You've seen Storage Wars & Auction Hunters, but those exciting
storage locker auctions aren't just happening on reality TV. It's a
real life treasure hunt! Meet the Pittsburghers who are scoring big
money in the abandon storage locker business. David Highfoeld reports
The Keys To Our Success!
10 Years in, Her Love for Self Storage Continues to Grow
started out as a bookkeeper with little or no knowledge of the self
storage industry. She met a person who also was a newcomer to the
industry but wanted to give self storage a try and asked her to manager
his first facility. And now, 10 years later, Cathy Soria has come to
enjoy the self storage business the same way that visitors to San
Francisco come to love her city. And Arco’s Self Storage has taken off,
acquiring five properties in the last year alone.
an outsider to the self storage industry, Soria not only had to learn
the ins and outs of running a self storage facility, but also the
psychological aspects of dealing with customers and their needs. It was a
major lifestyle shift from 20 years as a bookkeeper.
meeting Emilio Arco before he opened his first store and getting to know
him and hearing about his new business of self storage, I was quite
intrigued,” says Soria. “He, too, was changing industries after 20 years
and he asked me come on board and manage the still-to-be-built property
in South San Francisco. It was quite a change from just crunching
numbers all day since I had never been in a retail/customer service
position. I had always lived behind the scenes of companies, just me
and my calculator.”
started with 200 units and a dream has grown, thanks to hard work and
many long days, into a self storage business that has continued to grow
and expand on a yearly basis. When discussing some of the keys to
success for Arco’s Self Storage, Soria actually feels her time working
outside of self storage has helped both she and Emilio empathize with
“We pride ourselves on our customer service and
never forgetting what it was like to be on the other side of the
counter,” Soria says. “Too many times I think that people start a
business and they forget the little things that really make a difference
to your customers. Besides our properties being secure, extremely
clean and competitively priced, we always make sure that our restrooms
are clean, we write Thank You cards to all new tenants, we have hot
coffee and cold water in the office, and we even send out birthday
And what sort of customer stories does she have to tell?
there are many happy stories of marriage, babies and travels. There are
always the sad stories of divorce and death, too. I receive lovely
gifts from customers when they return from their travels around the
world. It always touches my heart that they think of me so far from
home. I’ve seen kids grow up, wine collections grow, and people come
back and rent years later and I love to see their smile when they walk
in the door especially when I remember their name!”
As you might
imagine, learning the ropes about self storage involved finding the
right places and times to ask questions and network. And that is where
her association with the CSSA has proved helpful.
“The CSSA is
invaluable for any storage facility, owner and manager,” adds Soria.
“They are always the first place to start when you need something or
have a question. Erin always makes herself available and the CSSA
offers many classes and networking gatherings. They are always worth
As you might imagine, Soria has a special place in
her heart for good causes and Arco’s Self Storage works with many local
and national charities, including the local fire department for the Toys
for Tots Program, Rebuild Together and The American Cancer Society.
her philosophy for being a successful self storage business also
reflects the fact that she came into the industry as an outsider.
“Always think of your customers and what would make them happy!”
Which goes to show that even a bookkeeper of 20 years can find happiness in self storage, too.