ROBERT B. SUMMERS DISCOVERED SELF-STORAGE WHILE RESEARCHING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES that would generate retirement income and create more time for him to spend with his family. Although he had been involved in other small businesses, Summers wanted one that could provide passive income until he was ready to scale down his present job as an air-traffic controller at Tulsa International Airport in Oklahoma. A friend, who has several self-storage properties in Colorado, suggested he investigate the business.
"I did a lot of demographic studies and researched every mini-warehouse within 50 miles of my proposed location," Summers says. The research convinced him a self-storage facility in his town of Owasso, Okla., would be successful. It also showed his biggest renters would be residents of multifamily housing and homeowners with limited garage space. Summers realized his site would need proximity to an upscale residential area on the outskirts of town.
SummersTime Storage LLC is in Chestnut Farms, a community of expensive homes on small acreages in an equestrian development on the outskirts of Owasso. The area is complemented by white rail fencing and green pastures interspersed by riding trails. Residents were concerned his property would not fit in with the neighborhood's look. At neighborhood meetings, Summers listened to their concerns and assured them his facility would not detract from the area.
He lived up to his promise. The three buildings comprising SummersTime Storage are white, accented by hunter-green doors that mirror the nearby community's colors. Knowing first impressions are critical, Summers also built 7-foot-tall brick pillars, which support a wrought-iron lift gate manufactured by Acorn Products/DCAL Computer Systems. The powder-white gate adds another attractive element to the facility.
Construction of SummersTime Storage began in March, and doors opened in September. The first phase offers 200 units ranging from 5-by-10 to 10-by-40, plus places for RV and boat storage. Although the units are not climate-controlled, heavy insulation keeps them cool in summer and warm in winter. The two-story office is designed to convert to a manager's residence if needed.
Based on his demographic survey, Summers only developed half of the property to prevent him from becoming overextended. He plans to add climate-control units later if there is a demand. However, that may be sooner than he originally thought. Since the facility opened, Summers reports his rentals are three times higher than he projected.
With Oklahoma's wet weather, moisture protection becomes important. "Driving rain here is a big concern," Summers says. The moisture- protection elements in the walls and moisture blanket built into the roof have the added bonus of better climate control. A moisture lip on the concrete coupled with an additional seal on the doors, manufactured by Janus International Corp., seals each unit and provides extra protection.
Facility managers Bill Ricketts and Cassandra Stult are on hand six days a week and are supported by DCAL's Unitroller management- software system. Customers access the facility seven days a week using DCAL's Unikey access-control system.
Marketing is done through a business link on the local Wal-Mart website, Yellow Pages and local advertising. An interactive website is planned for the near future. The facility's sign was built directly into the two-story office wall and outlined in crimson brick to make it highly visible from the adjacent main road.
"I like that self-storage is a people industry," Summers says. He stresses personal service for his customers. Whenever tenants enter or exit the facility, Ricketts and Stult do their best to always speak to them. Summers wants to feel every customer's needs are being met. "To compete successfully in self-storage, you're going to have to personalize it and provide that specialized touch."
For more information, call 918.371.3771.