New Firms Are Two 'Fer

April 10, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Two new businesses recently opened downtown. One fills a need in the district, while the other adds a new slant to an existing field. And both should push each other to an innovative level of service.

Downtown Self-Storage and Parcel Solutions began serving customers a few weeks ago, both in the nicely renovated confines of 220 Grandville Ave. SW, a building owned by Terra Firma Development. The two businesses are jointly owned by Dave Jirikovic and Bill Barnett.

“Bill is sort of a ‘self-storage meister.’ He has been doing it for years and years and years. He has done many, many projects all over the country,” said Jirikovic.

In fact, Barnett and Jay Carll, who is a partner with Eric Wynsma in Terra Firma, started Ada Landings a few years ago. Ada Landings is a commercial condominium development that offers small business owners office and storage space in the southeast suburb.

“Bill and I recently met, and he found out that my family owns a massive moving, storage and freight business in the Upper Peninsula at Sault Sainte Marie, moving freight to and from Ontario,” said Jirikovic. “So I learned the shipping business while I was very young.”

So while Barnett manages the storage business, Jirikovic directs Parcel Solutions — which doesn’t look like the typical drop-off location for a shipping or freight outlet.

“We took this to kind of a Starbucks level, you might say. We have free wireless Internet and wired — if you like to plug-in — as well, with nice sitting areas. It’s a place where you would want to be,” said Jirikovic.

Barnett and Jirikovic spent more than the usual amount of money on their interior space because they think customers will be using both businesses, and they wanted to give clients a nice atmosphere in which to do some work away from the office.

In that pleasant setting, Parcel Solutions — which is open to the public whether people use Downtown Self-Storage or not — adds a twist to the shipping field by having contracts with three delivery companies: UPS, FedEx and DHL. Most similar businesses offer only one.

“We have a different deal on pricing, too. For the general public, we go with a lower-than-retail rate. On top of that, if you’re a business — a small law firm, for instance — you probably ship about 10 packages a week. Well, we see that as an opportunity. We’ll use our discount to bring your price down, even lower than if you have your own account,” said Jirikovic.

He added that they’ve lowered their margin to raise their volume.

“We’re built for volume with all the space we have,” he said.

Parcel Solutions and Downtown Self-Storage have 165,000 square feet of space. Storage customers can build out their space as they go, meaning they’re not limited to the amount of square footage they initially lease. So as they get more things to store, they can get more space. So far, just a few weeks into the business, customers have already leased 10,000 square feet.

Jirikovic said buyers of downtown condos are prime targets for the storage business, as many can’t move all of their possessions into their new but often smaller homes. The partners are also aiming at those who might need some business space.

“Anybody is welcome to store stuff here — anything from tools to clothing to household goods, whatever. But you could also run a small business out of the space, because the way it’s set up is you can sit down and do work here,” he said, adding that customers can use their climate-controlled indoor freight loading area and forklift.

The businesses are distinctive, but the idea is even more unique. Jirikovic and Barnett feel they have created two businesses that will feed off each other and then nourish each other under the same roof. It’s kind of a two-for-one concept coming from a single investment.

And as Jirikovic told the Business Journal, Downtown Self-Storage and Parcel Solutions have to be seen to be believed.

“It’s hard to describe,” said Jirikovic, “because nobody has ever done it like this.”    

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