Former Fastenal property under new ownership, new use
Lighthouse storage expands
TINA L. SCOTT
The former Fastenal property at 305 E. First St. in Merrill was purchased by Randy and Diane Wixson, owners of RC-N-DI Investments LLC, the company that owns Lighthouse Storage on W. Main St. between the Sixth Ward Bridges. The LLC was set up for real-estate they owned when they lived in Verona, Wis., Randy Wixson said, where they lived prior to moving to Merrill.
The Wixsons are now in the process of finalizing the construction of Lighthouse Storage II at the new location.
“We acquired the building in December from Fastenal,” Randy Wixson confirmed. “We had originally thought we would put six storage units in the building and create two office spaces. In showing the unit, we found a tenant that needed the whole building, so we went with just 25 [outside] units.”
“[We] proceeded with working with the City Council to get a conditional use to put 25 10×20’ storage units on the lot,” Randy Wixson said. “It was approved, and we started acquiring bids and going through the paperwork to get the project off the floor.”
“Since the lot had buried fuel tanks at one time and had been cleaned up many years ago, we had to have a phase one study done by REI, a local environmental company. The lot was deemed buildable from that standpoint,” he said.
“The first 20 units are up, and we are awaiting doors to be installed.” The doors were originally scheduled to be installed on May 25, but like many other things this year, they were delayed due to COVID production issues.
“We want to bury the power and utilities and are waiting for WPS to make that happen,” Wixson said at the time of the interview.
“Unfortunately, they can’t proceed until a new meter socket is installed, and that has been back ordered for two months due to COVID production. Cleary Builders cannot install the last five units until the line is buried, and the lot can’t be paved until the last units are built.”
At the time of the interview, Wixson said that all-in-all, the project had progressed nicely despite the COVID-related issues. He was anticipating starting to rent the units on June 1; however, the delivery and installation of the garage doors will dictate that timeframe now. [To inquire about renting one of the Lighthouse or Lighthouse II storage units when they are finished, call 715.536.6394.]
Wixson said the storage unit rental business has been good to his company. “We finished building our first 88 storage units in 2014 at 1106 W. Main St., and they have rented well. Building on the island was a good fit, because there were not a lot of businesses that could build there. We have focused on keeping the storage units clean, well lit, and simple,” he said. “This has been a good business model and will continue on the new site at 305 E. First St.
Lighting is a key component of good storage units, Wixson believes.
“The units at 305 will be well lit,” he said again. “Good lighting goes with feeling safe when entering your unit.”
There are no lights or power in the units, though, he added. And that is “to keep people from trying to live in them or work in them” since that isn’t what they’re designed for.
“The storage market is very steady,” Wixson said. “December through March is the slowest time, but also very few people move during that timeframe.
Overall, though, the storage units don’t stay empty for long. “The last five units that came up were rented before the previous tenant moved out,” Wixson said.
“People rent units for a large variety of reasons,” he said. “[Some] need more room for remodeling, [others are] contractors, [or they need storage due to] kids coming home from college, divorce, parents moving to nursing homes, [to] store cars and classic cars for winter, [or they are] just tired of moving things around in their garages and just want to be able to put their car or truck back in their garage. We have people renting for a few months, to people that have been in their units since we opened in spring of 2014.”
The new units will be called Lighthouse Storage II, Wixson confirmed, to maintain the branding established with the first Lighthouse Storage units on the island between the two bridges leading to Merrill’s Sixth Ward.
“We worked with the City on both projects, and they have been very helpful,” Wixson said. “While we have received some financial tax incentives from the City, we have significantly raised the value of the both sites and have property tax bills to prove it. Their involvement has made it possible to build larger storage complexes to better serve the needs of the community.”