Q&A: Need, family history influences a new art gallery

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Q&A: Need, family history influences a new art gallery

The 35,000-square-foot art-storage facility in Roseville was strategically rehabilitated to include features needed for this type of storage, which included climate and pest control, security features, fire suppression and inventory management. Art collectors, artists and institutions all use the facility to store items.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

A: My dad founded Acorn Mini Storage in the mid-1980s. He had one dedicated self-storage facility here in Minneapolis. Now we have 15 locations throughout the Twin Cities metro area. We actually are the second-largest self-storage owner-operator here in the Twin Cities. The business’ current president is my husband, Chris Kirwan. I actually joined the business, myself, about six years ago [in a] marketing career … So [we] have a deep knowledge of the storage industry in my family.

Q: I know you have a background in storage, so let’s start there. Can you tell me about that?

Story Highlights

  • A2 is a museum-grade art storage facility for objects of nearly any size, shape, medium or value. Kirwan, who is A2’s founder and president, has extensive experience in the self-storage industry. Her father founded Acorn Mini Storage in the mid-1980s, which her husband now runs.

  • “We are having regular people reaching out [who are] looking for our services, and I really kind of think we’ve only scratched the surface here [having] just been open since mid-May,” Kirwan said.

Q: When did you launch A2 and what influenced its launch?

A: A2 Storage and Services is our museum-grade, fine art storage concept here in the Twin Cities. We really were influenced by the fact that around six years ago or so, the Twin Cities market was identified as this really underserved self-storage market. As a result, we saw a huge amount of development in a short amount of time. We kind of were losing out on opportunities to grow Acorn. We wanted to continue investing in the Twin Cities, but it just got to be harder and harder. And we knew we needed to do something differently.

We spent two years researching this museum-storage concept — it’s a concept that does exist in other parts of the country. And [we] decided based on our knowledge of property management, our knowledge in the storage industry and our deep context … that this museum-grade fine art storage concept was one that we wanted to pursue. Q: What did demand look like for art storage and what does it look like today?

A: Honestly, I’m not sure we even understand what the extent of the opportunity is. How this kind of started was meeting with institutions here locally, who we’re seeing saying: “This concept exists in other parts of the country. It’s successful. We just don’t have anything like it here.” Since our launch in mid-May it is not just institutions, it’s private collectors crawling out of the woodwork [who are] looking for this type of storage here locally. It is really interesting. Some of the people are names you might recognize, but many of them are not. They’re just passionate collectors who have more than they can put on their walls and so they’ve landed with us, which is fantastic.

In terms of demand, we set what we think are reasonable goals for ourselves. And we recognize, again, coming from the storage industry background that it’s going to take a while to fill up our facility. But we are having regular people reaching out [who are] looking for our services, and I really kind of think we’ve only scratched the surface here [having] just been open since mid-May. Q: How is it similar to other self-storage facilities that people use every day? And how is it different?

The difference between our fine art storage facility and a self-storage facility is that we operate as a warehouse. We have a really sophisticated database that tracks our inventory. We are actually taking possession of the art here in a warehousing model, which means that we have trained art handlers. They’ve not only been trained in our handling, but also storage for different mediums. Q: What did the rehabilitation of the building entail?

And our facility is really closely monitored. We have comprehensive camera coverage throughout the interior and exterior of the facility. And our camera recordings are even backed up to the Cloud versus an on-site server. Again, it’s the same mix of things we have at our storage sites — [we] just kind of took it to the next level. A: There are so many similarities and then there also are these key differences too. A2 maintains the same conditions as self-storage. So we look at climate, we look at security, we look at pest control, we look at fire suppression, which is really in a more specialized manner. For instance, our storage areas at A2 are set at 70 degrees and 50% humidity. We treat for pests on a more comprehensive basis. We have monthly visits. We have regular, daily walkthroughs by Acorn staff. And we have Acorn staff members that are actually trained in pest identification and mitigation. You don’t even need to call on experts to do that first line of defense.