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How would you convert this "BIG BOX" into self-storage?

Updated: 2 days ago


Drew Case

Storage Authority Franchise

(vacant section located on the left side of the photo)

Self storage conversion of a big box is potentially one of the most efficient conversions you can do. So, you acquired zoning and put together a P&L that works for this conversion. Often, for a retail area, zoning will need to be changed since self-storage would most-often not conform to the original zoning classification. Do yourself a favor and check with the local planning & zoning department to get a good idea on how well self-storage would be received in the area. For this example, I will assume you resolved all other matters and will focus on what aspects will be altered for the conversion.

The site has just over 40,000 sq ft of interior space and also has parking lot space that could be used for additional space. You must calculate your interior self-storage space by excluding the square footage that will be utilized for hallways, showroom, interior load/unload area, customer use cart area and restroom. Add in your potential outside space to get the entire number of square footage. Ceiling height does not allow for two levels in this site which should allow for the existing broadcast sprinklers to be utilized for single level storage. Verify with your local fire inspector.

(existing entrances and parking lot space)

Entrance into the facility will need modified. The exterior reveals a two split door entrances. One or both could easily be converted to automatic sliders that can be activated by an access keypad. Automatic sliders allow for customers to easily enter with carts or carry items through an entrance. There are various settings you can position on sliding doors for time of opening/closing. For additional convenience and customer care, add a canopy over these areas that is tall enough or a box truck to back underneath to stay out of the elements (rain/hot sun, snow). Be sure the canopy is high enough to avoid a truck damaging it. Some locations may have existing loading docks to make this easier. This particular location has one at the rear of the side. Consider adding an additional load/unload area to the rear of the facility to make it more convenient to more units.

Interior load/unload should be added and is a more recent appealing feature to most customers. Again, determine how high you can make the opening to ensure a box truck can fit inside the building. There are also fire regulations that will need to be overcome when adding this feature, but it is worthwhile. You can add a "traffic signal" feature to the door, crossbar or other indicator to help reduce the possibility of a customer hitting the door when it is not fully open.

Inside can easily be climate controlled by using the existing roof units. Climate controlled comes at a premium rate to your customers, but also costs more to operate. Add thermostats to operate within a zone that meets the area of the country you are serving. You do not heat and cool self storage the same as a home. In colder climates you may find that warming the area to stay above 45F degrees and cooling it down to stay below 85F is workable. Determine what works best for your area and still maintains a fairly comfortable environment or the customer and their belongings.

Designate an area for customer courtesy carts. You may need 8-10 carts for an area this size. Customers usually will use 1-3 carts per move-in. Include a mattress cart so one can easily be hauled on its side. You can use the existing flooring as long as it is smooth for carts. Resurfacing is an added expense. It is perfectly fine to keep tile on the floor or if the floor has markings. Just make sure the floor is smooth, clean and has a good shine and the imperfections don't matter. Sometimes, these locations already have a smooth concrete or tile surface.

Showroom design is up to you. You could save one for the existing door entrances to utilize for your showroom and cut into the wall to add where you desire. Showrooms are great for retail products and should be welcoming to your customers. Be different and create a spacious showroom with beverage bar, relaxation area and table along with your retail. Your customers will notice the difference. Make sure you can add a restroom or use an existing when you decide where to place your showroom. Certainly, make sure the restrooms are always clean and inviting. Feature your counter and security monitors to customers as they walk in, but leave space so that the counter is not positioned right by the door.

Self-Storage units should have a mix of sizes for every need. Most common sizes are usually 5'x10' and 10'x10'. The smaller the units, the higher the $/sq.ft. Larger units are easy to rent, but too many will lower your overall income potential. You should include some 10'x15', but not too many. You will want to include some 5'x5', but the number will depend on your market. You can always combine (in the computer) two units that are adjacent or across the hallway to create a 10'x20' if a customer needs one. Be sure to include ADA units to serve customers that need these type of units. In addition to the units, a customer use restroom located in storage is also a great feature to offer.

Lastly, the parking lot can be made into RV/boat parking or additional self storage units. Determine the demand in your market and decide what to add. You could add a mix of both. Customer parking will be near the building, but the lot space can hold relocatable storage. These can be placed directly on the lot and can come pre-built or built on-site. RV/boat parking is a great addition i your market has the demand. Deluxe locations with inside or canopy parking and add on features have become the standard for many RV owners.

Additional features are seemingly endless when you visit a tradeshow or expo in self-storage. Be sure to join your local Self Storage Association and find out more opportunities to spruce up your facility and amp up the offerings. As far as signage, I would definitely add some great signage to the big flat front of the building and also some fake doors to make self-storage pop even more.

Keep looking for that big box if that is your goal. Changing demographics cause retailers to sell and change locations and provide the opportunity for another use to come in. If the price is right and the market is right, go for it!

Storage Authority's guidance in self-storage development underscores the intricate balance between meeting storage demands and environmental sustainability. By aligning with Storage Authority's principles and leveraging our team's expertise, along with your engineer, architect, and general contractor we can navigate the complexities of impervious coverage with confidence, ensuring the creation of self-storage facilities that are both economically viable and environmentally responsible.

Storage Authority Franchising is all about owning your own local self-storage business, supported by professional systems and expertise. We like to say, "You're in business for yourself but not by yourself." If self-storage is on your mind, don't hesitate to reach out to Drew Case at Direct: 513-582-0125 or to learn more about the Storage Authority Franchise opportunity. Your self-storage journey awaits!

If you would like to learn more and start your journey to self-storage ownership click the link here:


Your success story begins with Storage Authority!


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