Green Valley Self-Storage, nestled in the gently rolling, green hills of central Ohio, simply began as a dream in 1993, then turned into reality in 1995. After attending an Inside Self-Storage Expo in Las Vegas, owner Gary Weaver of Arcadia, Calif., obtained enough technical information and contracts to put the dream on paper.
Once the numbers were on paper, finding the right location became the challenge. With the list of "dos and don'ts" obtained at the Las Vegas Expo on site selection, a commercial realtor was selected to find the perfect site. Although finding the site took longer than anticipated, the wait was well worth it. After looking at many properties for sale, none seemed to be quite right for a self-storage facility. Eventually, an expired residential listing was reviewed and appeared to fit the criteria. The owner was contacted and indicated he would be delighted to enter into negotiations.
In addition to the home being the seller's residence, the property had been a putt-putt golf course that he and his wife had operated for several years. Anticipating a new home for retirement in the near future, the timing was right for him to sell. The home was sitting on 3-1/2 acres already zoned commercial. It was located in a mixed neighborhood consisting of single-family homes, light manufacturing and a major college.
Julie Merriman, manager of Green Valley Self-Storage
Within a few days, the terms were agreed upon and a contract was drawn up. One of the easier pieces of the development process was financing. Most local bankers were interested in self-storage because they had either already done storage loans or had heard self-storage loans were a good risk. Once financing was secured, development could begin. Building in a cold climate like Ohio can bring on some additional challenges. Timing becomes much more important in not only being able to construct in adverse weather, but also having the doors open when customers are ready to rent storage space. Ground breaking began in March of 1995 on a site capable of 45,000 rentable square feet with the mangers home already in place. A detached, covered patio would eventually become the office as well as four additional rental units. The doors of the first phase were opened in May 1995, consisting of 20,000 square feet with customers waiting to move in.
Development went as expected and soon the spaces were filling up. A 10 percent per-month fill up rate was projected. When the 80 percent rate was reached, the project had actually rented up at a rate of 12 percent per month. Today the project has been expanded to 30,000 square feet. Phasing additional units has not only been advantageous to the owner, but the bank also feels comfortable in extending additional funds for expansion as the previously constructed units fill up. Management can make or break a facility and finding the right manager was as important as finding the right piece of property--a manager who would take charge of the business just as the owner would if he or she were managing it themselves. Julie Merriman would become that right person. Introduced to the owner by a relative, she had a sparkle in her eye and she could sell. Merriman had no experience in self-storage, but she knew how to show a product and motivate the customer to take the right action. She would be trained to do the routine duties and how to follow the general guidelines. Today she is in charge: doing what it takes to rent units, keeping customers happy and filling additional units as they come on line. She has assets to sell that the competition does not have. She informs the customer that they can save a few dollars by going somewhere else, but asks them how important is it to feel secure about the place they have chosen to store their personal possessions. She very seldom loses a customer to a competitor.
Merriman also created a small "store" in the corner of her office to help customers with the purchase of padlocks, boxes or tape--things that they may need to buy while moving their possessions She gives everyone a free key ring for their storage keys and they get to keep the pen they signed the contract with--of course each has the business name and phone number printed on it. Merriman intends to keep Green Valley's name in front of the customer as much as possible. Green Valley is already the largest self-storage facility in the county. Customer service is a top priority and the benefits of that philosophy have paid off. Plans are currently underway to build a second location in central Ohio next year. It will be larger than the current facility, but the same basic philosophy will be utilized as in the existing one. Ask the owner if he is happy that he converted his dream into reality and he will probably sell you a little dream that you can take to the bank.
Customer service is a top priority, and the benefits of that philosophy have paid off.