Storage by George is no more.
The longtime self-storage business, located at 1135 Golden Gate Drive, was sold for $40.5 million in January.
Business signs at the south Napa complex have been covered by banners for the new management company: Extra Space Storage.
George Cohen, whose own name inspired the brand, announced that the property and business is now owned by Baranof Holdings of Texas.
“We decided that we wanted to retire and neither of our children wanted to take over the business,” said Cohen, 77.
“It’s a terrific, fun business,” said Cohen, who also ran Storage By George with his wife Susan. However, “this was as good a time as any,” to retire.
Cohen, who lives in Novato, said he got into the self-storage business following a career in commercial real estate. After taking a class from Buzz Victor, who would later become both an investor and mentor, he ultimately bought more than 6 acres of land on Golden Gate Drive and named the business Storage By George.
Over the past 20 years, the company expanded in three phases, adding self-storage, wine locker storage, pallet storage and yet more self-storage.
“The storage business is thriving,” said Cohen.
According to SpareFoot, a company that tracks the self-storage industry, the United States boasts more than 50,000 facilities and roughly 2.311 billion square feet of rentable space.
Storage By George was a great way to meet so many interesting people, said Cohen, adding that he and his wife have so many stories that they are going to write a book.
Besides the typical self-storage clients who needed room for extra household goods or work equipment, “I joke about being storage to the stars,” said Cohen.
He can’t name names but such “famous” clients included football players, hockey players, actors, politicians, and others.
Cohen credits his success to his staff and the quality of storage they provided.
“Our staff really took care of our clients,” said Cohen. “It may look like a warehouse on the outside but it’s a retail business that depends on relationships. We’re really grateful to the people who Napa who patronize us and our staff that took care of them.”
Cohen said he believes the former Storage by George is the largest self-storage facility in the city. It includes an estimated 1,000 self-storage units, 320 wine lockers and room to store 500 pallets.
Storage wasn’t the only thing Cohen originally wanted to build on his more than 6 acres, which he bought in 1998.
Back in the late 1990s he proposed both a self-storage complex and a 133-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel at the site. City representatives objected to the plan, saying they wanted new hotels to be built downtown. After two applications, Cohen removed the hotel part of the project.
The only constructive criticism Cohen had of the new ownership was about changing the Storage By George name.
“I thought it was a very catchy name and it worked very well for us,” said Cohen. With thousands of cars passing the complex off of Highway 29 each day “I think they’re nuts to change the name.”
But that doesn’t change how he feels about his decades with Storage By George.
“We have really enjoyed it,” said Cohen. “I’m only sorry I got into it when I was 55 and not younger.”
You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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