Shipping Containers: The Small Space Solution
A creative alternative to too-large spaces and high rent woes is popping up nationwide. Repurposed shipping containers converted into storefronts, restaurants and office space are redefining real estate because they present a simple location solution for small businesses and an easy way to add flexible real estate to the footprint of a larger business.
How They Can Help
Depending on the area, purchasing one of these sturdy metal containers can cost as low as just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, dramatically less than what a new construction project would cost to build a space of the same size. There are an estimated 700,000 shipping containers sitting empty across the U.S. and many owners are eager to get rid of them, so if you can find a good price, they can be an easy way to establish or expand a business.
The modular containers are sturdy, as they were designed to be stacked on top of each other, resist harsh environments and bear heavy loads for transport, so you can be sure they’ll withstand the demands of foot traffic and sitting out in the elements. They’re also designed to interlock, so you can combine two or more to create a development that’s extra wide or more than a story tall without much difficulty.
How to Use Them
After you procure a shipping container and have it brought to the site of your business, the actual setup isn’t overly complicated. You’ll need a skilled laborer to weld and cut the steel, but it’s still less expensive than all of the labor costs that go into brick and mortar construction. Just like any structure, you can add on siding, cut windows and doors, install stairs or a ramp, and generally customize the shipping container to fit your vision for the space and blend into the surrounding neighborhood. The structures can be retrofitted with cooking equipment, refrigeration, electrical access and more to create a functional and attractive space for a startup business, regional office or diner.
Creativity is the key to turning the container into a welcoming storefront or workplace rather than a simple metal box, and no shipping container installation exemplifies this more than Container Park, an open-air shopping area in Las Vegas. This Fremont Street destination offers three levels of shopping and more than 10 boutiques offering apparel, home decor, and more, all created from shipping containers. The small spaces create an intimate experience unmatched by big-box stores or expansive malls, creating a unique atmosphere that draws tourists and locals alike. Similarly, London hosts multiple shipping container developments, including a four-story structure housing work studios and live/work apartments that was built in just five months.
Businesses that lend themselves easily to the pop-up shop format are especially poised to take advantage because the shipping containers were literally built for transport, so there’s nothing they’re better suited to than being moved cross-country. A seasonal goods boutique can easily pack up and ship the entire shop to the next destination as the calendar changes. Could a shipping container fit into your footprint and make an affordable home for your next venture? Investigate the potential of these structures – they just might be the flexible, inexpensive answer to your needs.