Meet Whitehorse’s storage czars

Who knew the mini-storage game was such a competitive market? There is no shortage of storage companies in Whitehorse, with new ones popping up, being bought by competitors or being run as side businesses.

Who knew the mini-storage game was such a competitive market?

There is no shortage of storage companies in Whitehorse, with new ones popping up, being bought by competitors or being run as side businesses.

The latest is Titanium Storage, located in the Marwell industrial park. It went up in the fall and officially opened in November. It also happens to be the only facility near downtown that has a zoning permit for horses.

But Titanium won’t be the only game close to downtown for long. North Star Mini Storage is planning to build a facility in Marwell as well, to take advantage of the proximity to the city core and the number of condos going up.

Aside from their equine denizens, there is one significant difference between Titanium and North Star. Titanium might be the newest shop in town, but North Star is definitely the biggest, and is looking to expand.

Whitehorse sisters Lara-Rae Grant and Kristen Trotter manage the North Star empire for their father and owner Walter Trotter (of Arcrite Electrical fame).

“It can be a competitive market,” said Grant.

“We’re hitting our last kind of demand from the city of Whitehorse residents and business owners that we’ve been listening to,” she said.

The Marwell location will add 400 new cold and heated storage units to the company’s current stock of 1,000, far exceeding most of the other storage businesses in town.

By comparison, North Star competitors Moonlight Mountain Storage Rentals and Porter Creek Self Storage have 48 and 100 units, respectively.

The new Marwell facility will also serve as North Star’s new office and headquarters.

“It will really open up a lot of opportunity for retailers and condo owners in the downtown core,” Grant said.

Grant said that North Star’s success comes from being accessible and responsive to customer needs.

“Every customer is different. We try to accommodate everyone, and for us that works really well. You can get a hold of us 24-7. Not everyone has an office, and you sometimes have to make an appointment. But people need storage now. They want to just walk in. Answering the phone and having an office Monday to Friday really helps,” she said.

That differs significantly from how most operations are run.

While there are seven storage businesses listed in the phone book, plus the newcomer Titanium, it’s hard to get a real sense of just how many people are running storage operations in town, said Sheldon King, the owner and operator of M&K Transfers Ltd.

Many companies run storage rental as a side business, offering containers stored on their company lots, or sometimes even unused warehouse space, King said.

In M&K’s case, they are part of a larger company that includes moving and van services as well. M&K has 108 units, but

focuses more on temporary storage for people who are moving homes, for example.

“We can deliver containers to people, and they’ll sometimes have us load it up for them, or they’ll do it, and then we can move it to our site and store it for them until their new place is ready,” King said.

When you focus on long-term storage like North Star does, you encounter some interesting challenges, Grant said.

“We do have to clean out a lot of units. It’s fascinating how many people abandon their stuff,” Grant said.

She said they often get asked if they’ll do a Storage Wars day, like the reality TV show where auction bidders place bids on unopened and abandoned rental units, hoping for a treasure trove of forgotten goods inside.

Titanium ran a Storage Wars day and community garage sale of their own in June, as a fundraiser for the Yukon Hospital Foundation, and raised $8,000 according to the company’s Facebook page.

“We haven’t done it,” said Grant, “to respect the small communities. We are a small community, and it’s people’s personal items. We try to give away and donate as much as we can.”

Storage units must sit unopened and unpaid for three months before they can be considered abandoned, but Grant said she tries to wait as long as she can, often up to a year, before getting rid of the stuff.

“We do our best to get in touch with people and searching through people to find people. The last thing we want to do is put somebody’s name in the paper and get rid of their stuff. We work really hard to track people down over a year,” she said.

Grant, who has been managing North Star for six years, said with the new facility set to open this fall, the company still isn’t done expanding.

“We’re always expanding. Every year we’re paving more, and looking for more upgrades. We’re putting in a new high-tech security system that will come with the new building. We’re just trying to keep up the demands of Whitehorse’s storage needs,” she said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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