The vision for our company has always been to design and build architecturally interesting, state-of-the-art self-storage facilities. When we were in the market-analysis phase for our newest facility in St. Matthews, Ky., a suburb of Louisville, we explored a wide range of amenities, products and services that paired well with climate-controlled self-storage, one of which was wine storage.
We found there weren’t any dedicated wine-storage facilities in our market or even the region, especially not within self-storage. Once we identified this gap, we decided to integrate wine storage into our design, and we’ve had a very good response.
We designed our facility with several types of customers in mind. Some clients are rebuilding or adding to their existing wine cellar and need a safe environment to store their collection in the meantime. Others ship cases of wine to our facility and use it as their personal cellar. They’ll store the majority for long periods and retrieve a few bottles at a time when they want to enjoy them.
We accept packages for tenants on the self-storage side of our business, as we know peoples’ schedules can be quite busy and they’re not always available to meet a delivery person. So, it was a natural progression for us to add this service to our wine storage as well. Some clients ship cases directly to our facility so the wine can be placed in our storage room from the start.
Designing the Space
When we built our wine-storage room, we had two key objectives: to ensure the conditions are ideal for long-term storage and to make the area highly secure. Our biggest challenge was the overall construction since it’s such a specialized space. Not many general contractors have experience building wine storage. There were a lot of meetings and communication between the various parties to make sure we got everything to the correct specifications and accomplished our goals.
Our room is between 1,200 and 1,300 square feet. It’s on the first floor to ensure people can access their collection quickly and easily. We offer six unit sizes, with case capacities ranging from 12 standard, 12-bottle cases in our smallest unit, up to 85 cases in our larger units.
The room is maintained at a constant 55 degrees and 56 percent to 58 percent relative humidity, which is the ideal environment for long-term wine storage. In addition to the sensors on our cooling system, we installed a separate Wi-Fi-enabled hygrometer, which takes readings of temperature and humidity. This allows our clients to log on to an app and check the conditions of the room in real time from their smartphone, giving them peace of mind that their collection is safe.
Managing the temperature and humidity and keeping them within their optimal ranges involved some creative solutions. The room is essentially walled off and separated from the rest of the facility using a special closed-cell, tri-polymer foam insulation. The ingress and egress point is a highly secure two-door vestibule. The door from the hallway requires the customer to enter a PIN. The second door is a large, industrial-grade refrigeration door that serves as the barrier and seal of the wine-storage environment.
Our cooling system is redundant, which means we have two refrigeration units that are independently capable of maintaining the desired temperature. If one malfunctions, the second will pick up the slack while the first is repaired. Additionally, we’ve installed natural-gas backup generators for the coolers to ensure wine won’t be vulnerable in a power outage.
All lighting is motion-activated and has been strategically positioned so it doesn’t shine directly on bottles if they happen to be outside a case or crate. As you’d imagine, some of our clients’ collections are quite valuable, so it was paramount to design our wine room to the highest specifications.
Keeping It Secure
One of the most important factors for our clients is security. When a wine unit is leased at our facility, the customer chooses a four- to 10-digit PIN, which he enters at the access gate. This disengages the individual alarm on his unit. He must also enter his code to unlock the vestibule door to the wine-storage room. After the client drops off or retrieves what he wants, he must input his PIN at the gate upon exit, which re-engages his alarm.
We also have more than 60 high-definition, forward-looking, infrared, radiometer-enabled security cameras. We want to put our clients’ minds at ease when they store with us. They know their valuables are secure.
Getting the Word Out
We do a fair bit of digital marketing, but we’ve found the most successful marketing tool has been direct referrals and partnerships with local wine organizations, clubs and home-cellar builders. We also hold wine tastings at our facility and sponsor tastings at local wine stores. If any of you are “wine people,” then you know this group sticks together and is passionate about it. It’s important for us get in front of these folks and meet them face-to-face.
If you’re considering wine storage for your facility, first look into your market. Is there anyone else doing it? If so, reach out to them and gather information about their successes and woes. If no one else is doing it in your area, engage an expert in the wine industry to get a sense of the local demand and help guide you through the design process. Additionally, since a lot of the wine you’ll be storing has the potential to be expensive, you’ll need to consult a legal expert to create a lease specific to the service.
Wine storage is worth exploring. It can give your facility a unique amenity guaranteed to set you apart from competitors.
Chase Davis is the head of marketing and research for Citadel Self Storage, an expanding self-storage company in the Midwest and Southeast. He’s been in the storage industry since 2015 and has worked on many aspects of developing and operating modern, indoor facilities. For more information, call 502.708.4943; visit www.citadelselfstorage.com.