As competition in the self-storage industry increased over the last decade, operators looked for new ways to bring in more revenue and expand their market share. They began experimenting with complementary products and services including boat and RV storage, records storage, business services such as faxing and mailboxes, mobile storage, truck rental and, most recently, cell-tower leasing.
For some markets, wine storage has emerged as the most profitable ancillary service. The per-square-foot return can easily exceed that of traditional climate-controlled storage, plus wine storage remains a niche service in the majority of self-storage markets. Also, because wine has such an upscale image, offering this highly specialized service can elevate a facility's reputation.
Whether you’re building wine storage from the ground up or adding it to your existing self-storage operation, there are four main components to making it successful: construction, temperature control, security and marketing.
Most operators who opt to include wine storage at their facility will dedicate an entire area to the operation, including a private door and security, wine décor, and a dedicated HVAC system. Because wine must be stored under certain conditions, the construction of the room and lockers is paramount.
The primary goal should be to create an environment in which a temperature of 55 degrees and a humidity level of 70 percent can be consistently maintained. There are several construction methods that will help maintain this critical element. First, the concrete floor should be sealed with a water-based sealant, and vapor barriers should also be installed on the ceiling and walls. The insulation rating should be R22 in the walls and R30 in the ceiling. When choosing drywall, opt for green board, which better resists moisture. Cover the green board with a hard-coat finish by troweling drywall mud over the entire surface. The walls can then be painted for the final finish.
The next consideration is the size, style and material of the lockers. Lockers can be constructed from a variety of materials, including simple plywood boxes, cages of wooden slats, elaborate oak or redwood lockers with louvered doors, or any combination. Some permeable surface, such as that provided by slats or louvers, is preferred to assure proper circulation within the lockers.
Lockers sizes should vary to meet your market demand. Consider adding some smaller lockers for the individual wine collector, as well as larger ones for retail and restaurant tenants.
Controlling the temperature inside your wine storage is by far the most critical component of the operation. The ideal temperature for wine storage is between 55 and 58 degrees. Lower temperatures will slow aging, and higher temperatures affect the wine’s quality. The humidity should be between 60 and 70 percent. Excessively high humidity breeds molds and damages labels. Low humidity causes corks to dry out, resulting in the wine inevitably spoiling. Ultraviolet light can also damage wine, even if exposed for a brief period, so keep your wine storage dark when not being used by customers.
Most operators opt to use two refrigeration units dedicated specifically to the wine storage. This creates a redundant system that will maintain the required conditions for the wine in case one unit fails. In addition, installing a back-up generator to operate in the event of a power failure will further protect wine against any damage. The temperature and humidity controls for the cooling units should also be tied to an alarm system so someone is promptly notified if a problem occurs.
Install Solid Security
Next to temperature and humidity control, the security of your wine storage is the most critical element. “Wine enthusiasts, collectors, restaurateurs and wineries invest a great deal of money in their inventory,” notes John Fogg of Sentinel Systems Corp. The most important security measure you can take is restricting access to the wine-storage area to only tenants storing wine.
Install a separate electronic keypad at the entry to the wine room so just those with the code can open it. Surveillance cameras should be placed in the wine storage and integrated into the monitoring system of the facility grounds. This way the manager can keep tabs on what’s going on in the wine-storage area.
Fogg also encourages operators to install individual alarms on each wine-storage locker, as well as a commercial-grade fire and sprinkler system. “It doesn’t make sense to store a sophisticated, valuable collection if it’s susceptible to loss or damage due to theft, fire or equipment failure,” he says. “The discerning renter will seek out the safest, most secure site to store this precious commodity.”