Showcase AZ: Toy Barn

Arizona has no shortage of self-service storage facilities for people needing a little extra space for their furniture or household objects. But take a peek behind the massive garage doors of a Toy Barn storage unit and you’ll likely find something very different – luxury and collectible vehicles, boats, and other recreational “toys” stored in spaces that more closely resemble fancy garages than conventional storage facilities. 

“When you think of conventional self-storage, you rent a ten-by-ten box and you store your personal items,” said Jason Phillips, co-owner of Toy Barn. “We’re really working on creating the community aspect of it so that it’s more than just a storage facility.” 

Toy Barn storage units can range from 1200 to 1500 square feet in size, providing space for customers to store multiple vehicles at a time. The climate-controlled interiors are fully customizable; customers can pursue small projects like painting, or larger ones like adding custom flooring and building second levels. The units are also set up with electric, water and sewage hookups, meaning customers can build out projects like kitchenettes or restrooms if they want.

“Really, the sky’s the limit on your options,” Phillips said. “We have a gentleman over here who’s put in a kitchenette, a restroom, living area.”

Toy Barn units also differ from other storage facilities in that they are purchasable real estate rather than rentals. While there are still restrictions on what the property can and can’t be used for—you’re not able to live out of them, for example, and there’s an HOA that sets additional guidelines—there’s a lot more flexibility than with a typical rental, Phillips said.

It’s a concept that Phillips launched a decade ago alongside his father, in the midst of the economic recession — not necessarily the best time to launch such an ambitious project, he said.

“Financing for these projects is very difficult,” Phillips said. “The banks look at them a little differently, because it’s not traditional real-estate development.”

Despite the challenges, Toy Barn’s initial location opened in January 2010 in Cave Creek, Arizona. After the 85-unit facility sold its last garage, Phillips said the plan was to pursue other projects, but community interest in Toy Barn continued to grow.

That’s why Phillips decided to build two additional Toy Barn locations – one at Lone Mountain in North Scottsdale that opened in September 2018, and another at Scottsdale Airpark that opened in February 2019. The former location sold through its 54 units six months before opening, and the latter only has a few units remaining. 

“The phone continued to ring with demand and people that needed space,” he said. 

Phillips says Arizona is a “very deep car collector market.” Most people buying property at Toy Barn locations are car collectors relocating to Arizona from other states. Others are individuals who live in neighborhoods where HOA restrictions don’t permit residents to build their own storage spaces on their properties.

“We have a very warm, dry climate that makes it very advantageous for car storage,” he said. “We’re not the coasts, we don’t have the corrosion issues… it just really is favorable for car collections.”

Toy Barn also hosts community events for its property owners, such as a “Coffee and Cars” event designed to help customers connect with each other over shared passions, Phillips said. Those events can also help drive word-of-mouth, which Phillips said has helped contribute to his brand’s growth.

Looking towards the future, Phillips said Toy Barn is planning on building two more locations – a second facility at Lone Mountain and an additional facility in Chandler. Both projects are planned to break ground later this year, and are already beginning to fill up with reservations, Phillips said. Toy Barn is also considering potentially building locations in different markets like Las Vegas and Palm Springs at some point in the future.

“We’re just at the tip of the iceberg, I believe,” he said.

Nick Serpa

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