What started as a simple idea during a family vacation has turned into a thriving and profitable business with hundreds of locations across several countries.
In 1974, the Burnams were enjoying some time together in Texas on South Padre Island when the rain threatened to ruin their family vacation. Needing to pass the time, the patriarch Gordon initiated a conversation with the owner of a self-storage company. As they chatted, Gordon realized he could replicate his new friend’s success by starting a similar company of his own.
When they got back to Missouri, the Burnams started Storage Trust Realty, and later, StorageMart. Today, the company has more than 250 facilities in the US, Canada, and the UK. After more than two decades, StorageMart is still a family affair. Although Gordon passed away in 2017, the team includes Mike Burnam (president), Cris Burnam (CEO), and Weyen Burnam (managing director of real estate).
Weyen is responsible for growing and maintaining StorageMart’s portfolio through building, acquisition, and takeover. Since coming to the company in an official capacity in 2000, he’s helped it become one of the fastest growing in its category. He’s done that in part by focusing on key areas like customer experience.
StorageMart’s properties have wide loading bays, oversized elevators, and wide hallways to meet customers’ needs and expectations. StorageMart allows users to reserve units online and is implementing features like touchless access, fully enclosed bays, and automated doors with sensors.
Strong leadership, efficient operations, clear communication, and effective relationships with vendors help StorageMart maintain consistency as it grows across the United States and beyond. “We have a very lean team, so communication is a must when you’re going all over the country. You have to trust your team but also the outside contractors you’re working with,” Weyen says.
In 2016, StorageMart acquired Big Box Storage Centres’ 15 locations in Southern England. Five years later, the company acquired Manhattan Mini Storage’s 18 locations in New York City to surpass 20 million net rentable square feet of storage and 200,000 units.
Now, the successful company known for clean, easy-to-use facilities is pursuing another goal—social responsibility. StorageMart is installing solar panels atop many of its self-storage properties. By 2035, five Northern California locations will have generated five million kilowatt hours of energy, which is nearly enough to power those five facilities without using energy from traditional sources.
The desire to limit impact to the planet is impacting StorageMart’s overall strategy. The company’s leaders say they never look to build a new facility from the ground up. Instead, when it comes time to expand, they first look for used buildings or sites that can be redeveloped, repurposed, and reused.
That means they’ll face renovation costs, but those costs and the related energy consumption will always be lower when compared to requirements for a brand-new facility. “The way we see it, saving energy is not only good for the planet; it’s good for business once the initial installation costs have been recovered,” the company’s website says.
As StorageMart moves forward, the company continues to navigate challenges related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain delays. “It’s also hard to lock in pricing for a steel structure or labor two years in advance of a project, so forecasting potential costs can be very difficult too,” Weyen explains.
He’s relying on his experience in single family, multifamily, industrial, and commercial projects to help him navigate the unusual era and putting in extra work to predict the amount of people and time required for each job.
Teaming so many Burnams with long-tenured workers brings intangible results. Many veterans on the staff just know what a certain project needs. They understand that customers in rural Missouri have different habits and expectations than those in Manhattan, and they can cater their spaces accordingly. What Gordon and his wife, Mickey, started so many years ago is still going strong with four generations involved today.
Congratulations Weyen Burnam and StorageMart for this well-deserved recognition in American Builders Quarterly. Strickland Construction Company is proud to partner with you and looks forward to continued work together. Strickland provides preconstruction, construction, and post-construction services. To learn more please visit www.stricklandconstruction.com.