By Kay Miller Temple
When it comes to four-legged companions, the truism “you can choose your friends, but not your family” requires modification. Pets are often chosen as friends and then become like family, playing a key role in a person's day-to-day life—sometimes even at work. Not only do self-storage operators have love and respect for their own pets, many use their business acumen and community presence to assist other animals in need.
Self-storage is a very people-focused enterprise, and self-storage managers who live with a pet on site or bring one to work may find their pet's friendliness and warmth can be a real boon for the business. When Geraldine Goldberg, owner of Arcata Bay Self-Storage in Arcata, Calif., was working on her facility website, the designer asked how people identify her. She couldn't say what people remember about her, but they always remember her dog, Poppy. "Well, that's your brand," the designer said.
Since then, Poppy and Goldberg appear together in all facility advertising. The mixed-breed rescue dog is golden in color and likely part Golden Retriever and even some Border Collie, Goldberg says, because she has a "working dog mentality." She even has her own job description for when she's on the storage property: Always be on the leash except when playing ball in the fenced back lot. Only bark at the bad guys. And remember police officers and letter carriers are friends.
Goldberg is aware that her "brand" may deter some customers, and that's perfectly OK with her. "People know right off the bat there's a dog here, and if they don't like dogs, they are not going to rent from me, and that's just fine," she says. "And if they like dogs, which I find most people around here do, they want to rent from me."
Consider the Breed
While many pet breeds are ideal for long days at a self-storage facility and will interact favorably with tenants, there are some types that might not be simpatico. When his manager, Lynne, came to work at Kram-It Self Storage in Grove City, Ohio, facility owner Zac Zeune had no problem allowing her to bring her beagle, Nemo, to the office. Although friendly, Nemo doesn't often venture from the office, preferring to stay nestled in his bed under the desk. "For customers who like dogs and knows he's there, well, Nemo will come out," Zeune says. "Especially if he thinks he hears food."
If an employee's pet is permitted in the office, operators should consider the breed's temperament, Zeune says. Beagles are typically calm—something Zeune's own pet, a Jack Russell Terrier, is not. "As we like to say, he's just not 'work quality,'" says Zeune.
But Brandi Ulrey, president of Safe Stor Storage Centers of Salem, Ore., and Tacoma, Wash., has no qualms about bringing her Jack Russell to work every day. Manfred, aka Manny, is a 4-year-old rescue dog with dwarfism. His small size hasn’t stopped him from being the joy of the facility.
"Sometimes he can be a bit ‘bouncy’ for little kids, so we keep him in my office in the back," Ulrey says. "But he is definitely a people dog and, more specifically, a mama's boy."
Coco, a three-year-old Papillon, fits her breed’s description of playful and affectionate, says Richard Markle, resident manager for Alluvial Mini-Storage in Fresno, Calif. Papillons are named after the French word for butterfly, which describes the shape of the hair covering their ears. Coco has been greeting the facility's customers since the tender age of six months. "She loves people," Markle says. "But she's trained to not run around the counter unless we release her."