Self-storage development has been booming and evolving more in recent years than perhaps at any other point in the industry’s 40-plus year history. As competition ramps up, owners must find new ways to differentiate themselves in their markets. In some cases, it can make sense to complement the primary self-storage use with an element of specialty storage that targets a more pointed demographic. A few options include boat/RV storage, high-security art storage, condo-style “man cave” storage and—one of our personal favorites—wine storage.
Wine storage can serve as a great accompaniment to self-storage, but it’s highly dependent on the region. It can be successful outside of wine country, and a new entrant can make sense even in a crowded market, but it’s very important to pay attention to the competitors in the area. For example, Vineburg Wine & Self Storage in Sonoma, California, discovered favorable conditions despite multiple other operators in its market. Not only was there little to no vacant space, the central location allowed the business to grow alongside new wineries and private collectors.
Still, location isn’t the only element to wine-storage success. This is a product that requires careful forethought. Let’s look how to design it.
Your approach to wine storage design should be delicate and refined, much like the beverage the product is intended to house. Any project should begin with a thorough analysis of the region by a professional who’s familiar with the self-storage industry and this specific storage type. Having a detailed grasp of the market and potential future supply is paramount in determining financial viability. You must consider the competition as well as population and industry growth.
Ensuring you don’t overbuild in the market is key, as wine-storage customers comprise a much smaller demographic than the general self-storage client base. Affording expensive wine is one thing; paying to store it only further shortens your list of potential tenants. On the other hand, room to grow with the market is also important.
Once you’ve determined a market will work well for your wine-storage offering, design takes center stage. Begin by creating a sensible site layout, paying close attention to property presentation and access as well as desired square footage. Any decisions regarding building placement should consider a shadow study and features to assist with energy-efficiency.
The facility exterior is critical, as it serves as a marketing tool to draw potential customers. If you’ve ever toured the Napa and Sonoma areas of California, you’ve seen extravagant tasting rooms and wine-production facilities. Using similar architectural elements and building materials in your self-storage project sets the ambience and helps lure wine aficionados.
Welcoming features like water displays (fountains, waterfalls, ponds) and outdoor furniture are all great ways to complement the building. Additional features that can help frame the office and appease jurisdictions are trellises with ascending ivy or grape vines, awnings at entry points, pavers or enhanced concrete, decorative gates and doors, and lush landscaping.
The exterior cladding should strike a balance between viticulture and the architectural materials of the surrounding area. One recent project incorporated a masonry product that resembled weathered barnwood. This cost-effective, durable material fit right in with the neighborhood and local history. Large banks of storefront glass look beautiful and can provide a view corridor to the wine-storage entry inside. This type of storefront screams “retail” and makes the facility appear clean and safe.
Wine lockers at Bee Safe Storage and Wine Cellar Greensboro, North Carolina
Once you’ve planned the exterior aesthetic, begin thinking about interior elements that can enhance the marketability of your wine-storage program. Operators have used everything from empty wine barrels, heads staves and hoops to faux wine vats to help play up the theme. These features can range from simple and cost-effective to elaborate and pricey. It’s all about painting a picture and creating the mood that comes along with enjoying fine wine.
Though your main focus may be on the storage itself, think about the entry to your wine-storage area and any complementary spaces such as tasting rooms and patios, which can be used for happy hours, private meetings and other social gatherings. These can all be works of art and are a great way to sell your service. We’ve seen entries that include etched glass, ornate wood doors and even hand-painted murals. It can be smart to consult with an interior designer, as you want the décor to be tasteful, not overdone.
If you get anything right with wine-storage design, make sure it’s the climate. There’s no point in going through any of this unless you can ensure customers’ stored property is perfectly preserved. No expense should be spared here.
We highly recommend that you consult with a wine-industry and refrigeration expert on the various technicalities, as climate control is the most critical aspect for wine storage. Proper temperature and humidity are key in keeping the wine in optimum condition.
It’s also important that the building be well-positioned and -insulated. Again, pay attention to the placement of your wine storage area in relation to the sun. By limiting exposure on that portion of the facility, you can save in energy costs. If you install windows to provide visibility to the wine-storage area from outside, be mindful of how much sun is hitting the space. High-efficiency glazing has come a long way, but heat is still a factor.
A wine locker at Rose City Rose City Self Storage & Wine Vaults in Portland, Oregon
(Photo courtesy of Janus International)
Another critical aspect of wine storage is security, not only from the facility owner’s perspective but the customer’s, too. Remember, tenants will be storing items of great financial and perhaps sentimental value.
It’s wise to provide keypad access at the wine-storage entry. We’ve even seen biometric or print scanners proposed for this scenario. A large showing of cameras in and around the area is also good way to reassure clients. Another great feature is a monitor that displays the current temperature and humidity of the wine area and sounds an alarm if one of these metrics falls outside the prescribed parameters.
Also, pay attention to lighting, which can serve a dual function of enhancing security and improving the overall look and feel. If you really want to make a statement, ask your design partner about working with a specialized lighting consultant.
The Best of the Bunch
Wine storage can make a lovely, profitable complement to a traditional self-storage operation. When you design it, think about how and where you like to enjoy a glass of wine. An attractive, secure environment that promotes your new product won’t only differentiate your facility from competitors, it’ll draw in new customers from this tasty little niche.
Bruce Jordan is president and David Meinecke is vice president of Jordan Architects Inc., a design firm that specializes in self-storage, custom residential, hospitality, land planning, multi-family and retail. Bruce has more than 30 years of experience in architecture, preceded by an extensive background in construction and real estate development. David has more than 14 years of experience in self-storage design and development. For more information, call 949.388.8090; email [email protected].