John Lester wasn’t the first one in, but he certainly remembers when he could count the number of self-storage businesses in Flagler on two hands.
Lester is the proprietor of Eagles Nest Storage, on Moody Blvd., in Flagler Beach. He first opened his business in 2006, and when he applied for a license to open, there were only seven such storage facilities in the county.
“We felt we had a superior location and there was a significant market for this kind of business,” Lester said recently. “Looking at everyone else around here now, I guess there really is a great appetite for this kind of business.”
That certainly is true. Everywhere you go in Flagler County these days, there’s a business with wide-open lockers and lots of space for you to store your goods. Up and down Moody Blvd., along Palm Coast Parkway, and many places in-between, there are storage businesses everywhere you look, and more coming.
As of July, 2021 there are 18 businesses in the self-storage field in Flagler, according to the county property appraiser’s office, with two more in development and preparing to open in the future. One of the newest ones to open was StoreQuest, on North Old Kings Road, in 2020. One is under construction within sight of Eagle Nest, on the other side of the boulevard.
It’s a Florida trend: selfstorage.com reports that there are some 2,602 self-storage facilities in the state covering 125 million square feet, or 6.29 square feet of space per person, almost a full square foot more than the national average. But it’s also a national trend. There are some 30,000 operators of 55,000 self-storage facilities across the country: even Bill Gates joined StorageMart as an investor recently. (The self-storage business was valued at $88 billion in 2019, according to Mordor Intelligence Research, and is expected to be valued at $116 billion by 2015.)
The Flagler market accentuates reasons why people need storage space: downsizing is a driving factor. As older people move from empty nests, they have a lot of stuff, but not necessarily as much space. Flagler County’s population has been growing steadily, but overwhelmingly due to older people moving in, without children. Not yet ready to shed all the belongings that don’t fit in their new digs, they opt for self-storage.
The coronavirus has also pushed more stuff into storage as people have needed to move in with family or needed to shrink their living spaces. Some businesses have also moved their wares into storage, hoping to withstand business difficulties and reemerge whole–or realizing that all that office furniture was not necessary, now that remote work is taking hold.
According to many of the owners of these businesses, their containers are pretty well-stuffed, so clearly over-saturation isn’t a problem.
But what is it that’s driving so many Flagler residents, and those of surrounding counties, to use these businesses? They seem to be booming whether the economy is good or bad, whether there’s a pandemic raging or not, and few other conditions seem to have altered the fact that people always, always, always have more stuff than they have room for.
“It’s a situation where the population goes up, and people need to put their things somewhere,” said Derek Fraser, whose family has owned Fraser’s Mini-Storage, on Old Moody Blvd., since the 1970s. “There’s a demand for what we’re offering and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the economy is good, or bad, people are needing space and simply don’t have enough where they live.”
Chad Barker, the property manager for All Aboard Storage on East Moody Blvd, said his franchise sees population growth, and the development of new residential communities, as being the biggest driver of self-storage space explosion.
“I think so many storage facilities are popping up because of population growth, and supply and demand,” Barker said. “Houses are being constructed, communities are being built, and we’re seeing people move from one dwelling to another and maybe downsizing, but not wanting to get rid of what they own.”
Lester said he first saw a big boom in the industry happening during the great economic recession of 2007-08, and continuing until around 2013.
“We had a lot of foreclosures, and people who were losing their homes and needing to store their goods,” Lester said. “For a while people were needing our bigger-sized storage units, because all of a sudden they had so much they needed to keep somewhere, and they didn’t have a home anymore.”
Interestingly, Derek Fraser said the recession had the opposite effect.
“I think the recession was bad for our industry, because people were trying to get rid of some of their bills, and paying a monthly bill for a storage unit was something a lot of people tried to get rid of,” Fraser said.
Each of the Flagler County storage facility representatives who agreed to be interviewed said their facilities have been full or nearly full for years, suggesting that there’s yet more room for growth.
And it’s not just residential storage that’s booming; Jack Mott, proprietor of Flagler Self Storage on Moody Blvd., said his boat and trailer storage facility is also doing very well, which may explain the persistence of Bob Million, the would-be developer of the 4.7 acres next to Hammock Harbour into a 240-boat dry-storage facility.
“I’ve got limited warehouse storage space but a few hundred renters consistently,” Mott said. “There are a few competitors popping up here and there because so many people are wanting areas to put their boats and large vehicles.”
The scourge of Covid-19 has also affected self-storage businesses, in the same way that the economic recession did. Lester said he’s seen a demand at his facility from people who’ve said they’ve lost their homes and businesses due to so much economic contraction in the past 18 months.
“I try to help them but we’re basically at 100 percent capacity,” Lester said. “I try to refer them to some of our competitors, but they’re usually full or close to full, too.”
The monthly rate on a 10×30 space at Eagles Nets is $239.62 per month, while a 10×30 space at All Aboard storage is $235 per month. A 10×30 space isn’t listed on Fraser Mini Storage’s website, but a 20×20 space is listed as costing $240 per month. At those prices, small increases aren’t enough to push renters out.
Several of the self-storage businesses have said they’re expanding, or trying to get permission to expand, showing there seems to be an insatiable appetite for storage in Flagler County.
“I think all of our businesses are doing well, and things don’t seem to be changing too much based on the economy,” Lester said. “There seems to be enough business for all of us.”