Accessible Self Storage

Elaine Foxwell Comments
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They had little idea they would become partners in a successful self-storage enterprise when they met. Though Robert Kortright and Greg Porteus had ambition, drive and a wealth of business experience, their backgrounds were profoundly diverse.

Porteus attended college and became a New York state trooper. After retirement, he ran a successful construction company for several years. Kortright grew up in a mobile home in Kingston, N.Y., and began working at age 10, selling tire tubes on the roadside. At age 16, he purchased his first real estate. While in his twenties, he owned and ran a successful tire company. But Kortright dreamed of having a storage facility on the property adjacent to his boyhood home. In 2001, he received municipal approval to build one on his 3.3 acres.

“It was not an easy process for a young entrepreneur to gain the town’s approval for a state-of-the-art self-storage facility,” Kortright says. And he had a problem—his financial resources were exhausted. “I started this project when I was 29 years old, spending every cent I made.”

Believing he had no choice, Kortright put the property on the market. He was on the verge of selling to a local storage facility when he met his future partner. Porteus says he saw a future in an industry with only a 4 percent failure rate nationwide, especially when combined with Kortright’s unique ideas, great location and approved plans. Within days, he secured financing for the development of Accessible Self Storage.

What the Market Needs

Accessible Self Storage sits at the juncture of two main roads, one-quarter mile from State Highway 9 in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. Opened in October 2002, the facility comprises three double-story, steel-and-concrete buildings containing 600 units. Monthly rates range from $60 for a 5-by-5 to $310 for a 10-by-30. Accessible has the technology and design to provide custom-size units for clients, and there is outside storage for RVs, boats and trailers.

Research showed that to best serve clients in New York’s wildly fluctuating climate, the self-storage trend was toward 100 percent climate control. Porteus and Kortright incorporated heat and air conditioning into all the facility’s buildings, including the downstairs, drive-up units.

Building 1 is named The Whitely Building in memory of a U.S. Marine killed in action in Vietnam. The ground floor features easy access to units with exterior roll-up doors. The second story has four entrances, all with wide staircases, and a centrally located freight elevator that loads from the outside at ground level. Building 2, opened in June 2003, is slightly larger with the same design.

The design of Building 3, unveiled last December, ensures more convenient moveins. Each ground-floor unit has an exterior and interior door, so customers can access their units from inside the building if they prefer—a real bonus during severe winter weather. The second floor also has two hallways, and center units have doors on either side.

Greater Expectations

Self-storage is an industry that must cater to customers’ demands, Kortright says. “The most important thing is customer service. If you concentrate on customers’ needs and making it easy for them, you will always be full,” he asserts. To this end, Accessible strives to provide more than people expect.

Customers within a 40-mile radius of the facility are moved in free via the company’s pick-up service. An enclosed trailer, complete with blankets and hand trucks, is dropped off at a customer’s home, business or another storage facility. Once loaded, Accessible picks up the trailer and parks it next to the customer’s unit or the freight elevator.

The site’s security includes a high-tech CCTV system that allows the owners to view facility activities via any Internet connection. Exterior lights are set on timers and interior lighting is motion-activated. The coded entry gate allows 24/7 access, and entry and exit times are logged. The facility is kept immaculate, not only for safety but visual appeal. And in winter, snow is promptly removed using the facility’s own equipment. “We want to ensure our clients’ peace of mind and security,” Porteus says.

Customers can request to have Accessible staff accept outside deliveries on their behalf, to be kept for pickup in the main office or directed to the unit. “We have changed the way people store their valuables,” says Kortright.

Running the Show

With the increase in property costs, the partners chose to eliminate an onsite manager’s apartment and use all available land area for storage. A high-tech technology system allows them to run the facility with four employees, while Kortright and Porteus handle most of the repairs and facility care.

Before hiring, the partners conduct careful and thorough interviews with candidates. New hires work daily with the owners. Certain standards are instilled, including excellent customer service and the importance of maintaining an immaculate work place. And, of course, employees must understand the importance of putting on a smile when a customer comes through the door.

Accessible’s marketing program consists of direct mail, Yellow Pages advertising and door-to-door campaigns. Kortright says the facility is also enjoying the rewards of word-of-mouth. “Our customers are our best advertisement,” he says. The facility’s second most effective marketing medium is employees with excellent phone skills and pleasant-sounding voices.

On the Horizon

Although Korthright believes his area is saturated with self-storage, he and Porteus plan to expand if the opportunity presents itself. The partners see the industry growing and changing to meet customers’ needs and believe self-storage should be a pleasant, hassle-free experience. According to Kortright, “All the advertising in the world won’t make a business a success without ‘wowing’ clients with unsurpassed customer service.”

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