I had a piece of property that was essentially worthless. I couldn’t even give it away.”
—Jim Karas, owner of Secure RV Storage
Jim Karas isn’t your typical storage facility owner. He’s an innovator. He took a dubious piece of property in a poverty-ravaged area and gave it new life, enhancing the land’s value and enriching the community. Today, he is the proud owner of Secure RV Storage Center in Bloomington, Calif.
Like many people who invest in RV and boat storage, Karas, a financial planner by trade, had little knowledge of the storage industry. He simply inherited a large parcel of property (originally purchased by his grandfather) and being a business-minded individual, formulated a plan to make it profitable.
The Course of Fate
In monitoring his clients’ stock portfolios, Karas noticed the 9/11 incident had sparked a return to family values and road travel, causing RV sales to skyrocket. Around the same time, he came across numerous articles about RV owners banned from parking at home and trumped by a lack of storage options.
“The property is on a major artery going through Southern California and is really easy to access with a big vehicle,” notes Karas. “The light came on and I came up with the concept for Secure RV Storage.”
A little research proved to Karas that he he’d identified a solid and growing customer base. The bulk of RV purchasers are baby boomers, who retire in huge numbers every year. Many sell their large family homes and move to retirement communities consisting of town homes and condos with little storage space.
Karas also discovered city ordinances are getting stricter about where RVs can be parked. The issue has been an ongoing sore point for RV enthusiasts, who consider their coaches to be markers of personal freedom.
Secure RV Storage Stats
Further investigation revealed RV-storage owners make great clients. There’s typically a low turnover in RV customers, especially compared to self-storage users. Most use RVs seasonally, often during winter months, and need quality storage during the rest of the year. Many times, they have no viable options and must travel across city and county lines to secure quality storage for their coaches.
Unlike self-storage customers, RV owners never abandon their property. Plus, they’re willing to pay generously for the service. The monthly rental seems more than fair compensation to protect their investment from sun, wind, hail and rain. Plus, owners understand covered storage means they’ll spend less time on vehicle maintenance and more time having fun.
It was crystal clear to Karas he’d found the best business for his site: RV storage was lucrative, low stress and geared toward an untapped market. “Passive income is my goal, and in my analysis, boat and RV storage will get me there,” he says.
Karas sought advice from our company, Baja Construction, on how to best utilize his property and what mix of storage types could increase his bottom line. We also helped him estimate what his initial investment would be.
Karas checked with city zoning about required paperwork and the likelihood his project would be approved. The city was unmoved that the facility would provide a badly needed service to residents. Instead, officials argued the use of metal buildings. “They really wanted to see a stucco finish or a split-face block wall. What they don’t understand is you can’t build a facility using those materials and still generate an acceptable profit,” Karas says. “The final compromise was using a stucco-embossed panel.”
The certificate of use permit would be his most frustrating obstacle. After being told it would take no more than six months, Karas watched the approval process stretch into two years. Finally, the permit was won and construction commenced, wrapping up within a year.
Today, Secure RV Storage Center maintains vehicle storage at 60 percent occupancy (open is more popular than canopies) while self-storage stands at 20 percent to 30 percent. Business is so good, Karas is already planning a second facility in Riverside, Calif, on which he plans to break ground this year. “It’s definitely easier the second time around, and I hope to build or acquire at least 10 facilities in the next 10 years,” he says.
To learn more about Secure RV & Boat Storage, visit www.securervstorage.com.
Alex Hayworth is regional sales manager at Baja Construction Inc. The company has been at the forefront of the turnkey metal-structure industry for more than 30 years, offering selfstorage, carports, and RV and boat storage. For more information, call 800.366.9600; visit www.bajacarports.com.