Lindsay and Mike Steiner have created a business-to-business enterprise around the idea of providing a place for your stuff.
Their Rockville-based Bradyl Storage Solutions sells and installs custom-size metal containers for apartment buildings across the country. The Steiners’ units, which can be as small as a coat closet or as large as a bedroom, are designed to fit into out-of-the-way or underused common areas such as apartment garages or building basements.
“Buildings had unused space in parking garages that could be converted to storage areas without sacrificing parking spaces and be an additional source of income for property owners,” Lindsay said.
The Steiners’ selling point is that the units are more enclosed and secure — not to mention having a cleaner look — than wire cages, chain-link fences “and 2-by-4 planks connected by chicken wire.”
Residents in multifamily properties were demanding better, safer and more efficient places to store their possessions.
Besides, she said, exposed belongings are a temptation for thieves.
“People hate when other people can see their stuff,” Lindsay said. “They worry that things might get stolen.”
Bradyl LLC (the parent company of Bradyl Storage Solutions) is named for their 12-year-old twins. It started as part time about a decade ago and is on track to break $2 million in sales this year, nearly doubling sales since 2018.
Bradyl has sold or installed nearly 4,000 units. Orders have been as small as six units and as large as 302. The company has six employees and a small fleet of trucks.
Lindsay runs the administrative and marketing side. Mike oversees product delivery and installation. Their Chevy Chase home is their primary office, but they also rent a low-industrial warehouse and showroom off Rockville Pike.
“We keep our overhead low,” Lindsay said, adding they have zero debt. The business nets about a 10 percent profit after expenses, and throws off enough cash for the family to live on a six-figure income.
The business navigated the coronavirus crisis, aided by $35,000 from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. The money covered salaries and expenses, including payments to suppliers.
“We did not furlough or lay off any staff,” Lindsay said proudly.
Bradyl sells two products — bins and boxes. The stand-alone bins are customized to maximize space but generally are at least 16 square feet. They are closed on all sides except a wire mesh top for fire protection and lighting. The bins can be locked.
Bradyl Bins are manufactured in the United States and are assembled by Bradyl at the building site. The most popular unit, priced at about $1,100 fully installed, is 7 feet high and about the size of a large powder room, or enough to hold a full-size mattress and everything else you can stuff inside. Depending on the number of workers, Bradyl can generally install between five and 10 units per day.
Bradyl’s job is finished once the units are completed.
The attraction for building owners is that they can charge residents storage fees. If residents own the building, as in a cooperative, they can charge fees to add to the building’s general fund.
“The return on investment for Bradyl Bins is typically 15 to 24 months,” Lindsay said.
Most of Bradyl’s work has been in the Washington metro area, but the company has installed Bradyl Bins in more than a dozen states from California to Maine.
Their 80 clients so far include developers, general contractors and building management companies. Trammell Crow Residential, Bozzuto, JBG Smith, Kettler and EYA are all customers.
The newer part of the company is called Bradyl Box. The boxes grew out of a demand from property owners trying to satisfy tenants who wanted even more storage space.
The Steiners had to improvise.
They came up with the Bradyl Box. The box is another metal container, but it is built on heavy-duty legs in a parking space so that the hood of the car lies underneath when the car pulls into the space. Think of an overhead locker. The boxes are manufactured in China and popular in Australia and Europe.
Sales of the boxes have been disappointing so far, which the Steiners think is because they leave the assembly to the customer. The couple said they may offer installation of the boxes in 2021 to boost sales.
Bradyl Bins are the most popular product, although the family-owned company also includes a closet division — called Bethesda Custom Closets — that Mike has operated for years.
Bradyl Storage affords the Steiners a comfortable life, but building the company has been a long and unglamorous grind.
The Steiners have gone door-to-door soliciting business. Mike has taken scouting trips to China for suppliers. He has slept in his car to make appointments. They even held a “meet and greet” at a California Mexican restaurant that turned into a bust when just one person showed.
“We ended up calling people we knew nearby … and told them to come over because there was plenty of food and drink to go around,” Lindsay said.
The Steiners grew up in the Washington area with entrepreneurship in their blood, and they have been best friends since childhood. Mike, 45, watched his grandfather, legendary Washington restaurateur Duke Zeibert, feed the D.C. crowd from his landmark eatery. Mike had graduated from Lynn University in Florida with a hospitality degree.
Lindsay, 43, comes from a business-minded family. Her great-grandfather owned a popular retail shoe store in Scranton, Pa. She graduated with a degree in occupational therapy from Boston University and works part time for Montgomery County schools.
Mike is always thinking up new business ideas.
He launched Bethesda Custom Closets 20 years ago and it’s still the highest-margin business in the Bradyl empire. He also grew a small vending business into 90 machines before selling it to concentrate on storage.
Mike was in a parking garage cutting material for the closet business about 2009 when he noticed “dead space” that could be converted to storage without reducing parking spaces.
The idea behind Bradyl Bins was born.
Lindsay researched online and verified there was a demand to be filled, and it became a part-time business.
Wire cages were outdated and ugly. And building owners were looking for additional sources of revenue, according to the Steiners.
Lindsay started the administrative groundwork. She began building a website, filed legal paperwork and determined what insurance they would need. Mike went in search of suppliers, using his construction experience to figure out what to build and where to get it.
“We knew there was a business out there. We just had to find it,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay spent hours poring over online apartment listings searching for phone numbers and email addresses for potential clients. She called architects, construction companies and building owners. She even called a concrete company.
“I had to get in touch with the right people and introduce them to an unfamiliar product,” said Lindsay.
The big break came in 2014.
“It was more like a slow burn, but it had a definite spark,” Lindsay said.
Bradyl was hired to install bins in a new, high-end apartment complex that developers were building in downtown Silver Spring. Until Silver Spring, Bradyl had only retrofitted storage space in existing buildings.
“This gave us credibility and exposed us to other general contractors and eventually to architects,” Lindsay said. “We were no longer chasing down prospects. We were responding to requests.”
The future looks pretty bright. Renters are demanding more storage space as the work-from-home trend continues. Developers are looking for greater financial returns on the buildings.
The couple have already booked more than $600,000 in sales for 2021.
“Many people just can’t part with their belongings,” Lindsay said.