Self Storage in 1997 with 85 units. It has since grown to 900 units in 22 single-story buildings occupying 110,000 square feet. When my Dad said he was going to build these garages to store things, I thought he was crazy, daughter Michele says. Now the facility is 90 percent occupied.

Rob attributes the stores meteoric growth to several factors. Our nearest competitor is an 85-unit facility in town, he says. Although the population of Mount Airy is only 9,000, several contiguous communities are growing with new expensive residential developments and custom homes.

People building large houses are using every room rather than saving one for storage, Rob says. Owners fill their garages with upscale vehicles rather than household goods. Thanks to these ideal conditions, Twin Arch doesnt have to spend a lot of money to promote its conventional storage. The store is easy to find in an industrial park, next to a car dealership and across the street from the towns major health club. Its also beside the townhouse complex where Michele lives; many of her neighbors are her customers.

Monthly rental rates are:

  • $70 for a 5-by-5 
  • $450 for a 20-by-30 outside unit 
  • $45 for a 4-by-5 
  • Up to $230 for a 10-by-20, climate-controlled unit 

The facility also offers a 10 percent discount to seniors and military members. We offer all moving and storage supplies and promote ourselves as a one-stop moving shop, Rob says.

Perfect Complement

Michele has no doubt mobile complements traditional storage. Its going to influence the storage industry, she says. But neither will become more important than the other, and portable services will never take over conventional storage.

What the industry supplies is dictated by what the customer wants, Michele says. The consumer has the choice of renting a truck and bringing his goods to a facility or renting a box, packing it and having it brought in. For renovation or moving, portable makes more sense, she says. If extra storage space is needed for seasonal things, conventional storage is perfect. We saw mobile as a good addition to our service. 

For more information, call 877.829.8551; visit www.twinarchselfstorage.com

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