Growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, Stephanie Winfree didn’t expect to land in the self storage business at all, especially not as an active board member of the Self Storage Association of South Carolina (SSASC).
“I first got involved in self storage fourteen years ago to work with my mom Cindy in property management,” said Winfree. “It was a smart investment that has turned into an even better business venture. Now, as full-time property manager, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Winfree’s family owns, operates, and develops self storage properties. Their original property, Interstate Self Storage, is a fenced and gated storage facility on a quiet, private road right off the busy Golden Strip Freeway in east Greenville. Interstate Self Storage offers over 70,000 rentable square feet of temperature controlled and drive-up accessible storage with over 460 units, as well as an on-site resident manager and large outdoor parking spaces for boats, cars, and RVs. The facility utilizes an access control system for gated entry and security cameras to monitor on-site activity.
“We’re one of the few facilities in the area that has a resident manager, and that’s something we’re really proud of. A lot of renters still want an old-fashioned resident manager to watch over the property and provide hands-on customer service. The person you talk to on the phone is the person you’re going to meet in the office when you walk in, and our customers love that about us,” said Winfree.
The company’s latest undertaking is the development of another Greenville facility, Innovation Self Storage, which is currently under construction with plans to open in late summer of 2017. The new facility will offer 15,000 square feet of rentable indoor storage, with 130 climate controlled units, as well as a drive-up loading dock and complimentary dollies and handcarts to make moving heavy items easy. Combined with the additional acres surrounding the building, the soon-to-open site is ready to receive clients, as well as to expand to meet their future needs.
The new facility is being built inside a historical textile finishing plant, considered by many to be a gem of the South. The building was previously owned by famous local businessman and one of South Carolina’s wealthiest men, John D. Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth built the large brick building as a part of his textile mill business in 1944, a business which grew to be worth a whopping $600 million before his death. Although Hollingsworth was once one of the wealthiest men in America, he chose to live an eccentric, simple lifestyle, making his home in an Airstream trailer behind the factory and driving a run-down Volkswagen Rabbit while donating the majority of his money to charity.
“There are several acres of green development surrounding the old textile factory, but no one had done anything with the building itself for years. Growing up in Greenville, my family and friends all knew of the textile factory and the Hollingsworth family story, so we couldn’t just go and knock it down. We decided to convert the building into a useful space for climate controlled storage. The brick is in excellent shape and it still has the original address plaques hanging over the door.”
Innovation Self Storage uses PTI Security Systems for access control at the new storage facility, along with new climate controlled units featuring steel roll-up doors from Janus International. Both facilities utilize storEDGE marketing websites and storEDGE facility management software, with the new facility website already running and taking early bird reservations.
“We have modern amenities for our customers, and they love it. The website, keypad entry, and online bill pay - all of it makes the experience easy for them,” said Winfree. “But I think our customer service is really what sets us apart from the competition. You can walk into the office and you’ve got a friend behind the desk there to help you with your move. People love to come in and talk to us, and we’re happy to be involved in the community that way.”
While Winfree is no longer the president of the SSASC, she is still an active board member, leading the meeting and education committee to help other members with marketing in their area. She says her proudest accomplishment from her years as a board member was lobbying to successfully update and improve the South Carolina lien laws in 2014. The change allows owners to send lien letters digitally through certified emails, rather than through proof of mailing. In 2017, the association is working on eliminating the newspaper ad requirement to completely digitize the lien process.
“The previous lien laws were written in the 80s and were horribly outdated. Dealing with the removal of certified return request mailing was a big road block, but we finally got it accomplished. storEDGE was a huge part of that, with trackable emails and a digital tenant lien process. We went from spending six or seven dollars per unit going to auction to now maybe only spending like $1.20 or less, depending on how you’re sending your lien notices.”
“The change was a huge, huge leap for us as an association, and it’s something I’m really proud to have been a part of. Now, we’re working on new things, and the challenge is to keep the information fresh for our members, because we’re here to help them. I take it on personally to make sure I’m helping our members succeed. If I’m not helping people, I’m not doing my job as a board member.”
In the future, the company has plans to place a sign close to the expressway as advertising for Interstate Self Storage, as well as to continue marketing on Waze (a community-based traffic and navigation app) and growing Innovation Self Storage with more niche amenities.
“Looking ahead at the future of our business, I’m excited to get the new facility up and running, and we’re already thinking about phase two, which will be to add more climate controlled units as well as space for RV, boat, and vehicle parking. I’m excited to see it all come to life.”
Thank you Interstate Self Storage / Innovation Self Storage! At storEDGE, we are proud to work with clients who excel at what they do, care about their customers, and lead the industry in technology. If you liked this article, you may also like: Client Spotlight: The Self Storage Vault, Client Spotlight: Rosewood Self Storage, or Client Spotlight: Byrd’s Mini Storage.