Racecars. A barn. Firefighters. While these concepts may seem like they have nothing in common, they’re all being used in a unique way to create an eye-catching, memorable design for a self-storage facility. Going beyond colored doors, attractive architecture and new construction materials, a handful of owners and developers are tapping into a central theme to create a distinct product in busy markets.
The concept might be likened by some to basic branding, but it’s more complex. While some operators keep it modest—think a surf theme at a coastal location—others are pushing their design to a whole new level. Here are three examples of themes that have propelled operators to self-storage success.
The Need for Speed in California
I-5 Self Storage in Tustin, Calif., welcomes customers with a theme that proudly celebrates the spirit of motorsports and classic cars. Owner and developer Randy Scott Wong worked in various aspects of the motorcycle industry and always had a deep love for anything on wheels. “I know that I am not alone in this passion, so I thought, why not share it? My desire was to broadly appeal and create visual interest equally for men, women and children of all ages. To do this, I drew inspiration from a wide range of motorsports influence,” says Wong, who has a background in graphic and visual arts.
Wong’s vision is evident both inside and out, from the highway-themed signage on the facility exterior, to the real carbon fiber in the front office desk, to the polished diamond plating throughout the property. Racing flags are displayed above customer workstations, and a checkered-flag pattern on the asphalt marks the facility’s entrance.
“Customers will always remember a visit to I-5 Self Storage. The strategic use of colors and names helps serve functional purposes, such as helping them easily locate their storage units, as well as emotional triggers when they see the care and enthusiasm that permeates all aspects of our unique, award-winning facility,” Wong says. “Equally important, our friendly staff enjoys embracing the theme and understands how much our customers care about their belongings, their vehicles and the overall storage experience.”
Barn Raising in the Midwest
The barn-style front office found at several Moove In Self Storage facilities has become a literal representation of the operator’s unique brand in the Midwest. Founded in 1997 by The Gilliland Family, the company chose its theme and name based on its history of raising registered Holstein cows. Although the Gillilands exited the cow-raising industry in the 1980s, the theme seemed an obvious choice when they built their first self-storage facility in 1997 in the village of Bald Eagle near Tyrone, Pa.
Today, Moove In has 17 facilities in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well as one under development. Many of the properties feature the barn-style office, complete with cow weather vanes. The interior incorporates steel sheeting for the counters, barn lights and various décor with “cow spots.” Even the company’s moving trucks carry the animal-inspired theme.
“We love to use the cow theme in all our branding and marketing. It reminds all our staff of our farming heritage—where the core values of hard work, trustworthiness, treating people right and providing a great product at a great value comes naturally,” the company website states.
Blazing a Trail in Colorado
When Barbi and Christopher Burton set out to rebrand their self-storage facility several years ago, they hit upon a design idea that would not only help the property stand out in the competitive Loveland, Colo., market but also become a catalyst for their community involvement. Firehouse Self Storage was born after the couple learned the Larimer County Search and Rescue (LCSAR) team was in desperate need of cash. Rather than just becoming a dedicated donor, the couple revamped their existing site to pay homage to firefighters.
To establish the theme, they redecorated the exterior and office interior to resemble a fire station. The waiting area features firehouse-themed memorabilia, chairs made from fire hydrants, and a coffee bar fashioned from half a fire truck that even includes working tail lights. The operator also has eight working firetrucks it proudly displays during local events and parades.
“We chose our theme as a new type of branding that makes people realize that we our part of the community and giving back each day to help save the lives of others,” Barbi Burton says. “When people rent from Firehouse, they have fun the moment they walk in our doors. We always say we are ‘The Hotel of Storage,’ not the ‘Motel of Storage.’”
When it came time to expand, the firefighter theme was carried over to the new development on a 42-acre parcel in Longmont, Colo. Not only will it resemble a 1900s firehouse and convey the theme throughout, it will be nearly double the size of the existing facility, which sits on 24 acres and offers 1,500 units. The plans include parking a real fire truck inside the office and a fireman’s pole extending down from the property’s second story. “Upon arrival, it looks nothing like storage,” Barbi Burton says.
The Burtons continue to offer a percentage of revenue from every storage rental to LCSAR, a nonprofit search and rescue resource for Larimer County, Colo. Names of the 347 fallen Colorado firefighters are inscribed on a sign inside the facility, and the couple offers rental discounts to fire, military and police personnel.
“If a company goes with a theme, they should find something that they can give back to their community, a need they can help meet, and take that idea to the top,” Barbi Burton says. “Go beyond what it could be and take that to the unbelievable.”