Like the animal it’s named after, Rhino Storage Group is charging ahead.

Rhino currently operates 23 self-storage facilities in Ohio and West Virginia, and has another three projects under development. The company plans to start expanding next year, by acquisition and ground-up development, into four more states: Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee.

“We operate in tertiary markets that have significant pent-up demand for us to enjoy,” said Cindy Ashby, vice president of operations at Rhino. “This demand has been increasing over the past couple of years as people migrate out of the larger cities.”

In Rhino’s tertiary markets, most competitors are locally owned and operated, Ashby said. In some places, Rhino is the only self-storage operator equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Ashby said the COVID-19 pandemic enabled Rhino, out of necessity, to improve the customer experience through online rentals and self-service kiosks.

Bringing the smart facility to new locales

A perfect example is Rhino’s latest facility to open, a newly developed 88,000-square-foot facility at 5800 Nancy D. Drive, in Morgantown, WV. The project is Rhino’s first “ground-up” build in West Virginia as well as the first high-end smart facility in Morgantown.

The facility features contactless 24/7 rentals, remote customer account management, online payment options, and convenient access with Bluetooth enabled doors and locks.

“We are moving closer to a true hybrid type of management, blending remote and on-site options through a hub-and-spoke approach,” Ashby said.

Ten years in the self-storage sector

Christopher and Deana Roush founded Rhino’s parent company, Racine, OH-based RPG Management, in 2004. The company initially focused on buying and developing single-family and multifamily housing.

RPG Management acquired its first self-storage facility in 2012. A few years later, the company adopted the Rhino brand for its self-storage business.

“We wanted a name and logo that sounded secure and is memorable,” Ashby said, “and believe we achieved our goal.”

After the recent sale of its multifamily portfolio, RPG Management is eyeing opportunities to purchase self-storage facilities that wind up becoming distressed during a potential recession, Ashby said.

“We have already closed on two locations this year and opened one new development,” she said. “Our goal is to have three more acquisitions and be well on our way to having the other three developments ready to open by spring of 2023.”

Bracing for economic turbulence

Ashby said Rhino isn’t concerned about an economic slump doing harm to the business.

“This industry has proven over time to thrive in all markets, including downturns,” she said.

So, how is Rhino safeguarding itself against the impact of a possible recession?

“We are always looking for ways to streamline and improve our operations,” Ashby said. “Seeking ways to reduce expenses is never a bad thing, as long as it does not jeopardize customer service.”

John Egan