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February 1, 1999

4 Min Read
Green Valley Self-StorageTaking a dream to the bank

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Green Valley Self-Storage

Taking a dream to the bank

Green ValleySelf-Storage, nestled in the gently rolling, green hills of central Ohio, simply began asa dream in 1993, then turned into reality in 1995. After attending an Inside Self-StorageExpo in Las Vegas, owner Gary Weaver of Arcadia, Calif., obtained enough technicalinformation and contracts to put the dream on paper.

Once the numbers were on paper, finding the right location became the challenge. Withthe list of "dos and don'ts" obtained at the Las Vegas Expo on site selection, acommercial realtor was selected to find the perfect site. Although finding the site tooklonger than anticipated, the wait was well worth it. After looking at many properties forsale, none seemed to be quite right for a self-storage facility. Eventually, an expiredresidential listing was reviewed and appeared to fit the criteria. The owner was contactedand 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-puttgolf course that he and his wife had operated for several years. Anticipating a new homefor retirement in the near future, the timing was right for him to sell. The home wassitting on 3-1/2 acres already zoned commercial. It waslocated in a mixed neighborhood consisting of single-family homes, light manufacturing anda 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 theeasier pieces of the development process was financing. Most local bankers were interestedin self-storage because they had either already done storage loans or had heardself-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. Timingbecomes much more important in not only being able to construct in adverse weather, butalso having the doors open when customers are ready to rent storage space. Ground breakingbegan in March of 1995 on a site capable of 45,000 rentable square feet with the mangershome already in place. A detached, covered patio would eventually become the office aswell as four additional rental units. The doors of the first phase were opened in May1995, 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 percentper-month fill up rate was projected. When the 80 percent rate was reached, the projecthad actually rented up at a rate of 12 percent per month. Today the project has beenexpanded to 30,000 square feet. Phasing additional units has not only been advantageous tothe owner, but the bank also feels comfortable in extending additional funds for expansionas the previously constructed units fill up. Management can make or break a facility andfinding the right manager was as important as finding the right piece of property--amanager who would take charge of the business just as the owner would if he or she weremanaging it themselves. Julie Merriman would become that right person. Introduced to theowner by a relative, she had a sparkle in her eye and she could sell. Merriman had noexperience in self-storage, but she knew how to show a product and motivate the customerto take the right action. She would be trained to do the routine duties and how to followthe general guidelines. Today she is in charge: doing what it takes to rent units, keepingcustomers happy and filling additional units as they come on line. She has assets to sellthat the competition does not have. She informs the customer that they can save a fewdollars by going somewhere else, but asks them how important is it to feel secure aboutthe place they have chosen to store their personal possessions. She very seldom loses acustomer to a competitor.

Merriman also created a small "store" in the corner of her office to helpcustomers with the purchase of padlocks, boxes or tape--things that they may need to buywhile moving their possessions She gives everyone a free key ring for their storage keysand they get to keep the pen they signed the contract with--of course each has thebusiness name and phone number printed on it. Merriman intends to keep Green Valley's namein front of the customer as much as possible. Green Valley is already the largestself-storage facility in the county. Customer service is a top priority and the benefitsof that philosophy have paid off. Plans are currently underway to build a second locationin central Ohio next year. It will be larger than the current facility, but the same basicphilosophy will be utilized as in the existing one. Ask the owner if he is happy that heconverted his dream into reality and he will probably sell you a little dream that you cantake to the bank.

Customer service is a top priority, and the benefits of that philosophyhave paid off.

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