The tall, white interior walls are interrupted by splashes of colorful, graffiti-inspired painting. There are offices, a conference room, loading docks, industrial storage, workspaces with skylights, coffee service in the kitchen and a cluster of entrepreneurs hustling to grow their small businesses. This is not your typical warehouse.

In the midst of one of its large business parks in Lanham, BECO Management, Inc. last year opened ROLLUP — a full-service, mini-warehouse facility.

In Lanham, BECO Management is creating hip, mini-warehouses with amenities to support small, growing businesses. Photo courtesy of BECO.

“We saw there was a need for small warehouse space, but there wasn’t any in the market unless you went to a self-storage facility,” said Jessica Vazquez, a BECO Leasing Associate. “So we created these mini-warehouses [ranging from 600 to 2,500 square feet]. Some of them have windows and skylights, and the building has all the amenities you would get if you leased a flex space.

In something akin to a WeWork for warehouse users, tenants have full access to the kitchen/lunchroom, restrooms and other common areas, and can reserve the conference room and offices as needed. BECO supplies “everything you need to run your warehouse business,” including pallet jacks, dollies, lifts, racking, free coffee and tea, a cleaning service and a photo studio (because most entrepreneurs need to create images, videos and other social media content to market their companies).

The 10-warehouse Lanham site, the first of its kind for BECO, proved so successful that the company opened a second facility in Illinois and will open a third in Lanham this summer.

In Hollins Ferry, Merritt Properties recently launched a new product to serve the same need.

“We kept running into these small business owners who only needed 1,000 or 1,500 square feet. But the smallest thing on the warehouse market was 3,000 square feet, and they weren’t ready to take that on,” said Patrick Franklin, an Asset Manager with Merritt.

So the company developed a simple solution. It carved up space in an existing building to create four, 1,000-square-foot mini-warehouses. Branded as the Garages at Hollins Ferry, the “incubator warehouse” offers a no-frills service of a 17-foot-high bay, secure access, 100-amp electrical service and restrooms with a low price, short lease terms and no pass-through costs.

The facility leased up quickly with a Hawaiian shaved ice company, a power-washing company and others. So Merritt is building a second mini-warehouse facility in Hagerstown and already attracting tenants, including a wine maker who will begin making small-batch vintages in her mini-warehouse later this spring.

“There is pent-up demand in the market for this small warehouse model,” Franklin said. “There are a ton of small business owners who can’t work out of their home garages anymore. We hope this kind of space will help their businesses grow.”

At ROLLUP, many tenants are already experiencing that growth. The facility is home to several logistics companies, two lighting/event companies, professional photographers, a cleaning firm, a florist, a rare-liquor supplier, a custom woodworker, an all-natural beauty products manufacturer and a flooring company who “refers to himself as an artist, not a contractor,” Vazquez said. “He does custom epoxy flooring and countertops with crazy cool designs. He travels all over the country doing projects for celebrities and companies.”

For most tenants, ROLLUP provides the opportunity to move their business out of their basement or garage, expand their operations and maybe turn a passionate side hustle into their full-time work, Vazquez said. Since moving into the Lanham facility, tenants have formed “a ROLLUP family” that frequently helps each other with shipping and deliveries, shares business intelligence and refers clients to fellow tenants.

Originally published in March/April 2020 NAIOP-MD InSites.