M icon
women in self-storage
Alyssa Quill headshot
Alyssa Quill
CEO of Storage Asset Management (SAM)
By Erica Shatzer
Y

ork, Pa.-based Storage Asset Management (SAM) has been in business for 14 years, leading the industry as its largest independently owned third-party management company and repeatedly ranking on Messenger’s annual top operators list. SAM’s path to success was partly paved by its co-founder and CEO, Alyssa Quill, who has been an esteemed, assiduous self-storage professional for more than two decades.

Quill began her self-storage journey in 2001 in Memphis, Tenn., as a financial analyst for Storage USA. She had just started to get her feet wet when the company was acquired by GE Capital, the former financial services division of American multinational conglomerate General Electric, through its purchase of Security Capital Group in May 2002. Under new direction, Quill became a revenue manager, analyzing market trends, pricing strategies, and demand factors to maximize revenue of the 458 facilities.

Three years later, GE Capital sold Storage USA to a joint venture between Extra Space Storage and Prudential Real Estate Ventures for $2.3 billion. Through that deal, Quill was retained by Extra Space as a revenue manager. Over approximately 3.5 years with the REIT, she moved up the ranks to vice president of operations (Southeast division).

group photo: Rod Lockard, Susan Newcomer, Samantha Hall, Alyssa Quill, Bret Schobel, Lynn Sykes, Patty Shields, Jay Hoke, and Melissa Stiles
Rod Lockard, Susan Newcomer, Samantha Hall, Alyssa Quill, Bret Schobel, Lynn Sykes, Patty Shields, Jay Hoke, and Melissa Stiles
“I loved it,” Quill says about working for a large, national company, “and the industry.” The reason she left Extra Space was simply personal: She and her husband, Kevin, had relocated from Tennessee to Pennsylvania to start a family in 2004, and although Extra Space permitted her to work from home, traveling to self-storage facilities in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas became challenging after having children. Quill welcomed a daughter, Bella, in 2005 and a son, Aidan, in 2008. “It was too much to travel with my family,” she says.

“He saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself.”

– Alyssa Quill
Not being able to travel for work surely felt like an impediment to her career advancement at the time, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Her progress wasn’t being stifled; the winds of change were merely carrying her in a better direction.
Career Shift
A few months after the birth of her son, Quill decided to seek local employment. She joined York, Pa.-based Investment Real Estate LLC (IRE), which was headquartered only a few miles from her family’s home. At that time (late 2008), IRE owned approximately 15 self-storage facilities and managed another 20—all of which were in driving distance of the company’s office.

“John Gilliland [president and CEO of IRE] was looking for someone to grow IRE’s third-party management business,” recalls Quill, who was hired to assist with its expansion. “It was a little scary,” she says about leaving Extra Space for a smaller company, “but it was exciting too.”

Although she initially felt qualified for the position, with several years of experience under her belt, she realized she was still had plenty to learn. However, under Gilliland’s guidance, she received an insider education on the “ins and outs of third-party management.”

Unfortunately, the Great Recession and tighter lending standards put a damper on IRE’s growth plans. By 2010, Gilliland was looking to sell the third-party management division of the company. And Quill, assuming that she would be out of a job, began polishing up her resume.

“He didn’t think of me as a buyer,” she says. “I didn’t even think of myself as a buyer.”

Gilliland did have someone else in mind for the 21-property management portfolio: Jay Hoke, who had been one of Quill’s co-workers at IRE. Gilliland offered the management contracts to Hoke, but starting a new company wasn’t something he was prepared to do alone. Instead, he called Quill and asked her to become his business partner.

“He saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself,” Quill says, adding that she will be forever grateful to Hoke for recognizing her potential.

Despite her interest, Quill needed some time to discuss the opportunity with her husband. “I didn’t have the money,” she says about putting up half the purchase price. “And I didn’t consider myself an entrepreneur.”

To appease her analytical nature, she completed numerous forecast scenarios to play out the what-ifs before making a decision. Since her husband had a good job, Hoke had plenty of relevant experience, and she and Hoke had both worked with the properties’ owners through IRE, Quill didn’t let uncertainty deter her from pursuing the venture. So, the Quills determined an amount they were comfortable putting forth, Hoke matched it, they took out a loan for the remainder, and SAM was formed on May 20, 2010.

“We had time to make mistakes and absorb them. We had time to build a strong team.”

– Alyssa Quill
Growing SAM
For the first three years after its inception, SAM “didn’t grow much,” Quill says, pointing out that banks weren’t really lending after the Great Recession. So instead of concentrating on immediate growth of their newly acquired management portfolio, they focused on building a strong foundation that would set the company up for success and future expansion.

