Opening a New Facility

July 1, 2003

8 Min Read
Opening a New Facility

Preparing and opening a self-storage store may seem like a simple task--until you actually begin the process. What most people do not predict are the special "surprises" every development project contains. About 90 days before a self-storage opening, there is a little extra adrenalin flowing, a kind of nervous energy much like that feeling you may have left the coffeemaker on as you back down the driveway to leave for vacation. It is that nagging feeling that maybe you forgot something...

90 Days and Counting:The Pre-Grand Opening--By now, you have sent out at least a dozen press releases covering everything from the ground-breaking to the hiring of your management company. Hopefully, several of them were published, and the general public knows you're on the way to your grand opening.

Before the opening, you establish contacts at the local chamber of commerce and court the local "dignitaries." You have met the mayor and all council members. You are on a first-name basis with the CEO of your bank and all of its officers. You know their golf handicaps and which scotch they drink. All brochures have been designed and are at the printer. You have ordered shirts and uniforms for staff and giveaways. Your coffee mugs have been delivered, and you are ready to order the on-site sign packages.

60 Days and Counting:Grand-Opening Jitters--Invitations to the grand opening have been sent and you have confirmed the mayor and bank CEO will be attending. The printed napkins are due to arrive next week, and the caterer has reviewed the menu with you at least twice. The bartender is on board, and you have made certain the servers are dressed in white shirts, black ties and vests.

You have ordered the on-site management software, and the computer is scheduled to be delivered in two weeks. The security folks have a set of plans and are setting up the door table, and you are making last-minute revisions to the security system. The office has been roughed out, and you can plainly see you are very short on electrical outlets. The tile you ordered has been matched to the countertops, and you are ordering the chairs and lobby furniture.

The management company has made an offer to the on-site managers and is asking you when the apartment will be ready. You have upgraded the appliance package from the builder and are having last-minute thoughts about carpet colors. The general contractor is now meeting with you twice a week to review change orders and update you on the progress of door and hallway installation. Large trucks with pallets of roll-up doors want to know where to leave their loads, and you are making sure the security company has the equipment ready to ship.

30 Days and Counting: The Tension Mounts--Your on-site manager is bugging you about having enough coffee mugs, and he needs more "hello" packages. The phone is ringing at the call center with early reservations, and you are conducting hard-hat tours with commercial customers as they select their spaces. You have placed orders with the Val-Pak or Coupon Clipper, and they are nearly ready to make a drop mailing. You have confirmed with the contractor that things are on track, and you are now meeting three times a week to go over last-minute details.

You have the job superintendent's cell-phone number memorized, and you know his kids' names and what kind of dog he has. You're nervous when he says his golf game is improving, because you think the building cannot possibly be ready in time. You have had at least three flat tires from the screws left in the driveways, and the construction dumpster is overflowing, no matter how many times it gets emptied.

You are starting to receive RSVPs from the dignitaries, and the editor at the local newspaper knows you by first name. The caterer has received his second deposit, and you are nervous about having enough food.

The feasibility consultant has called you with good news and bad news. Rates are up since the study was done a year ago, but occupancy at the other new facility in town is stuck at 70 percent. You are trying to not get nervous that he is offering his second month for free, and you are calling the software vendor to change prices for the initial set-up.

15 Days and Counting:Everyone Says You Are on Track, Yet You Are Certain There Is No Way Everything Will Be Ready--The sod and trees for the landscaping are at the nursery, which is waiting for it to stop raining so it can plant. You are certain it will rain on the day of the opening, and you are pricing a large tent for the parking lot, just in case. The driveway has received its last coat, and you cannot figure out why the parking spaces have not been striped. You are upset because the contractor has not swept the floors, and you just know the hallways will not get sealed in time.

Your managers have already started to move their things in, and the contractor says you have a temporary certificate of occupancy for part of the building. You resist temptation to start moving tenants in because the alarm guys say they will shoot you if you do. The computer is in a corner of the office waiting for the floor covering to be laid, and the security guys are starting to test individual door alarms.

You have ordered all of the office supplies, and the box and retail supplies are stacked inside units. The golf cart has its first flat tire, and there are scuff marks on the seat. You receive your first call from a direct-mail campaign and are sad because they need the space tomorrow and they will have to go to your competitor.

7 Days and Counting:You Are Ready for a Second Walk-Through With the Contractor and Cannot Understand Why Many Items From the First Remain Open--The rain has stopped, and you are so nervous sometimes you cannot remember the password to get into the computer. The manager is already starting to talk about a raise, and your certificate of occupancy has been held up by the fire department because the alarm panel did not ring through properly.

Your contractor assures you the elevator inspector will be here "tomorrow," and the 35 doors that do not open or stay open are no big deal. You want to shoot somebody when he says the sealer for the hallways will take an extra day to dry, and only half the units have numbers on the doors. Amazingly, there have been no flat tires in three days. The asphalt has been striped, and if the blinds for the office would arrive, you would be all set.

The manager's best friend has come over to see his new digs and you are furious because he smoked in the apartment. There is a stain on the carpet from move-in, and the dishwasher is leaking. The good news is you have 25 signed leases, and you are ready for the first tenant to move in. Your website goes down, and you only find out because somebody tried to reserve a unit online and had to call instead. There are only 30 alarms that do not work, but only two security guys on site. There is no way, no how, this mess will be cleaned up in time.

The radio deejay doing the live remote has come down with laryngitis, and he assures you he "will be as good as new in a week or so." Somebody has already stolen the digital VCR for the security system, and you remind the security company you have not signed off on the delivery yet. The mayor's wife is ready to deliver her baby, and the mayor has has not returned any of your 25 phone calls. His secretary assures you the assistant mayor is very photogenic, and he really has not lost that big pair of scissors they use for the ribbon cutting, he just cannot remember who used it last. (He also cannot get ahold of the mayor).

The car club that will be displaying its cars during the grand opening is sure it will have at least 20 cars on site and wants to know the size of the trophy you are presenting. You're pretty sure you told the manager to order a trophy... At least you have it in your notes that you were supposed to tell him to order a trophy...

There has never been a beer shortage in the history of Budweiser, and now they are talking about what will happen to Anhauser-Busch stock when the company is all out of beer. Of course, they co-sponsored the live remote, and you have an iron-clad contract to give away Budweiser exclusively at the opening.

Meanwhile, back at the office, the power will stay on for at least 30 minutes at a time before the circuit breaker trips. Since you elected to buy a state-of-the-art phone system that depends on continuous power (you saved $200 by not buying the extended-power back-up system), there are no messages, and the phone has not rung for days. (Did I mention the voicemail needs power to retain memory?)

The front window was broken when the neon sign for the office was delivered and, interestingly, the trucking company responsible has not answered any of your calls--but then neither has the glass company. The insurance company assures you the cost of the window will be about $5 more than your deductible. But not to worry, because at least now the mailman is actually delivering mail to your address. One of the first items you open is a notice from the city that it will be widening the street in front of your store.

Ah, life's little surprises...

RK Kliebenstein is the president of Coast-To-Coast Storage, a self-storage consultancy firm that can guide owners through the store-opening process. For more information, call 561.367.9241, ext. 81, or e-mail [email protected].

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter
ISS is the most comprehensive source for self-storage news, feature stories, videos and more.

You May Also Like