When you hear “self-storage,” you might picture row after row of nondescript metal buildings; like garages, but less fancy.
The latest generation of self-storage is about heated walkways and Bluetooth-controlled units, according to Bob Moser, owner of Prime Storage.
“It’s gotten more sophisticated. It’s evolved based upon what the customer’s demand is,” he said.
To accommodate that demand, Moser is building a state-of-the-art, 100,000-square-foot facility on Route 50 — about 5 miles north of Wilton Mall. The two-story complex will include about 800 storage units.
The building has radiant heat running along the exterior of the building, so ice won’t build up along the exterior units. It will have dedicated units where people can pull vehicles right into a climate-controlled space.
Customers will use their phones to control the gate to get into the property and then get into the units, Moser said.
“We’re working out all the newest technologies at this location, and then we can replicate it at other facilities,” he said.
The complex will have access from the front and rear to interior hallways, he said.
The units will be climate-controlled to 70 degrees and 50 percent relative humidity.
Al Williams, general contractor, said the project should be completed by March 1 at a cost close to $7 million.
Prime Storage is the largest private owner of self-storage units in the country, with about 15 million square feet of rental space in about 24 states. The business started in Queensbury about 15 years ago and employs about 600 people nationwide.
The customer base is pretty much evenly split between business and residential customers, Moser said.
His business serves as the “extra room” for the family that needs to store a valuable piece of furniture or equipment, or a snowmobile, four-wheeler or even a car.
The need for storage is driven by a “life event” — a death in the family, divorce, downsizing into a smaller home or moving into a bigger one or going to college, he said. The average length of stay is a couple of years.
“They entrust us with their family heirloom or valuable possession. We make sure it’s secure and safe,” he said.
Moser said he wanted to build in this area because it is close to their home base in Saratoga Springs.
Moser also owns Prime Storage in Glens Falls and Keylock Mini Storage in Hudson Falls and Queensbury on Dix Avenue.
His rates range from $51 to $134, depending on the size of the unit.
A growth industry
Self-storage is a growth industry, with new facilities popping up all over the place. In April 2017, Tim and Michael Sokol opened up a self-storage business at the site of the family’s former grocery store on Aviation Road in Queensbury, which closed in February 2013. They have 68 units.
Everts Avenue Self Storage, on Everts Avenue in Queensbury, opened in July, according to Don Scoville, who owns it with his brother, Steve.
Don Scoville said he wanted to get into this industry for about a decade.
“It’s a lucrative business — customer-friendly, low overhead,” he said. “I’ve met other owners over the years, and they were satisfied with the business.”
Scoville owns Adirondack Video Services on Dix Avenue and worked as a disc jockey. He and his brother went down to Albany for a seminar on the business, which covered financing, building materials, marketing and advertising.
About 70 percent of their 97 units are rented currently, he said. He has approval from the town for up to 224 units. There are four different types of units — 5 by 10 feet, 10 by 10, 10 by 15 and 10 by 20 — and they rent for $50 to $120 per month.
Owners of the different self-storage companies help each other out by referring potential clients to others if they have no vacant units, he said.
His clients include contractors who are storing construction equipment and landscapers selling lawn and garden tools. Other people need a place to store furniture while they are in the process of selling their houses or going into a new house.
Some people seek to store their cars and trucks off-season, he added.
People punch a code on a keypad to open the gate to the facility and then to their individual unit, Scoville said.
“I have no access to their unit,” he said.
Scoville said he thinks the market will continue to grow, and he does not believe it is saturated.
“There’s people always looking for self-storage. You’ve got your apartment buildings, townhouses going up, senior citizens that are downsizing selling houses,” he said.
The industry is so lucrative that U-Haul is looking to turn the soon-to-be-vacant Kmart in Queensbury into a self-storage and retail shop. U-Haul is buying the assets of Sears and Kmart out of bankruptcy.
U-Haul allows people to rent storage lockers or boxes that can house their possessions if they are in the process of moving.
“We compete with U-Haul across the country,” Moser said.
Maureen Valenti, owner of Meadowbrook Ministorage, credited the increase in self-storage companies to divorce and adult children moving back in with their parents.
“I don’t think people are able to afford housing anymore so they’re downsizing into new apartments and relocating,” she said.
“I guess people just can’t fit all their items into the apartment, especially if they don’t (have a) garage,” she added.
Valenti is semiretired after a career in the prosthetics business. She thought this would be something she would be able to manage by herself.
She also does not have any access to her units, but her clients have told her that they store Christmas decorations, tools, furniture, motorcycles and cars in them.
She rents out five sizes — 5 by 5 feet, 5 by 10, 10 by 10, 10 by 15 and 10 by 20 — and her prices range from $50 to $100 per month.
People do not want to let go of their possessions, she said. “I think people are becoming hoarders as they get older.”
The younger generation does not feel the same way, according to Valenti.
“Those are the minimalists. They don’t need anything. The older people seem to hold onto things and don’t seem to let them go,” she said.