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Seven Myths of Self-Storage Development and Operation

Kent Flake Comments
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When you find a manager who does his best to look appealing, who knows the storage product, and who promptly meets customers’ needs with kindness and respect, you’ve found someone worth keeping. Even if it means paying a higher wage, a manager like that will pay dividends all year long.
Myth No. 7: Unit Mix Isn’t Important

Finding the right unit mix is more of an art than a science. The combination that works in one location may be wrong for another. As you design a new facility, determine your target customers because it will affect unit mix. Are there a lot of high-density uses? What is the mix of single- and multi-family residential? Is there a university or college nearby? What’s the potential for business customers?

A unit mix should be shaped something like a bell curve, with 10-by-10s at the top, then sloping down for smaller and larger sizes. At an urban location in a dense infill market, the bell will be skewed toward small units; in a suburban market, larger ones. I’ve seen downtown stores with an average unit size of less than 75 square feet, and rural stores with an average of 150 square feet or more. Generally speaking, somewhere between 100 and 150 square feet per unit is average for a suburban location.

The efficiency of the unit-mix layout is extremely important if you have storage with interior corridors. One way to improve efficiency is to always use double-loaded corridors and place the narrow side of the unit along the corridor. By following a few simple layout concepts, unit-mix efficiency can often be improved by 1 percent or 2 percent. That doesn’t sound like much, but 2 percent of 60,000 is 1,200 square feet. How would you like to have an additional 12 10-by-10 units to rent without increasing development or operating costs?

Avoid the temptation to believe any of these seven myths and your chances of success will increase. If you have concerns about avoiding these pitfalls, hiring a knowledgeable and experienced self-storage consultant may be the smartest money you’ll ever spend.
Kent Flake is CEO of Sure Storage USA, a newly formed LLC created to acquire, develop, own and professionally manage self-storage facilities. Flake has been involved in storage development since 1996. For more information, call 480.202.1669; e-mail

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