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Simply Stor-It attempts to give old mall a jolt with new business

New owners of the former Palace Mall revamped building for 300-plus storage units

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Simply Stor-It Manager Tom Kulm leads a tour of the newly constructed self-storage business which opened June 15 in the former Palace Mall. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Give it a new purpose.

That was at the heart of the intention of purchasing the former Palace Mall for Roman Daniels-Brown and turning it into a self-storage business — named Simply Stor-It — with more than 300 spaces. He said he understands the skepticism related to putting storage units in a former retail location but said new business is better than no business.

“With the mall, it’s something that intrigued us,” Daniels-Brown said. “We heard good things about the community from the people we talked to, and this really a chance to put something new in there that will help the tax base and hopefully make that area a little bit more thriving.”

When Daniels-Brown, 49, first visited the mall last year, he described an “eerie feeling.”

“There was nobody around,” he recalled. “You had your daily walkers but that was about it.”

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The walkers have been displaced — Daniels-Brown admitted feeling a little guilty about that — but the investment of his ownership group gives the building that was a dying mall a shot in the arm.

When doing research and analysis on Mitchell, Daniels-Brown said he found that the area had an avid classic car collector community and made sense for RV and boat storage, as well. The climate-controlled facility is also a leg up, he said, over the city’s other self-storage businesses.

“As we’ve found out, there is some climate there,” Daniels-Brown said, having a laugh about South Dakota’s weather.

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A hallway of storage units at Simply Stor-It. The photo was taken in the area in front of the former JCPenney store, and the hallway leads to the current Dollar Tree location, as the building's new owners try to blend retail with the new self-storage business. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

This is the second Simply Stor-It location, with the first opening in Longview, Texas, in May 2019. That location was a former Kmart building that was converted into 580 storage spaces.

Simply Stor-it has been open since June 15, with Tom Kulm managing the new Mitchell location with the assistance of Cheryl Buys, who had helped get the business’ Texas location up and running.

“The climate-controlled nature is going to be the big part of it,” Kulm said. “It can be 30-below outside and you can be in here with your coat off, doing what you need to do.”

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Simply Stor-It includes large overhead doors, which allow renters to drive into the building to access their items. The building's signage is displayed over the Palace Mall's former main entrance. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

The ownership group involves Daniels-Brown, of Olympia, Washington, and his two brothers-in-law: Mark Bigelow, of Boise, Idaho, and Steve Bigelow, of Katy, Texas. The group got started in developing trampoline parks, office space, condominiums and warehouses, and found the Mitchell offering through an online listing.

“We’ve got a little entrepreneurial spirit,” Daniels-Brown said. “It was a building that was pretty fairly priced and there was a lot of square footage open. It looked like there was a market for us.”

The property was sold for $935,750, according to Davison County property records. It has most recently been valued at $920,000, although the value of the building had been drastically decreased from nearly $2 million in April 2019 in the county’s Consolidated Board of Equalization process under former owner Equity Investment Group.

That decrease came after the mall lost its major tenant, JCPenney, in 2017 and Thirsty’s bar in late 2018. In October 2019, just 37.5 percent of the building was occupied by tenants.

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Storage units are pictured at Simply Stor-It and at the center of the former Palace Mall. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

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For now, Daniels-Brown and his ownership group is trying to find the right mix between storage space and renting to potential retail and business tenants. The Dollar Tree remains in place, and the former Sears store location is available for lease, being advertised at a rate of $3 per square foot annually, from 3,000 to as much as 10,000 square feet available.

Daniels-Brown said converting the mall into self-storage has been a lot more difficult than the previous foray with the Kmart building because accommodations being made to current tenants and each previous mall store had varying walls and ceiling heights. (Daniels-Brown said he saw Mitchell had a vacant Kmart building but his ownership group decided the asking price was too steep.)

The biggest change to the mall, Kulm said, related to moving support columns to make room for RVs to get around inside the building. Drive-thru doors on both sides of the former mall make getting in and out much easier, Kulm said. Renters have a key code that they can use to open the overhead doors and access their items, which can be available seven days a week. The business has a Aug. 5 grand opening planned.

The self-storage rates start at $45 per month for a 5- by 5-foot space and go up in size to as much as $184 per month for the largest-size spot, which measures 17 by 36 feet. RV-sized spaces begin at $56 per month. The business also offers U-Haul services, Daniels-Brown said.

Daniels-Brown said there’s a total of 311 units: 269 for storage units and 49 for vehicles or boats. He said the business will have the opportunity to expand after Mitchell Telecom’s new facility is built in early 2021, but will also consider leasing out the current Mitchell Telecom offices at the north end of the building.

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The open storage area at Simply Stor-It, which is located in the center of the former Palace Mall. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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