Aesthetically speaking, self-storage has come a long way in the past few years. Whether it’s zoning ordinances or savvy owners who realize that sizzle sells, facilities are taking on a more elaborate look and feel.
Certainly the growing trend of wine storage has upped the ante. Owners are earmarking notable amounts of their construction budgets to build upscale wine-storage facilities to attract renters such as restaurants, collectors and retailers.
While the trend is growing at a steady pace, it’s still a relatively small percentage of the projects we currently service. From a construction standpoint, adding wine storage is an easy build and can often allow you to use small, cumbersome spaces that may be unrentable as storage units. But the real deciding factor is your market. Facilities located in upper-income, high-density areas are typically most successful in this type of rental.
Adding the Warmth of Wood
Jack Nix, owner of Hoover Self Storage, knew what he needed to do to compete in the wine-storage arena in an affluent area in Birmingham, Ala. “Wine storage is part of the big picture,” Nix says. “Anybody who builds a class-A storage facility today should designate an area for wine storage, even if it’s only a small part of their square footage.”
The 150,000-square-foot facility allocated 578 square feet for wine storage. Nix knew the market base could support this type of service, so he set out to build a façade that exudes panache. During the planning phase, he attended a major industry tradeshow in Las Vegas and visited door manufacturer displays. His approach to wine storage changed when he saw one manufacturer’s doors made of wood laminate over steel. The laminate offers the pricing and flexibility of steel with the upscale look of wood. “We knew immediately that if we wanted to go first class, that look was a must,” Nix says. “Traditional doors were no longer a consideration.”
Once the doors were selected, the wood theme became prevalent in the Hoover Self Storage lobby. “When laying out the wine-storage area, we wanted a showroom window inside the office so customers would know we do wine storage. It was a show-and-tell approach that worked out nicely,” Nix explains.
The lobby has a wine country appeal, with deep-tone wood materials used throughout the entrance to the wine-storage area as well as the lobby desk. There is also wood laminate on the lockers in the lobby that can be used for customer package delivery and more.
It’s not surprising that wood or wood-like laminate is the material of choice for wine storage. Not only do the deep tones of wood connote affluence, wine vats are made of wood. Many other types of décor—such as carpeting, artwork, chandeliers and more—can add to the overall flair.
Meeting a Demand
Wine-storage customers tend to be individual collectors, restaurants and even retailers. Jim LaBonte, owner of Tropical Storage in Miramar, Fla., says many of his clients have their own storage for consumption wines. “We are looking for the wine collectors who need a secure, temperature-controlled area to store their investments,” he adds.
Many collectors invest $600 or more per bottle, making security and temperature/humidity control of the utmost importance. Most facilities offer separate access areas for wine storage, some with 24-hour keypad access or even separate elevators.
The desired wine-storage temperature is around 55 degrees, with humidity at 65-70 percent. In fact, many facilities use computer-monitored refrigeration systems and are investing in backup systems should one system fail for any reason. “It’s important for our customers to feel their investment is well cared for,” LaBonte says. “We have gone the extra mile with construction features, backup air-conditioning units and security systems to ensure their comfort level.”
How much space you allocate for wine storage depends on your projected market base. Hoover dedicated 30 lockers, but left room for expansion. In determining the unit mix, there really are no steadfast guidelines. One evolving issue is wine-storage renters discovering triple-stack lockers to be too small. Most self-storage owners report their clients want walk-in space for easier access, so lockers are being converted to accommodate demand. Thirty to 50 lockers seems to be the average in most facilities, but it fluctuates based on demand. Some owners have even removed wine-storage lockers due to lack of market demand, so knowing your demographics is key in the planning stage.
Marketing for Success
Marketing your wine storage is important in determining its success. In addition to information on your website, many facility owners are joining local wine-tasting clubs and regularly call on restaurants, country clubs and retailers. Advertising in upscale city publications is another avenue for building awareness, as well as participating in local wine expos.
Is wine storage a strong revenue builder? It certainly can be, particularly if customers rent regular storage units in addition to wine storage. Most owners are making the wine-storage area a major focus of facility tours to potential renters, as word-of-mouth can be one of your most beneficial promotion tactics. “Our lobby is built to showcase our wine-storage area, but the ambience has been well received by regular renters as well,” Nix concludes.
Ramey Jackson is vice president of sales for Janus International, a manufacturer of doors and hallway components for the self-storage industry. For more information, visit www.janusintl.com.