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Area company helps property owners profit off unused space

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By Sean Kennedy

 Too many cars and not enough space to put them. That’s what Carmelo Mannino is hearing from Coloradans. 

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“We get about 150 calls a month of people in need, and we’re usually only able to help 40 new renters a month,” Mannino said. “There’s so much need and almost not enough space.” 

Mannino is the CEO of Stow It, a company based out of Fort Collins and Denver that connects people needing space to store their vehicles with property owners with unused spaces, such as empty garages, barns and yards and who are interested in turning that space into income. 

Mannino said that the idea for Stow It arose from the personal frustration of one of the company’s founders, Devin Eldridge, after he had to pay $400 to store one of his vehicles for three days. Mannino, who met Devin at a co-working space in Fort Collins, said they founded Stow It on the idea that people should be able to rent space from their community neighbors, rather than going through a traditional storage company. 

And so Stow It started in early 2017, opening “city-by-city” as it expanded its base to its present day size of roughly 100 clients renting space at any one time from 150 hosts. The company, which Mannino says recently celebrated its 450th rental, has had success in Fort Collins, Arvada and Denver and is now expanding into the north Denver metro area to keep up with demand. 

“There’s been a lot of demand recently in Fort Lupton and Brighton,” Mannino said. “One lady has an empty barn with like 20 cars in it. Another guy in Commerce City who owns a warehouse in the industrial section has eight renters in an empty yard behind the warehouse that’s making him around $1,000 a month.” 

Stow It’s focus is primarily on vehicle storage. Mannino said they’ve tried stuff storage before, but it hasn’t been as successful for them. While most of their clients come to store cars, Mannino said their hosts accept most types of vehicles. 

“Anything with wheels, really,” Mannino said with a laugh. 

Mannino said the company has taken a customer service-oriented approach to the business, seeking to personally meet every new host that joins. The company visits each new host’s property to assess the property owner’s rental capabilities and to take pictures and gather information to add to the Stow It website, where customers rent space. 

“Storage hasn’t really changed since it began as an industry in the ‘40s and ‘50s,” Mannino said, “And we felt it was in need of a shake-up.”

Each property owner works with the company to set their own rental price and stipulate the amount of access vehicle owners can have to their vehicle while in storage on the property. Stow It charges hosts 5 percent on its rental price and charges those renting space 6 percent to 14 percent on the price of their rental, keeping rental prices lower than those offered by most traditional storage companies. Mannino claimed those companies often don’t allow the storage of cars in the first place. 

Mannino attributes the low rent price, which on average is between $60 to $80 per month for an outdoor storage space or between $150 and $170 per month for an indoor storage space, to the company’s rapid growth, which he said averaged 15 percent to 20 percent a month. 

“There’s a massive need for this service,” Mannino said. “Car storage accounts for 20 to 25 percent of all storage nationwide, and to these big storage companies, you’re just a number. We believe you should be able to rent from your neighbors and we’re going to do things differently.”