Q&A: Checking in with 180 Self Storage
Principals Jeff Helgeson (above) and Tim Jones, principals of 180 Self Storage in Gilbert, AZ, like to scope out the competition and see how people operate their shops.
But even after decades in the field, nothing had prepared them for the Pirate Lady.
“In California, we walked in and saw a woman with a parrot on her shoulder,” Helgeson said. “She literally talked like a pirate.”
180 Self Storage, based in Gilbert, AZ, currently operates five self-storage properties, with Arizona locations in Queen Creek, Sahuarita (it recently broke ground), Surprise and Sparks, plus one in Tulsa, OK. It also has one on the East Coast in Colmar, PA, which is one of the company’s 10 projects in various stages of development.
The Ranch Sahuarita Self Storage and RV is scheduled to open in late 2022 with 86,641 square feet spread across 560 climate-controlled and drive-up units. There also will be more than 100 RV parking spaces, both covered and uncovered.
Helgeson and Jones worked together in the past. They previously owned and operated 16 self-storage properties in Texas as partners in Arizona-based 180 Development Services LLC. Those properties had about 8,640 units and more than 962,000 square feet. Public Storage bought the 43-property portfolio in October 2013. The duo also worked together at Shurgard Storage Centers Inc.
The company describes itself as a “one-stop shop for self-storage property management and consulting services,” specializing in helping owners and operators. Their focus areas are store operations, construction management, real estate development, acquisitions and feasibility.
“We have a pretty solid operation,” Helgeson said. “We don’t have our investors telling us we’re not doing so well. All of our stores have been successful so far.”
We caught up with Helgeson and talked shop.
Self-storage professionals are talking about the same topics, such as the rising cost of steel, worker shortages and more. What’s it like operating in the current high-cost environment?
Helgeson: There’s certainly risk. The volatility in the construction costs, they’re not coming down. They may at some point level off.
In the last few years, it’s been a little more difficult to pencil projects, because rates have not caught up with construction costs. We’re seeing some markets that can support projects, even with the construction cost increases. But it’s still difficult to work; construction keeps going up and rental rates don’t go up. It’s still difficult to do it, but there’s still a lot of projects being built. People ask what can I develop, what return can I expect? Some want less of a return, some more. For example, wanting to sell it quickly. Like any other form of investment, everybody has their own perspective of what they want from a project.
How does the high-cost environment affect your business?
From an operating expense standpoint, the biggest increase we’ve seen is in payroll. If there’s any negative trend, look across the country, and everybody’s shorthanded, whether it’s a grocery store, hotel or a hospitality/service environment. Pay has gone up for that reason, and inflation has impacted people. It takes them twice as much to get to work. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. People are getting more, but at the end of the day, it’s caught up with them.
How has the pandemic affected you?
We had to adjust operations to more contactless involvement. We already were doing electronic leases. But how do they get locks, how do managers interact with people during a pandemic? It took a little bit of imagination, but I think we did pretty well.
We did all the necessary things to protect our managers and customers. Some of our stores used access cards so they didn’t have to touch the keypads. We started using more gate clickers so they could just drive up to the gage, hit the button on their remote and open up the gate.
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