Inside Self-Storage Magazine

They may not be Sanford and Son, but Bob Skinner and Scott Wieser do collect used items. Large, cargo containers to be exact.

Skinner and Wieser are principals in San Francisco-based TMS, a joint venture between Triton Container International and International Equipment Marketing specializing in second-hand containers. The company has been involved in the storage-container business for more than 10 years and recently began using the ship-cargo boxes in self-storage applications. The company buys and refurbishes large, metal containers used on cargo ships for carrying merchandise from Asia, and rents or sells them as portable storage boxes.

"We believe the containers are uniquely and competitively attractive for people who need storage at their site or at a common site," says Skinner, TMS's president. "What we've been doing since we started the company is selling an increasing quantity of containers to people who are using them for storage purposes at their site."

Skinner cited examples for what it calls its Mini-Storage Product, at construction sites, ranches, retail stores, cities, counties or schools.

"The big advantage we see in the product is that it is an inexpensive and secure means of providing immediate storage solutions for people who have a need at their site," Skinner says. "As we've been in business, we've become more involved in developing our own sites and have begun to cut up the boxes and configure them to allow us to offer our customers different sizes rather than the standard size of 20 feet by 8 feet."

The containers are made from steel with double doors at one end and are wind- and water-tight. They have hardwood floors, are pallet-jack and fork-lift accessible and can be easily transported via ship, train or truck.

"It's an easy way to take care of excess capacity or demand," added Skinner, who said self-storage clients use them alone as storage buildings or use them as additions to current structures. "They are almost like building blocks. You're starting with a 20-by-8-by-81/2-foot building block or a 40-by-8-by-81/2-foot block, and what you can do is cut doors into the sides, put in partitions and you have storage spaces in a very cost-effective way." TMS will compartmentalize the containers to specifications.

Skinner says zoning regulations are generally easier, depending on where the site is located, and the containers also carry the advantages of being considered personal property and not real property.

"For zoning, it really depends on the place it's going into. Some of the places in California are much more demanding in planning and zoning. We have found that the market best suited for these are smaller towns and rural areas. They are not particularly good for an upscale customer base where you have a very high-profile site."

TMS began marketing its Mini-Storage Product for the self-storage industry about two years ago in the Los Angeles area and has expanded its availability throughout the United States, with sales offices in Miami, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, Calif., and Seattle. Financing is also available.

And as for the idea of recycling a used item, TMS couldn't be happier.

"We're kind of like Sanford and Son, but in a more glorified way," says Skinner. "We like the business both from an environmental point of view, where we're taking an old product and turning it into a new one, and an economic point of view--the fact that it allows us to price the product attractively into the marketplace."

For more information on TMS and its Mini-Storage Product, call (800) 447-7223.

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