Couple upgrades longtime storage business near Howell, plans to expand
Husband and wife Jim and Carey Abraham have purchased and upgraded a few storage businesses in Michigan over the years.
Their latest venture is near the intersection of Interstate 96 and D-19 near Howell.
The couple purchased McGowan Mini Storage at 1650 Pinckney Road/D-19 in Marion Township, renaming it Howell Storage, last summer.
Jim Abraham said they have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements to the business so far, and they plan to expand it by 50 to 70 additional storage units, pending approvals from township officials. The business currently features more than 300 units.
“We’ve kind of figured out a good method of not only buying (storage) businesses but turning them around,” Jim said.
Years ago, Carey’s parents, who owned a self-storage business, suggested the couple get into the industry.
Jim said he owned a power coating manufacturing business that he closed in the early 2000s.
When he sold off the real estate, “I came away with a nest egg,” he said.
The Abrahams still operate the first storage business they bought: Abe’s Storage in Holly.
“It was bank-owned and we bought that and turned it around,” he said.
They also purchased a second location, Abe’s Storage North, nearby in Grand Blanc, which was also bank-owned and in need of rehabilitation.
Jim said they wanted to expand to Livingston County, partially because he used to live in Hartland Township and was aware of new residential and commercial development going on in the county. They currently reside in White Lake.
“When you research Livingston County, you can see there is a lot of growth,” he said.
Carey said she expects new residential development near Howell Storage will bring an increased demand for storage units.
“We’re at like 90% capacity, and with new neighborhoods, we have to be prepared,” she said.
They anticipate constructing more units on Howell Storage’s property will cost somewhere between $400,000 to $800,000.
“If it goes through, the (additional) units will be ready this fall,” Jim said.
Improvements they have already made include building repairs, surveillance cameras, 160 new outdoor LED lights, new fencing and signage and a new automatic gate that allows them to disarm it remotely for customers who want to access their units after hours.
“I’ll answer the phone 24 hours a day,” Jim said.
Looking toward the future, the Abrahams say they will consider adding climate-controlled units.
Howell Storage also offers secure outdoor parking for cars, boats, camper trailers and motorhomes.
Original owner Don McGowan built the business in 1980s.
Jim said McGowan is still involved with Michigan Cemetery Monuments, a business that has office space within the storage unit business.
‘A very strange year’
Purchasing and taking over operations of a business during a pandemic had challenging moments, but overall, the Abrahams said it was a good investment.
“We’ve had a very strange year, but this business is fairly stable through peaks and valleys,” Jim said.
Their storage unit businesses were impacted by changes in people’s behaviors.
“In the spring move-out season, that move-out was more amplified than normal. Moving and storage was deemed essential,” he said.
But a dip in business in late spring to early summer, which he says is when a lot of people move in, “hurt us.”
During the pandemic, the Abrahams suspended auctions of storage units that customers could no longer afford.
“We asked them, ‘how much can you pay?’ Not many business owners did that,” Jim said.
“By summertime, business came back, at the time we closed on this place. But it did speed up our timeline for making improvements.”
The Abrahams said Small Business Administration financing helped them feel more comfortable with taking on the risk of purchasing a new business.
Commercial lender Matthew Schroeder, who is with Flint-based Financial Plus Credit Union, helped the Abrahams secure financing, according to a release from the company.
“With COVID, we were a little scared. The SBA financing for this project made it less risky. They made a lot of fail-safes, which gave us the confidence to move forward,” Jim said.
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timar at jt[email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @jennifer_timar.
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