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Self storage business booming as we run out of space

All over the Magnolia State, self storage units of all descriptions are popping up on the landscape like mushrooms. The permanent mini-storage units and portable units such as PODS (portable on demand storage) are growing increasingly popular with renters and homeowners who’ve run out of storage space.

Steven Procunier, manager of Magnolia Mini Storage on Interstate 55 South in Jackson, says the storage industry is booming at this time. “It ebbs and flows like everything else, but has been pretty constant for the last year.”

He attributes much of that business to Hurricane Katrina evacuees whose homes were destroyed or damaged. Also, people’s constant moving from house to house and place to place keeps these storage facilities that have been in business 14 years occupied.

At Reservoir Loc N Stor, manager Shelley Eaton says the market may become over saturated as some people go into it thinking it’s a quick way to make money.

“The structures are very expensive to build and it takes a long time to get the money back,” she said. “Still, it’s an ever increasing industry.”

The facility’s 200 units of assorted sizes were built 20 years ago by owner Bill Harris at the Grant’s Ferry Road location. They’re of the high and dry variety, meaning the concrete is cored to allow water drainage. Eaton says the units have never flooded. The reservoir location easily lends itself to covered storage for boats and RVs.

“We get three or four calls every day for covered storage for boats and RVs and there’s going to be more calls for that as they become more popular,” Eaton said. “We have limited space and it’s full. I think it’s that baby boomer age group. The majority of renters of boat and RV spaces pay by the year.”

She added that Reservoir Loc N Stor hopes to build more boat and RV spaces and that a new facility has recently been constructed across the street.

Many of the facility’s other units are used by businesses, especially landscape business owners who can’t keep their equipment at their homes. “We have a ton of that,” Eaton said. “We see them early in the morning taking out their equipment and then putting it back in the afternoon. They’re good customers.”

Other renters have various reasons for using storage units. Eaton said some are getting ready to sell houses and de-clutter by storing items. They may leave the items in storage until after they move to new homes.

“Some of our units have been rented for 10 and 20 years,” she said. “Some people are just pack rats and don’t want to throw out anything.”

Eaton has observed that when the economy is tight, people will move their items out of storage to save money. The units there, however, stay full.

She advises careful consideration for anyone thinking of storing antique furniture for more than a year.
Following Hurricane Katrina, the units of Storage Choice in Gulfport and Pascagoula stay full. Gulfport manager Quincy Uzzell says people with businesses are looking for space as well as individuals with more possessions than space.

“We have a 95.4% occupancy rate right now and that’s higher than normal,” he said. “We have two casinos that store with us and FEMA stores with us.”

Storage Choice has 465 units in Gulfport and 230 in Pascagoula. The facilities offer climate and non-climate controlled units with all behind fences and monitored with security cameras. Renters also have 24-hour access.

Uzzell believes the storage business will continue to grow as the Gulf Coast economy improves and salaries increase.

“The more money people have, the more they buy and the more they need storage,” he said.

Storage Choice will open a facility in Ocean Springs before the end of the year and new facilities in Long Beach and Hattiesburg after the first of the year.

Many storage businesses are member of the Mississippi Self Storage Owners Association, an affiliate of a national self storage organization that offers benefits to members. Those benefits include legislative watch, legal counsel, a newsletter, educational networking mixers and a membership conference and trade show.

Annual decals with the association’s logo are available for members to display at their businesses. The association communicates through a quarterly newsletter, resource book and Web site. These communications provide pertinent information on association activities, current industry trends along with information about legal, management and operational issues.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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