Before taking on additional management contracts, Quill implemented operational standards for SAM, such as an operations manual and various training programs, thus enabling SAM to provide more consistent and efficient customer service. She also strengthened SAM’s team by developing new departments, creating new positions, and hiring additional corporate employees. “Watching them grow has been great,” says Quill.

On top of professional maturation, the size of SAM’s team has increased exponentially, from five corporate and 30 on-property employees to more than 900 team members.

“It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun in the early years,” she says about getting SAM up and running. “I was working at the site level more then, but I still love being at the stores with managers. I think it would be fun to run my own store someday, maybe when I retire.”

Because Quill and Hoke were already familiar with the original 21 facilities, “It didn’t feel overwhelming,” she says. “We had time to make mistakes and absorb them. We had time to build a strong team.”

After the economy rebounded and lenders resumed lending for acquisitions and new developments, SAM’s management portfolio began to expand through word-of-mouth marketing and referrals from lenders and brokers, as well as existing clients who either tell other owners about SAM or hire the company to manage facilities that they add to their portfolios. By meeting and/or exceeding the expectations of its customers, SAM grew more than tenfold by its 10-year anniversary, managing 246 locations in 28 states.

About the company’s growth plan, Quill says “smart growth” was the objective. She and Hoke did not want to sacrifice SAM’s quality of service to increase in size. “Our team is active in the industry through associations and media, but we haven’t really had vendor booths at trade shows,” she says. “We wanted to keep growth at a sustainable level.”

Now in its 14th year of business, SAM has nearly doubled the number of facilities in its portfolio in four years, managing 568 self-storage facilities in 36 states and 21 mixed-use industrial parks.

SAM’s strong remote operations department, which its team has been diligently improving since its inception, is partially responsible for the significant uptick in management contracts. Per Quill, remote management has enabled SAM’s clients to purchase small facilities that they may not have purchased otherwise.

“It has opened up new acquisitions opportunities for our clients,” she says. “It has refined the playbook for smaller properties that don’t need or can’t afford on-site management. It’s taken a few years to make it excellent. We’re excited about it.”

Currently, about 200 self-storage facilities in SAM’s portfolio (35 percent) are remotely managed through an effective hub-and-spoke model or SAM’s virtual operations management option. Of those facilities, Quill says it has been a mix of facilities that have either switched from traditional on-site management to remote management or have been using remote management since opening.

As for future growth, Quill states that “there’s still plenty of room to grow” in size, diversity, technology, etc., and this applies to SAM and the self-storage industry. Fortunately, for SAM, the company’s core values already coincide with this notion: “We are committed to doing what is best for our clients, holding ourselves accountable for the results. We focus on cultivating and evolving our team. Collaborating with teammates, vendors, clients, and community to reach our goals is important to us. To drive SAM forward, we are always seeking continuous improvement. And when we have successes, we like to celebrate as a team!”

“Ninety percent of our business is in storage. It’s what we know, what we do best, and it’s treated us well,” she says. “We’re happy and things are going well.”

Quill isn’t the only one to think that SAM is on the right track. SAM was voted one of the “Best Places to Work in PA” by the Central Penn Business Journal (CPBJ) in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. It also made the list of CPBJ’s Fastest Growing Companies last year.

“While we’re on the right track, we are always working on improving. Tougher times force us to refine our operations and processes and we continue to focus on quality improvement and the customer experience,” Quill says. “I am so proud of the whole SAM team and can’t wait to see and experience the future of the storage industry with my teammates and colleagues.”

Alyssa Quill standing with her husband at an outdoor storage facility
Positive Impact

Since its inception, Storage Asset Management’s mission has been to positively impact its clients, employees, neighbors, and communities. With Quill guiding the team, SAM has been able to do that on a large scale in various ways. For instance, this past December, SAM and the facilities it manages raised funds to make a $30,000 donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for treatment and research. They also donated $10,000 to Susan G. Komen for breast cancer research and awareness after Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“The incredible generosity exhibited by our tenants and the communities we are privileged to serve and the exceptional dedication of our SAM team members never cease to amaze me,” says Quill. “It demonstrates the impact we can all make when we work together.”

Of course, those were just two of the countless examples of the goodwill SAM has carried out. Quill has extended her altruism into the self-storage industry as well. She’s a frequent speaker at association conferences and has been on the Self Storage Association’s board of directors for five years; she currently serves as the chair. SAM is also a member of the Pennsylvania Self Storage Association and Quill was inducted into its hall of fame on May 9, 2024.

group photo of SAM members

Erica Shatzer is the editor of Modern Storage Media.