As an owner and operator of a self-storage company, Todd Whear has moments when he feels like a bartender who’s got an ear to lend. Now more than ever. “We’re sitting there talking to people and they’re telling us all their troubles,” says Whear, owner of Northern Nevada-based Stor-All. “And we take that very seriously, because we know that it’s a stressful time for most people. Even if it’s a happy move from one house to another house and everything should be great, it’s still stressful.” Beyond a simple need to store excess stuff, demand in self-storage historically comes from “the big stressors in life,” notes Whear, referring to what many in the industry call the four Ds: death, divorce, displacement and disaster. Needless to say, these are life-altering events that, for many, are a direct impact from the coronavirus pandemic — and in turn, self-storage spaces are filling up like clockwork across Northern Nevada. Businesses have downsized or nixed office space and shoved equipment and supplies into self-storage. Startups have found a more cost-effective way to store their inventory. Employees working from home have decluttered rooms to create space for WFH offices. Others cleared out their garages to make room for makeshift gyms. “We haven’t seen any slowdown because of the pandemic,” Whear said. “For temporary storage, people tend to move and store when they’re in transition a lot more during these times. We found that demand is actually greater than ever.” CALIFORNIA EXODUS EFFECT These days, more and more Californian residents and business owners are migrating over the hill to greater Reno-Sparks, driving a lot of the demand. Just ask Silverado Self Storage, which has 836 units at its facility in Northwest Reno. “Demand has increased due to the influx of people moving,” said manager Deana Cain. “We do get a lot of out-of-state people coming in. We have a lot of California residents coming up and renting. And it looks like it’s increasing this year.”
Self-storage companies in Northern Nevada (such as Silverado Self Storage, pictured) are seeing pandemic-related demand driven by everything from businesses downsizing to employees clearing out rooms for WFH offices.
Even still, Cain said the company has not seen an increase in business since COVID hit. Simply put, it’s been business as usual. “The funny thing about our business is whether times are good or bad, we seem to stay about even,” Cain said. “Obviously, when times are bad, people are having to move in with family members or downsize and need places to put their stuff. And when times are good and they have their own place, people tend to buy more stuff and need places to store it.” ‘ALWAYS LOOKING TO GROW’ For Stor-All, the company saw its total revenue uptick 5% in 2020 compared to 2019, Whear said. The company has five locations in Northern Nevada — Elko, Winnemucca, Dayton and two in the Gardnerville/Ranchos area — totaling 3,600 self-storage units. “As a company, we probably have 80-to-85% of our spaces occupied,” Whear told the NNBW last week. “But there are some of our facilities that are absolutely 99% full.” In fact, Stor-All has seen so much demand during the pandemic that the company has been forced to turn many space-seeking people away. This, Whear said, is why Stor-All is “always looking to grow and expand its facilities.” The company is working on expanding its facilities in Dayton and Gardnerville, adding another 300-400 spaces in total that will be ready to be filled by the end of 2021, he said. “We really just don’t have much inventory to offer all the calls that we’re getting for storage,” said Whear, noting they’re seeing a significant rise in inquiries from people needing storage for boats and RVs. “Last year was a record year for people buying boats and RVs because of COVID. Then they brought it home and realized their HOAs or county codes didn’t allow them to park in the side yard or on the street, so these people come to us kind of in a panic. “And we’re like, ‘Sorry, we’re full, but we can put you on a waitlist that has 30 people on it already.’ That’s one of the driving forces why you see so many more facilities than ever before.” BOON FOR DEVELOPERS
To that end, local real estate developers are looking to take advantage of the growing demand.
Overhead view of the 493-unit self-storage facility at 1939 Richards Place in Sparks that sold recently for $11.5 million.
Reno-based Mardian Development, for one, is in the middle of building a 724-unit storage facility northeast of McCarran Boulevard and the I-580 Interchange in North Reno. Our City Storage at Northtowne, located at 2975 Northtowne Lane near the Home Depot, will include five buildings totaling roughly 104,000 square feet of storage areas. It will be completed in late March or early April, said Mike Mardian, owner of Mardian Development. “Reno is exploding on the residential side, whether it’s apartments or homes,” Mardian told the NNBW. “And the more housing, the more businesses that come in … it’s truly one of those business models which seems to survive recessions as well as bull markets. “The self-storage industry has been a multibillion-dollar industry for years, so it’s why it’s one of my business models that I look at.” Case in point: Mardian’s firm developed and built a 493-unit self-storage facility at 1939 Richards Place in Sparks that sold for $11.5 million as part of a 1031 exchange, according to a press release from Lee & Associates, which represented Mardian Development on the sale that closed in late December. The property, which totaled 75,400 square feet of self-storage space, was 92% occupied at the time of the sale, according to Lee & Associates. The sale to Vernalis Partners, Ltd., included 56,455 square feet of adjacent land on Pyramid Way in Sparks. Lee & Associates says the new owner is planning to build additional self-storage units on the triangle parcel parallel to Pyramid Way. “As our economy continues to grow, so will self-storage,” Mardian said. “And it always depends on the area, that’s very critical. For us, it’s a business model that we certainly are enjoying.”