Photo: Joanne and Larry Keller (and a couple of their two best friends, Talley and Murphy) alongside Titan Mega Storage, a 200,000-square-foot facility in Northwest Bakersfield, Calif.
Toy Storage Nation has awarded Titan Mega Storage of Bakersfield, Calif., the Facility of the Month Award in recognition of the facility’s luxury storage features and its ability to go above and beyond to ensure the safekeeping of tenants’ prized recreational vehicles.
Titan Mega Storage is located in Northwest Bakersfield, with convenient access off a local highway and in close proximity to numerous wonders of nature that attract outdoor-adventure seekers. It offers oversized units perfect for storing all forms of recreational vehicles, including oversized RVs, campers, boats, toy haulers, collector cars and more. The site promises–and delivers–luxury storage with all the ingredients of a Class A facility.
Even more impressive is the passion that is built into the project by owner-developer, Larry Keller, who took a circuitous route to land in self-storage more than 20 years ago. The experiences gained from building his first project led him to develop Titan Mega Storage, incorporating all the features he knew tenants with high-end recreational vehicles of all kinds would appreciate.
Larry has always been a hard worker with a penchant for building things, but as a young man, he wasn’t entirely sure of his path. He gained experience in the restaurant industry by working with a local catering business contracted by the U.S. Forest Service to deliver meals to firefighters battling wildfires. Upon the advice of a friend, he bought a small local restaurant and remodeled it into a successful sandwich shop. While Joanne operated the shop, Larry turned his attention to designing and building a mobile kitchen.
But Larry is not one just to venture into anything unless he’s going to do it better than anyone else, not because he is competitive with others, but competitive with himself. “I didn’t go to college, but I learned that once you start doing something, you can’t quit,” he says. “If you quit, you’re done. That’s not an option for me. I always want to make things better, do a better job. I get a lot of self-satisfaction that way.”
Thus, he created a mobile kitchen designed to be the best. It was so good that he earned the forest service contract (and continued serving firefighters on location for 15 years). Moreover, his kitchen-on-wheels attracted the attention of the American Restaurant Association Food Services, the largest food-service company in the world. The association operated concessions at stadiums, colleges, retirement communities and more, with a decades-long contract legacy with the Olympics. The organization selected Larry’s mobile kitchen to serve all participants in the 1984 Olympic Torch Relay, a 90-day celebration that zigzagged from New York to Los Angeles, covering 9,000 miles and crossing through 33 states.
Larry saved as much money as he could during his food service days, earning enough to take his passion for building further. “I’ve always had a firm belief that the safest place to have money is real estate,” he says, adding that he bought two properties–an office park (that he immediately began to manage) and a parcel of land.
Not long later, he visited a friend who was reaping profits in self-storage. “His manager showed me the books and I saw they were getting 50 cents a square foot for metal buildings. That’s when I knew that I was in the wrong business!”
That spurred him on to build his own facility, Fortress Self Storage, on his empty parcel of land. He set forth to make it the best, of course, incorporating large units and wide driveways, thinking he might be able to attract tenants with RVs, but, he says, “people couldn’t afford to store motorhomes back then.” Although he was a bit ahead of the curve for rec-vehicle storage, he soon realized local contractors needed to store their construction equipment, so his large units quickly became occupied.
Needless to say, his venture proved successful, and Larry eventually sold his 120,000-square-foot facility with 650 units to a REIT. Before long, he started imagining his next project in which he would take elements from his first design and up the ante for a broader market that would include storage for recreational vehicles, which was now taking off.
The 9.5-acre project broke ground in 2019 during COVID-19. The pandemic slowed construction for a while, but all storage units had taken shape in April 2022. Of its existing 200,000 square feet of rentable space 50% is already occupied, without a speck of advertising. Tenants are drawn to the facility based on word-of-mouth recommendations. And that’s the way Larry prefers it.
“I like getting personal referrals because I want a certain level of clientele,” he says. “I get to know my tenants and think of them as friends.”
Larry made sure that Titan Mega Storage was designed to impress, with security features and convenience to earn the trust of tenants. The facility proudly offers the following:
- Extra-large pull-through units
- 50-foot-wide driveways
- Interior lighting and 110V-power in units
- 12’ x 14’ doors for large vehicles to navigate safely
- Roll-up and walk-in doors
- Fire sprinklers inside each unit
- Onsite, bi-lingual management
- Co-working office space
- 24-hour video recording
- Nokē Smart Entry System: bluetooth-enabled electronic locks and total control access-system
- Sensors in each unit for added security
- Onsite mail and package-receiving services
- Mailbox service
- Forklift service available
- Cardboard, trash and pallet service
His tenants come to him with all their storage needs, from RVs, boats and construction equipment to classic cars. As occupancies continue to ramp up, the construction crew is finalizing the office building, which includes a lobby with co-working space for tenants on the go, packing and mailing services, and two apartments on the second floor for his dedicated onsite manager, Violet, and a potential relief manager.
“I figured if I’m going to build a 200,000-square-foot facility, I’d like to have someone here all the time to watch over it.” And, true to his ethic of always going above and beyond, he ensured the apartments were roomy–1,500-square-feet each–to keep his managers comfortable, because, as he says, “I like happy people around me!”
The role of self-storage manager is a new one for Violet, who worked with Larry and his wife of 47 years, Joanne, on another pet project, quite literally, for more than seven years. The Kellers have been instrumental in furthering the success of a local spay and neuter clinic, Critters Without Litters, supporting a cause that draws their most heartfelt and devoted passion.
“Between serving the forest service for 15 years, helping Critters Without Litters and developing/operating Titan Mega Storage, I am fully gratified,” he says. “It may seem like a crazy combination, but I’m not crazy; I’m just passionate about what I do!”
For others interested in entering the RV and boat storage industry, Larry has shared his thoughts and his experiences with several entrepreneurs, reflecting his compassionate nature. He also has some great advice for those on the fence about entering this industry.
“It’s an easy business and throws off a nice income. It’s a great retirement plan, so if someone has even just two acres that they’re thinking about developing, I say, ‘just do it!’”
Interested in submitting your facility or someone for the Toy Storage Nation Facility of the Month Award? Learn more and submit your nomination now.