Thread: Urban Vs. Rural in Self-Storage
31st July 2009, 12:18 PM #1
Urban Vs. Rural in Self-Storage
Not being a self-storage manager/operator/developer myself, I am curious about the different challenges of running a facility in a metropolitan area vs. running one in a small town or rural area.
On the face, it seems like the biggest benefit of the metro area is a MUCH bigger pool of potential customers but, likewise, a much bigger pool of competitors. On the other hand, if you are in a rural or small-town location, you might be the only game in town (or one of the few games in town). But you're reliant on a much smaller pool.
If there are some out there who've worked in both environments, share your comparison. And even if you haven't worked in both environments, I'm curious what your opinion is.John Carlisle
Community Manager Emeritus
Still a Big Fan of Self-Storage!
31st July 2009, 01:15 PM #2Senior Member
- Join Date
- Mar 2009
- Columbus, WI
Urban vs rural
Key differences that I think we see as a manufacturer:
Building type: Urban sites are more likely to build more interior access and multi story units, vs rural sites which are more likely single story buildings, due to lower land costs. Urban may be more likely a conversion.
Site features: Rural sites are less likely to have fences, controlled access, security etc. The rural sites can cost less to develop, but would typically have lower rents. I live in the country, and there aren't any facilities anywhere near my home that have on site management or any type of access control.
You could probably throw a third category in there: suburban, which I'd think of as a cross between the above, usually with on site management and a whole raft of amenities.
Trachte Building Systems
31st July 2009, 01:48 PM #3
I thought about mentioning "suburban" as a separate category, but thought it might fit in under "urban." I guess not! Thanks for your input, Steve!
So, let's call this a three-way fight now: Urban Vs. Suburban Vs. RuralJohn Carlisle
Community Manager Emeritus
Still a Big Fan of Self-Storage!
31st July 2009, 01:56 PM #4StorageLand Guest
As I have seen with new Rural Sites they tend to be built and operated as most others have in the past. They're still very unprofessional with a row of buildings, a gravel drive, no fence, and a storage unit converted into an office that might not be staffed regularly.
On the other hand the urban/in-town facilities are much more professional with a fully landscaped area, a seperate office that is outside of the fenced area. They are even adding in mixed use features such as executive office suites, office supply store, gift cards/candles.
I cringe when I see new facilities being built in rural areas that function like the ones built 20 years ago.
31st July 2009, 02:13 PM #5Moderator
- Join Date
- Jan 2008
- Tucson, Arizona
I manage facilities in both the Urban areas and in the "country". As a matter of fact, I own one in a small northeastern Arizona town. Yes we have gravel drives, we have rows of buildings but we also have electronic gate access, a real office and a manager on site. I do not think we are what you could call "unprofessional" but certainly we do not have all the glamor of a new facility built in Scottsdale.
I have seen many facilities in the city that are as you have described in smaller towns, I have also seen many professional facilities in smaller towns. I do not think you can lump all the smaller facilities into one catagory, whether they have 100 units or 1,000 units it really depends on the owner/manager as to how professional they are.
People are people, I find very little difference in how customers want to be treated regardless of where they live. I have similar problems/opportunities in the urban or suburn areas, yes there may be a larger pool of customers in the city but there are usually more competitors as well. We have good customers in both areas, we have bad customers in both areas.
I find very few differences between them.Mel Holsinger, President
Professional Self Storage Management, LLC
3434 E. Kleindale Ste. E
Tucson, AZ 85716
31st July 2009, 06:46 PM #6
Well said Mel
We are in a "suburban" area that used to be "country".
This facility was built 25 years ago and it was one of the first in this area. Back then we didn't have fences or gate systems. It was very laid back and easy going.
As times have changed we have added block wall fencing and an electronic gate control system.
We have also seen an increase in the number of facilities in our area - we now have way too many locations for the number of people in this area.
In this area you can find anything from the gravel drives to state of the art facilities, with everything from bumpkins to business professionals running them (we act like professional bumpkins here )
In some ways we have the best and the worst - the laid back of the rural area and the overcrowding of the metropolitan area.Wayne
All arguments can be resolved ... with high explosives and Humor!!!
1st August 2009, 02:38 AM #7
"professional bumpkins" I LOVE IT! May I use it please?!
From operations standpoint, I was always jealous of the site I was at previously as it is located in the heart of an Urban area. Many, many business customers there. The huge malls nearby use the units for storing their holiday decor, the stores in the mall utilize space to stock up for the Winter holiday sales, plus year round inventory overstock. There was never an empty unit and turnover of a unit could happen within minutes.
I am now running a facility in a rural area that is fast becoming urban, or maybe suburban would be a better choice. I've worked hard to get our name recognized, get the word out that we're here etc. over the years whereas the former company never did any marketing at all. Competition was not a problem either. It was a piece of cake to keep the units filled.
Our place was in the country when we opened in '97, literally. Each Spring we watched the calves being born behind us at the dairy farm. I could watch the kids driving part of the way to school from our balcony as there were no buildings around us. Now, we are surrounded by business parks in every direction.
We did go professional even being in the country with a beautiful street-scape to lure people in, we have a nice office, a gorgeous customer restroom and all the amenities as far as free water (cooler or bottles as needed) an endless chocolate jar, a bottomless cookie jar and marketing treats galore for people as well.
We have the perimeter fencing, tons of lighting, skylights in our hallways, and of course security features as well.
So the biggest difference to me has been in marketing the site. We did a fantastic job when we opened with the help of many other local managers and a tight storage market. Our Storage Managers group sent people our way from all over the Bay Area and we hit 80% capacity within the first 4 months.
After we doubled the site size in 2001, it was a lot harder and a much longer, tedious ramp up due to the increase in the number of local facilities (4 including us, then #6 opened about eight months before we did) and the aftermath of 9-11. I'm happy to say that never taking my eye off the ball we're still maintaining in the 90s, but it is NOT as easy now. Urban was easier, but I still miss my cows.
Even the urban site I used to be at is now struggling. For the first time they are running move in specials. We're surrounded by $1 move ins, first month free & more but we're not quite ready to give away the farm like the others just yet.
All in all, from my vantage point the suburban site is more difficult to get people to visit initially; but once they do and they tell a friend... well, it's just gotten easier to keep our place filled for the most part. I'd like a few more retail outlets around that require extra space, but for now the commercial customers we've had for years are still hanging in here with us.
The commercial real estate market surrounding us is in bad shape, so we can't count on that until the marker rebounds and that may not be for quite awhile to come I'm afraid. So, marketing my lil heart out still and hoping for the best.Gina 6k
CochraneStorage dot com
Morgan Hill, California
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough!
I am not an attorney, just an experienced manager who is willing to share what I have learned. Your thoughts, practices or opinions may vary and neither of us may be right.
4th August 2009, 03:43 PM #8Senior Member
- Join Date
- Feb 2009
We are rural
And we are also professional. I am a bit offended at the remarks that rural = unprofessional. But I'll get over it.
We have a clean office, a clean yard, nice plantings, good fencing, security cameras and a gate with keypad. The driveways are paved. I've never worn a tank top to work, but no uniform either.
One of the differences here in our rural area from what y'all in the cities experience is that there are no orange door companies anywhere close, and in fact no nationwide corporates at all. There are no flashing signs signalling "first month free" or "first month $1."
In general, we are a fairly laid back group and help each other out whenever possible. I guess that's rural living for you.