I had the good fortune to meet John Eisenbarth, vice president of operations for Everett, Wash.-based West Coast Self-Storage, about 11 years ago.
It became apparent to me that his business acumen included much more than growing the company and increasing stakeholder value. It also included giving back to the industry and the communities in which they serve. Eisenbarth shared his experience with me and detailed how he pretty much grew up in the industry.
Prior to joining the West Coast Self-Storage team, he worked his way from Shurgard assistant manager to a market manager responsible for more than 56 stores in Puget Sound, Wash. He learned the industry from the ground up, and shortly after joining Shurgard in 1995, Eisenbarth managed several of the company’s largest and most profitable Seattle-area storage centers. He was quickly promoted to district manager, directing the operations of 20 stores. In 2003, John took on the market manager role in Portland, where real estate activities were added to his operational duties.
In addition to serving as a member of the Washington Self Storage Association’s board of directors, Eisenbarth and the West Coast Self-Storage team find ways to give back to our industry and the community.
West Coast Self-Storage has been a proud supporter of Charity Storage and its philanthropic mission of helping organizations, including Barry Hoeven’s Kure It Cancer Research foundation as well as the Self Storage Association Foundation (SSAF) Scholarship Program. The company has been involved with Charity Storage for several years because it believes in giving back to the communities where it has storage facilities.
Eisenbarth says, “We work with Charity Storage at a number of our facilities throughout the five states that we serve: Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, and Nevada.”
A great example of West Coast’s partnership with Charity Storage is at one facility in DuPont, Wash. Since its opening, West Coast Self-Storage DuPont has donated a storage unit for donations to Charity Storage. Arthur Luebke, the store manager there at the time, who’s now a district manager, wanted to introduce the company to the community and find a way to give back to the veterans in the area since the store is located very near to Joint Base Lewis McChord and has a large veteran population. So, it was decided that the Wounded Warrior Project would be its charity of choice. As it was a new store at the time, West Coast Self-Storage DuPont had several unused storage units that would work for the purpose. Luebke and his staff went throughout the DuPont community asking for donations to fill the unit, in addition to asking existing tenants if they had anything they could donate. The campaign was so successful that West Coast Self-Storage DuPont ended up winning Charity Storage’s Auction Contest, which is awarded to the storage facility that raised the most money through Charity Storage auctions. West Coast Self-Storage DuPont continues to have a designated unit for Charity Storage that they promote via signage around the store. As the unit fills up, they auction it off through their partnership with Storage Treasures, which then donates the proceeds to Charity Storage. The program has been very successful, with thousands of dollars raised for both Wounded Warrior Project and Children’s Cancer Society.
Now we cannot guarantee that if you join Charity Storage you will automatically be rewarded with huge success. But we do believe that if everyone of us gives a little, we can accomplish a lot together. It is in giving that we receive.
Success Is Planned
West Coast Self-Storage was listed on the Inside Self-Storage Top Operators List for 2022, which ranks the self-storage industry’s top 100 facility owners and top 50 third-party management companies by net rentable square feet.
West Coast Self-Storage came in at nineth place in the third-party management rankings, moving up one spot from the 2021 survey. The company currently manages 7.55 million square feet of rentable space and over 57,000 storage units across 102 facilities. Of those facilities, 31 are West Coast-branded. Facilities are located in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Idaho.
The company plans for continued growth in 2023, estimating that they’ll bring on board an additional 10 to 15 facilities, with a mix of company-owned and third-party managed properties.
“Our goal is not to be the biggest operator out there, but rather to be excellent in all we do for our stakeholders. If we grow as a byproduct of doing this, then we’re happy with that. With the number of stores we have now, it allows us to share our West Coast Self-Storage experience with more customers,” says Eisenbarth. “Serving our industry and giving back to the communities in which we serve, and by offering quality storage products and offering the highest service in the industry will give us the opportunity to serve our stakeholders best.”
Keep in mind: If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail.
Plan And Prepare For Success
For operators who want to get started with Charity Storage, the team recommends the following best practices to kick off your program for success. This formula for success is proven and the reason why Charity Storage has raised more than $850,000 for worthy causes one auction at a time.
- Dedicate the right size space. Start with a 10-by-10 unit, nothing too big, even one of your undesirable, odd-sized units will work. A larger unit can take too long to fill and limit your bidder pool. A small unit can be sold more frequently and is often more manageable for buyers.
- Prep your team for success. Train your managers to promote the charity and direct customers to the unit. Look at typically donated items and train your managers to look for those items and engage with vacating tenants. The Charity Storage team will help you with this.
- Stage your unit to sell. Unlike a typical storage lien sale, there are no legal requirements around charity auctions. Stage the contents for the best visual appeal, take a lot of pictures and make sure to include several detailed shots.
About Charity Storage
Charity Storage was conceived by Lance Watkins, who had first-hand experience with the storage industry and with the reality television show “Storage Wars.” The late Barry Hoeven, founder of Wesport Properties, co-founded Charity Storage, bringing many years of self-storage and philanthropy experience to the endeavor. Today, Charity Storage is an independent 501(c)(3) national self-storage industry nonprofit that is supported by many self-storage owners, operators, management companies, industry associations, organizations, and vendors. Ninety percent of all funds raised are distributed to qualifying charitable organizations (60 percent to the charity chosen by the operator/facility, 20 percent to Kure It Cancer Research, and 10 percent to the Self Storage Association Foundation [SSAF] Scholarship Program).
Charity Storage utilizes existing storage facility operations to raise funds to support charities throughout the United States. Donated and abandoned items are placed into a vacant unit and the contents are auctioned off on site or online, via StorageTreasures.com or other online auction platforms. Operators online with StorageTreasures.com can opt-in via their account dashboard today and start selling charity units immediately. To learn more about the program or sign up, contact Charity Storage today.