By CHRISTINA HAMLETT The Outlook Once upon a simpler time, people traveled through life much lighter. Whether it was to stay a step ahead of one’s enemies, follow the migratory patterns of four-footed prey or intrepidly venture to uncharted worlds, there were no overhead racks, mammoth SUVs or warehouses to stash one’s treasured possessions. Translated: If it couldn’t be carried on the owner’s back or stuffed in the pockets of a coat, it wasn’t making the trip and, in most cases, was a permanent goodbye. Once upon an earlier era, fears of economic uncertainty not only limited consumer freedom to buy new goods but also to make do and make last those items that were already precariously nudging their expiration date. In a land before the Internet, shopping used to require getting dressed, braving the elements and traveling across distance; today’s electronic impulse-buying can bring the world to our door while we’re still in our bathrobes. And yes, there was once even a time when an offspring’s bedroom could be converted to different use with the reasonable assurance that its college-bound occupant would not be moving back in on the heels of graduation, marriage, parenthood, divorce and/or unemployment. The acquisitive nature of human beings as a show of success — coupled with a vise-like grip on nostalgia — has brought us to the bursting point where “stuff” now exceeds the physical space in which to put it. The solution? StorQuest Self Storage. William Hobin, president of StorQuest’s parent company The William Warren Group, Inc., relates that he was working in the homebuilding industry in 1988 when he began to sense a change in the wind. “Troubles were starting to arise with our last major housing debacle,” he said. “By 1991, most of our company was laid off and the business was preparing to close its doors. I was intrigued with the self-storage business model because I believed it to be a more stable cash-flow business that could prosper in a down economic cycle as well as it could in one that was rising.” His experience and scrutiny of the market affirmed that, while the storage industry was certainly not immune to economic shifts, it was also less vulnerable to radical swings than some other types of commercial real estate. “During a down cycle, we can still grow our business because we can find new customers who are downsizing their homes or moving because of job transition,” Hobin said. “During upswings in the economy, we find there are more potential storage customers who are buying houses and increasing their personal belongings.” Too Much Stuff and Too Little Space? StorQuest to the Rescue! Now in its 14th year, Hobin’s company currently operates its selfstorage properties under its own brand name of StorQuest Self Storage. “We operate in five major metro markets in the Western U.S.: Denver, Phoenix, Northern California in the San Francisco Bay Area, five of the six counties within Southern California and in Honolulu. As we continue to expand, we intend to focus our growth initiatives within each of these five metro markets through acquisitions of other storage companies and new development.” The movement towards more and more multi-family, upscale housing in the San Gabriel Valley is, in Hobin’s view, an advantageous trend for the services and investment strategies of StorQuest. “We try to snuggle up closely to the higher density multi-family developments. Self storage is a great quiet neighbor and offers a tremendous benefit to the residential tenants. Many multi-family residents, for instance, have recently sold a larger home and are, thus, downsizing into a new rental unit. We believe our storage facilities offer a clean, safe place for them to store belongings that used to be in their extra bedroom or out in the garage.” And it’s not just the knickknacks, bric-a-brac, and unfinished crafts that are making StorQuest their home-away-from-home. Worry-free wine connoisseurs can squirrel away cases for future quaffing; RV, motorcycle and boat lovers have an indoor alternative for the months of non-use; and homebased businesses can keep their inventory somewhere other than behind a living room couch or stacked on empty chairs. “We’re also finding many multifamily residents and single-family homeowners are using our storage facilities simply for an extra closet to store items such as holiday decorations and winter clothing that they may need only once a year,” Hobin said. “A new service that we’re excited to be offering is called our ‘Truck and Driver’ program where our store managers can dispatch a truck and driver to a potential customer’s home or work location to help them with the transportation of their goods. This simplifies the move-in process for them, as they now don’t have to go rent a truck elsewhere.” Hobin predicts that the development and building of specialized storage facilities will continue to increase throughout the country. “With the shifting in the demographic profile of Americans and the aging of our boomer population, I think more people are going to be living in smaller residential quarters, be it multi-family or singlefamily detached housing,” he said. “By offering a convenient place near to where they live or work for them to store items will be of great benefit, especially since their pursuit of personal interests such as travel, boating or other hobbies often requires them to have more stuff than they have room for at home. I also believe we’ll see more mixed-use developments where self-storage facilities will be included with ground-level retail, storage in the basement and apartments on the upper floors.” Storing one’s possessions, of course, also calls for insuring them. StorQuest provides its tenants with pay-as-you-go renewable policies through its affiliation with The Bader Company. Says Hobin, “Almost all general property and liability insurance policies that owners have on storage facilities do not cover the tenant’s personal belongings. Therefore, by our being able to offer this type of insurance to our tenants, it gives us a great advantage over our competition. The response has been great. Our customers are happy to have coverage of their belongings and we’re happy to have an insurance company to call upon and seek assistance in case there is the unfortunate circumstance where a claim needs to be paid.” In addition to seeking new sites for development opportunities and/or acquisition candidates, Hobin and his staff are currently working with other industrial property owners and developers. “Through joint venture arrangements, we are planning to convert industrial buildings into self storage in markets where demand exceeds supply.” For more information, readers are invited to visit www.storquest.com, www.williamwarren.com, or call (310) 451-2130.
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