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Refurbishing Self Storage to Maintain Leadership



   Author: Terry Campbell
Location: Nationwide, USA


When Thomas I. Shields, Sr. observed the existing self-storage situation in the Waynesboro, Virginia area back in 1975, he liked what he saw. Why? There were no serious competitors. In fact, he would be the first developer of this new concept not only in his local area (Waynesboro/Augusta County, VA) but also in the surrounding region.

It was a time when the "mini-warehouse," or "mini-storage" industry was in its infancy, and quite frankly, the public didn't know much about this type of business or its product. In fact, "self-storage," as it came to be known, had a very low profile. Building construction for this type of use was utilitarian at best with no frills and more often than not, facilities were relegated to those parts of town zoned industrial.

Shields, whose primary business was construction and homebuilding, determined it was going to be a growing business with considerable potential. If he built brand new, freshly painted and sparkling clean storage buildings, and if he marketed the concept and priced the space properly, he would attract local residents and small businesses to use his facility for their "extra" storage needs.

He was right.

His first site, the Bayard Blvd. facility, was the beginning of what would eventually become a stand alone business of seven facilities and three offices serving Waynesboro, August County, and the immediate surrounding areas located in this part of central Virginia area.

Today, the Bayard location consists of six buildings, five 2-story structures and a single-story building - and predictably, as demand grew the facility expanded in phases over a period of three to four years.

As family businesses often go, Thomas Shield's son, Todd, after growing up in the real estate business, and graduating from college, also got into the self-storage business by building a 5-acre facility with his father in the historic area of Charlottesville,VA in Albemarle County, which was subject to very strict architectural control.

Two years ago, Todd developed a business plan and budget to rebrand the business, update all computer and management systems, install the latest state-of-the-art security systems, oversee the design and developmemt of a new main office and perform the renovation and other site imrovements for all of the other storage facility locations.

The ultimate goal was to continue Shields Self Storage's reputation as the premier self-storage operator in the area and maintain the highly-prized title of "Best Storage Facilities" bestowed annually by a local publication.

Todd then sought the assistance of his longtime friend and colleague, Wes Folger, to serve as Project Manager for the endeavor.

Once the Shields' finalized their plans, they set about to renovate, upgrade and rebrand all seven locations. There was a good reason for this: The self-storage business is becoming more highly competitive these days, and Shields Self-Storage wanted to make sure their leadership role in the market was maintained and continued to lead the competition.

The Bayard location was their first priority.

Even though the buildings on the Bayard location were properly maintained and repaired over the years, normal wear and tear caught up after thirty-five years of service. It not only meant renovating the buildings, it also meant making sure that the latest ancillary products and services were available to their tenants.

The decision to select the company to handle the refurbishing of the buildings came next. Ideally, Shields and Folger wanted a turnkey job, to simplify the process as much as possible - have only one company responsible for the scope of building work and avoid dealing with several suppliers. While they were in the construction business themselves, it was important to find a single-source manufacturer who could provide all needed components and services, plus their own construction crews experienced with this type of work.

To that end, they began a search for such a manufacturer. After meeting with David Montane, a BETCO sales consultant, more detailed information on the company was provided. Shields was convinced that BETCO had all of the necessary credentials and met all the requirements to do a first-rate job. Ultimately, BETCO was selected over another company Shields had worked with in the past.

The project began in the Fall of 2009, and was completed in February of 2010. Because the original exterior veneer of the buildings was primarily a wood composite material, it had deteriorated to the point whereby it needed replacement. As a result, new metal siding was put up on all buildings and new gutters and downspouts were installed. In the course of BETCO's involvement in the renovation at the Bayard location, they were also selected to convert a second phase of a large warehouse to climate control storage space.

During the process, Virginia was hit with some of the worst winter weather on record. Snowstorms and freezing temperatures interrupted the work and caused delays, but Shields and Folger were the first to complement BETCO for their perseverance through it all.

In addition to the building renovations handled by BETCO, other important upgrades were necessary and were taken care of by Shields and Folger. Since the Bayard facility was non-manned, a centralized security system, including cameras, was put in place to cover exterior areas and inside hallways. A security gate was installed with a keypad to control ingress and egress. New exterior and interior lighting was added. A new 2-story fire escape and stairwell were built and new bollards installed. As a part of the new branding of all Shields' locations, a new exterior sign with a new logo was put in and attractive landscaping topped off the new appearance of Bayard.

The Bayard location of Shields Self-Storage is looking great these days, thanks to an owner who recognized that self-storage is a business where curb appeal counts and an unattractive environment and out of date facility can adversely impact occupancy levels. In addition, the good work of a single-source manufacturer that was able to make their part of the renovation happen in the manner it was intended, was a big help in the process.

Terry Campbell is Vice President of Sales & Marketing for BETCO, the leading single-source manufacturer of metal self-storage buildings.

Visit BETCO on the Web at www.BetcoBuildings.com


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