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 youre 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 wines 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 whats 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 doesnt make sense to store a sophisticated, valuable collection if its 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.
Market in Your Community
Americans love their wine, drinking an estimated 767 million gallons of wine in 2009, according to the Wine Institute. And many wine connoisseurs, retailers and restaurateurs, turn to self-storage for the safekeeping of their stock.
Marketing wine storage requires a more active approach than that of traditional self-storage. You cannot simply lean on your facilitys street location and curb appeal to attract these tenants. Youll need a more targeted campaign to achieve the best results.
March Chase, vice president of Southeast Management Co., which operates Plantation Storage in South Carolina, suggests you first market to your existing tenants, as they are already familiar with your facility. Depending on the location of your wine storage, many of your customers may not even know you offer this service. Send an e-mail to your current and previous tenants outlining the features of your wine-storage facility and offer them a discount on their first months rent.
You should also reach out to local wine-tasting clubs, and restaurants and retailers who specialize in wine. Create a referral program through your partnerships, offering group discounts or two-for-one deals.
Take your operation to the next level by offering wine-tasting events. Ask a local wine expert from a restaurant, retailer or club to come in and talk about wine. Youll bring your audience of wine lovers to your facility, where theyll see firsthand how your wine storage can protect their collections. Be sure to market the event through fliers, on your website and through social-media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook.
If you have a retail store, consider adding wine-related products such as corkscrews, coolers, wine tags, glasses, cases, carriers, books and wine magazines. Your facility will become a one-stop shop, allowing tenants to pick up extra items when scrambling with last-minute party preparations. Theyll appreciate the convenience, and youll earn more revenue.
By focusing on the four core components of wine storageconstruction, temperature control, security and marketingyoull attract more tenants and grab a larger share of the competitive self-storage market.
Big Jim Self Storage & Wine Cellar
Location: Sarasota, Fla.
Owner: Big Jim I LLC
Built in: 2006
Size: 1,320 square feet
Locker size: Varies from 3-by-2-by-4 to 6-by-6-by-8
Décor style: Classic southern
Security measures: Zoned keypad entry, biometric fingerprinting and personal security code, individual dead-bolt locks, motion-detection surveillance cameras
Extra amenities: Wine-tasting room with TV, phone and Wi-Fi, delivery acceptance, diesel-powered backup generator
What do customers like about your wine storage? They like our security and flexible hours and the helpful and friendly staff. The wine-tasting room is also popular.
Location: Bluffton, S.C.
Owner: Plantation Storage Associates LLC
Built in: 2000
Size: 64 lockers
Locker size: Varies to accommodate six to 112 cases
Décor style: French country
Security measures: Keypad access
What do customers like about your wine storage? We have very little competition, which is a bonus. Our wine tenants enjoy the same things as our traditional self-storage tenants: our managers and customer service.
STORE Self Storage and Wine Storage
Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Owner: Jon Channing
Built in: 2008
Size: 3,600 square feet
Locker size: Varies from 2-by-2 to 11-by-4
Décor style: Tuscan with Venetian plaster, African mahogany, brushed-nickel key plates, custom-made door, cut-stone flooring
Security measures: Biometric fingerprint entry, individual door alarms, video surveillance with motion recording, personal key to lockers, personal code to enter and exit
Extra amenities: Delivery acceptance, exclusive inventory-management system, two wine cellars, automated lights, access-controlled loading and unloading
What do customers like about your wine storage? We have flexible access hours, wine-tasting classes and events, and accept wine deliveries. Theres also a wine-tasting room with a custom-made table that sits 16, and a 52-inch TV for wine presentations. Tenants also like the upscale luxury décor of the facility lobby.