• By Alex Hassel, Storage.com May 9, 2016

    One self storage operator in Tustin, Calif., has caught the attention of potential renters with a motorsports-themed facility. Before entering the self storage industry, Randy Scott Wong was a criminal prosecutor, stock broker, director of a nonprofit, professional photographer, and professional motorcycle rider and instructor. When Wong ventured into the self storage sector, he decided to combine many of these experiences into his new business, creating I-5 Self Storage.

    Wong says his decision to develop his own self storage facility happened on a whim. His friends in the motorcycle industry initially laughed at the idea. Although most people thought he was crazy for leaving his career in motorcycles, Wong saw a need for a place where people could store their belongings and their prized vehicles.

    “I was National Director of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and had a staff of over 100 people that were involved in recreational motorsports,” says Wong. “I had test driven powerful motorcycles for BMW on the world famous Nürburgring racetrack in Germany. My staff kept coming up to me and told me they needed to find a place to store their vehicles. I thought to myself, ‘That’s crazy. How difficult could it be to find a dirt lot?’ So, I started intensively studying the industry at all levels, starting from the ground up and became intrigued.”

    It took Wong five years to develop his facility. He found and renovated a 30-year-old building that came with challenges like regulatory hoops, legal and political challenges, and even the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of construction materials. However, in the end, Wong’s experience with motorcycles and photography helped him create the one-of-a-kind storage facility he envisioned.

    “I extensively studied the self storage industry but didn’t limit myself to that,” he says. “When I thought about my vision of what the perfect self storage facility would be, sure, I looked at some of the competition, but more importantly, I went completely outside of the industry. I think that was what made us different. I looked at what Starbucks and McDonalds’s did. For example, how they were located. I also looked at leading automotive manufacturers, such as Ford, and how they listened and focused on the customer experience in recent years.”
    Wong also studied hospitality chains. “The color coding [that I use throughout the facility in signage, custom flooring, numbering] was something I had never seen, but I got that idea from hospitality, five star hotels, and the Disney experience,” he says.

    “I thought about what Disney did, and the way they have all the distinct lands. I said, ‘Why not make every area themed?’ and I named each area after world-renowned, international race tracks and then I made street signs named after cars and designers, like Mustang Avenue or Camilo Road. I searched for a three-dimensional recreation of the Gulf Livery Modern Ford GT40, an art sculpture in the minds of car enthusiasts, and mounted it above the customer conference room for all to enjoy. We’ve hosted community car shows, which have drawn the real-life modern Ford GT40s, as well as a collection of DeLorean owners and limited edition Ferraris and Vipers.”

    I-5 Self Storage also offers amenities like free Wi-Fi for customers, a children’s play area, a conference room, work stations, and free beverages.

    This type of storage development turned a lot of heads. In fact, in 2009, I-5 Self Storage won the Mini Storage Messenger Self Storage Facility of the Year award. “My goal, when I decided to go into the business, really was to win facility of the year. I knew if I did this, I wanted to, in the end, build the finest self storage facility. It sounds kind of silly, but that truly was my goal,“ says Wong.

    I-5 has accumulated more than 1,200 renters at the facility, one of the largest self storage customer bases in the U.S. While the facility is considered almost three times larger than the average self storage location with more than 1,600 units, it’s only at about 84% occupancy right now.