WILLIAM WARREN GROUP GROWS SELF-STORAGE IN COLO., NATIONALLY
By Jill Jamieson-Nichols
February 19, 2014
Self-storage rode through the recession notably better than other commercial property types, and as the tide rises, one owner/operator is making waves.
The William Warren Group, which owns the StorQuest Self Storage brand, is about to double its number of facilities in Colorado and recently hired a retail/self-storage guru to lead the brand’s national expansion.
“We do intend to be a national brand,” said William Warren Group President and CEO Bill Hobin. The California-based company currently has 93 self storage facilities in five states.
It moved into Florida a year ago and, while it doesn’t have a specific target, “We think by the middle of 2015, we will be at 150-plus locations,” said Hobin.
Growth will come through new development, acquisition of independently owned self-storage facilities, redevelopments and, to some extent, third-party management. There also may be shared ownerships with independent operators that want to take advantage of the brand, marketing and services The William Warren Group offers its customers.
“We’re very flexible and entrepreneurial,” said Hobin.
The William Warren Group has seven StorQuest facilities in the Denver metro area, including a new, 700-unit StorQuest at 5200 E. Evans Ave. in Denver. The facility is a redevelopment of a 72,000-squarefoot industrial building that offers features including climate-controlled units; gated, computer-controlled access; drive-up units; numerous digital surveillance cameras; and energy-efficient lighting.
The William Warren Group is in the process of acquiring a portfolio of seven more Colorado facilities consisting of 3,278 units, or 426,319 sf. The self storage facilities are located in the Denver area, Boulder County and Manitou Springs.
Hobin said the company, which started in 1995 and entered the Denver market four years later, has been successful because of its focus on technology and its customers. It operates StorQuest Self Storage facilities in California, Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Hawaii. It recently hired Gary Sugarman, formerly chief operating officer of Edison Properties LLC, which operates the Manhattan Mini Storage portfolio, to steer the company’s growth initiative.
In addition to an online presence where customers can find, rent and pay for units, the company offers extended sales center hours (6 a.m. to 8 p.m.) to help people during nonwork hours when they are likely to be looking for self-storage. “It’s a very short sales cycle,” said Hobin, explaining customers often call within a few days of wanting to secure space.
“Our company is very customer-centric,” added Hobin, who noted people turn to self-storage because of a stressful event, whether it is buying a house or losing a job, and so it’s important to be helpful, caring, and even fun to do business with. Also, “What we look like to the customer from the street is very, very important to us,” Hobin said.
The William Warren Group seeks high-traffic locations in markets with 100,000 or more people within a five-mile radius. “We like high-visibility, high-traffic retail locations,” said Hobin. “We want to be in customers’ path of travel from home to work or home to shopping.” The company also seeks out locations with high barriers to entry and is interested in talking to developers planning large retail developments where StorQuest might be a fit. It plans to continue to expand in Colorado.
According to Hobin, while other property types may have suffered 30 percent to 40 percent drops in occupancy during the recession, self-storage dropped only 5 to 10 percent in many markets because people need storage in good economic times and bad. “Self-storage was the No. 1 performing asset class of all real estate product types through the recession,” he said. In the past 1½ years, the bigger regional operators such as StorQuest and the public companies in the industry have been operating at peak occupancy levels, Hobin said.