The History of Self Storage

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Posted on September 4, 2014
Self Storage History

How did self storage start?

Although self-storage is primarily a US based business, there is evidence that self-storage was publicly available in ancient China. It’s been said that approximately 6,000 years ago, the Chinese would often store their possessions in clay pots in public underground storage pits. The storage pits were supervised, to ensure that nobody could remove any pot or its contents except for their own.

In the 1850s, the storage business came to America with the creation of Bekins, which was founded by Martin Bekins, son of a Dutch immigrant. Bekins recognized the new migration of Americans to the west, and was the first to build a facility for the storage of household goods and valuables. In 1906, Bekins built the first reinforced steel and concrete warehouse inLos Angeles, and the second inSan Francisco. It is interesting to note that during the great earthquake of 1906 inSan Francisco, this warehouse was one of the few structures that did not collapse.

However, the Collum family is credited by some, for the creation of the first modern self-storage facilities, which began to appear in 1958 in Fort Lauderdale Florida. There are also claims that self-storage originated in Texas in the 1960’s. Apparently, in Texas, they just decided to build several garages in a single day. They were able to rent them out, so they continued to build more and more. Other people caught on and did the same. At the time, the units were built as prefab tin garages and built on infill sites or among drive-in movie theaters.

The big national players in the self-storage industry arrived on the scene in the early 1970’s. Public Storage, Shurgard and Storage USA. Why did self-storage start to become so useful in the 1970’s? Were people over accumulating? Was it because of the rise in divorce levels at the time, aided by the emergence of "no-fault divorce" laws, which suddenly had more households in transition? Whatever the reasoning, self-storage facilities continued to be built at a steady pace nationwide.

Here’s where the self-storage industry stand today:

 

  • There are over 50,000 self-storage facilities in the United States
  • The average storage facility has approximately 566 storage units per facility
  • The average square footage of a storage facility in the U.S is approximately 51,119 sq.ft.
  • The average storage unit size is approximately 90 sq ft.
  • U.S self –storage facilities are mostly ‘Mom and pop’ operated stores
  • 172,000 people are employed within the self storage industry
  • There is 2.3 billion sq ft of rentable storage space in the U.S
  • 1 in 10 people use self storage in the U.S

There continues to be a strong demand for the use of self-storage facilities and with more and more individuals choosing apartment living versus living in a house, there seems there will always be a need for self-storage facilities.