by Mark Lusky
Football season is upon us, further heightening awareness of the concept of the "man cave." Spouses, siblings and other home inhabitants will ramp up their objections to seemingly endless football marathons and everything that accompanies these events-from belching buddies to high-decibel opinions, observations and profanity.
Some self-storage operators have embraced storage unit use for everything from showcasing art to creating man caves.
Keep in mind that the idea of self-storage man caves (and other expanded uses) can encompass a variety of options. One idea is to promote a home man-cave by getting people to store stuff to create the needed space. This, of course, doesn't address the on-site cacophony that may irritate other inhabitants. However, it can be an easy way for self-storage operators to pick up some "low-hanging" fruit (e.g., people who want to create a man cave but lack the space at home) as football season ramps up.
Here are some ideas and issues for self-storage owners to consider as part of the man cave discussion for on-site facilities:
1. Bandwidth to handle bands, man caves, et al. There are a variety of requirements ranging from zoning to amenities. Presuming you can use self-storage for these "alternative" activities, you'll likely need to provide a variety of amenities-minimally electrical. Climate control, lighting, water, cable/internet and the like are other possible inclusions. Are you interested in renting high-end units at high cost, based on ability to upgrade? Or, do you want to provide a "blank palette" into which occupants will supply most amenities?
2. How much liability you want to assume. Even when tenants sign off on all the potential liabilities of man cave types of uses, owner/operators may continue to carry liability. Laws are fickle, attorneys are aggressive, and hell hath no wrath like that of a storage tenant whose possessions have been flooded, burned up or otherwise compromised.
3. Negative PR potential. Something gets out of hand, and an incident ensues. Results prove damaging to the self-storage facility's reputation. Are you willing to gamble that you can prevent problems, or are units encouraging groups of people to meet, drink and get emotionally invested in an event problems waiting to happen?
Nick Diulio, a writer for blog.selfstorage.com recently addressed man cave pros and perils. He cites a self-storage owner, Penny Casassa, who managed one self-storage facility where a band rented storage "for weekly band practice. 'They really tricked it out, laying down rugs, setting up lamps and generally having a good time just rehearsing in the space,' Casassa said. 'The neighbors in the area didn't have a problem with it, and as long as there was no drinking or smoking, we were fine with it. Besides, their music was pretty good.' "
Despite that pleasant experience, Casassa didn't want to replicate it as manager of another facility. She noted in the article, "'I don't think it's a good idea in the end,' Casassa said. 'I think you open yourself up to huge liability issues. And what happens if a fight breaks out? Or someone is drinking and falls down and hurts himself? This really isn't what the business is all about. If you want a man cave, build one where you live."
One prevailing industry opinion is that higher-end facilities set up to accommodate more "sophisticated" space uses such as office, light industrial and even retail are much better suited to handle man cave possibilities than the self-storage owner who decides on a whim to open up traditional units to new uses without carefully addressing all issues upfront.