Moove In drops brokerage arm to focus on expanding storage portfolio

Bruce Goldberg
March 14, 2023

John H. Gilliland has watched America’s self-storage sector achieve admirable growth ever since he opened the Investment Real Estate Group of Companies (IREGC) in 1997, which he grew to 100 employees and provided services in brokerage, feasibility, construction, development, insurance and property management.

In 1998, he purchased his first self-storage facility, in Hanover, PA near the Maryland border.

Now the CEO and his company have taken a bigger plunge— retiring its brokerage services and focusing on expanding its Moove In Self Storage portfolio. All along, Gilliland has believed that self-storage growth would continue.

“The future of the self-storage industry nationally – I still think we’re really in the early stages of self-storage,” he said.

“I compare it to the multifamily industry, which has been around 100-plus years. Self-storage really started in the 1970s and became an asset class of its own in the late 1990s,” Gilliland said.

Gilliland said that means there is a long runway for the industry to grow.

$1 billion in sales, 60+ properties

Since 1998, the company has brokered more than $1 billion in sales for clients through offices n Connecticut, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Gilliland, who is writing a book about his self-storage career, recently relocated its headquarters to York, PA. The company still operates its Investment Real Estate Construction development division.

Moove In operates 60-plus self-storage properties in Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

As the company evolved into its new model, Gilliland named Christopher Riley as president and COO. He also hired Tina Damron, district manager; Nancy Delach, vice president of human resources; James Fleming, construction-project manager; and Jack Fritsche, chief financial officer. He also promoted Erik Peckmann to manager of IREGC’s new financial planning and analysis department.

We chatted with Gilliland, 58, about the changes to the company.

Why are you so optimistic about the self-storage industry?

“Hanover, PA is where I listed my first self-storage facility, near Gettysburg. When I listed that property for sale, I looked at the self-storage numbers and I had my ‘holy-smokes’ moment. These were the best commercial real estate numbers I had ever seen.”

“I was managing a commercial real estate firm at the time, and I wanted to get out of corporate America and start my own business. That’s when I decided to get into the self-storage business. There are two ways to do that: start a firm or build storage facilities. So I built one near Penn State University; it had 54 units.”

Did you have to fire any employees in this time of change?

“We still have about 100 employees. Only one position was eliminated. He went and started his own firm. It worked out well; we get the relationship, and it’s fine. Now he can find me companies where we manage, develop and build self-storage facilities.”

You own 46 companies. How do you keep track of things?

“We have a whole leadership team and they run various companies. I appointed a president last fall to help me oversee everything. We’re very disciplined. We instituted EOS (Entrepreneurs Operating System) in 2016 and it’s really helped us run all the companies.”

What’s next on your list?

“We’ll build about $45 million in self-storage this year. We’ll buy between $150 million and $200 million in self-storage.”

Do you have an amusing anecdote from your years in storage?

“One of the wildest ones we had was in a storage facility near Lancaster, PA. A tenant complained about a rancid smell; they thought it was from the unit next door. They called the police right away, who brought in the cadaver dogs. They smelled something, maybe rotting flesh. We had police and SWAT teams there.”

“We finally got ahold of the tenants and got permission to cut off the lock. They had plugged in a freezer, which later shut off with deer meat in it. You can imagine what that smelled like in a week or two.”

Sign up for the Storage Beat newsletter

Never miss a story! Sign up for our weekly newsletter featuring the latest storage industry news and interviews with movers and shakers:

About the SpareFoot Storage Beat

The SpareFoot Storage Beat is your go-to source for news, features and analysis about the self-storage industry. Self-storage categories covered by The SpareFoot Storage Beat include public companies, private companies, industry trends, real estate development, facility acquisitions, hirings and promotions.

Send us a tip

Recent posts