Developer Roy Carroll may be new to the storage industry, but he’s already smitten.
The Greensboro, NC-based owner of Bee Safe Storage has plans to open one new storage facility a month over the near term.
“We’re really putting the resources toward expanding this concept,” said Carroll, who also heads The Carroll Cos., a company focused on multifamily and mixed-use developments.
With two locations in Greensboro, Carroll has plans to open more facilities in the city as well as in Austin, TX; Nashville, TN, Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville and Wilmington, NC. He’s also eyeing locations in South Florida.
“I have three full-time folks that do land acquisition, and they’re out scouring the country daily to find sites for us to build on,” Carroll said.
In late 2013, Carroll opened the first Bee Safe Storage and Wine Cellar location at 1016 Battleground Ave. with the goal of capturing the high end of the self-storage market. The $3 million, three-story facility has 500 units and an 875-square-foot wine cellar. It features LED lighting and piped-in music.
“I’d been intrigued with self-storage for years but wanted to do something different than traditional storage,” he said.
One major way his buildings are different is in the architecture, he notes. Exteriors and brick and stone and interiors are brighter.
“We try to make the facilities as inviting as possible,” he said. “We may spend more money on construction but our design is a big part of our branding and helps open doors for us.”
Hearts and minds
Besides being attractive to potential customers, the facilities are also appealing to communities that previously were opposed to self-storage.
Just a few weeks ago, Carroll got approval for a rezoning in a municipality that had never before allowed self-storage to be developed.
City council unanimously gave Carroll the green light, saying the facility was “the kind of quality” it was looking for in its community, according to Carroll.
The Wine Cellar feature is also part of the goal of attracting higher-end tenants. Customers can have wine shipped and stored at a Bee Safe facility. Restaurants with limited space can also store wine there.
“Our facility can give you a print out of humidity level and temperature range at any given time, for example,” Carroll said. “This is appealing to the increasing number of wine collectors out there.”
The existing Bee Safe facilities are exceeding Carroll’s expectations.
And the industry is a logical one for someone who’s been in the multifamily business for three decades, Carroll said. First, he works on identifying the right sites.
“We spend a lot of time looking at household incomes and population density,” he said. “We identify areas we think the Bee Safe brand would fit in well with.”
A high-traffic location is also a priority.
Bee Safe facilities will range from 70,000 to 100,000 square feet with a couple of standard footprints.
“It’s more efficient to not have to go and reinvent plans every time,” Carroll said. “It makes more sense to replicate the same basic model.”
Carroll is proud to say he has no partners and no equity investors. All his investment in Bee Safe Storage is out of pocket and so far he’s pleased with the return on investment.
“The first few facilities we’ve done have well exceeded our lease-up goals,” he said. “We’re very pleased with the direction these businesses are going.”
Greenboro-based real estate agent Robbie Perkins has worked with Carroll on locating some sites. He said so far the concept has been received well in the marketplace.
“What’s key to this concept is safety, security and a professional image you don’t get from a lot of self-storage places,” he said. “Customers feel like they’re going to an office building rather than a more industrial setting.”
Overall, he said the environment for self-storage in Greensboro and the Carolinas is a “healthy” one.
“It’s not overbuilt by any means,” Perkins noted. “We’re seeing other self-storage folks coming into the market as well.”