By Joe Tash
Charles Butler is betting that Southern California’s love affair with all things car-related will translate into a hit for his new venture, a storage facility for high-end classic and exotic cars.
The Rancho Santa Fe resident has run a successful manufacturing business near Palomar Airport Road for more than 20 years, and found himself with some extra warehouse space on hand. He decided to use it to launch Rancho Santa Fe Motor Storage, what he calls a secure and discreet place to keep high-end vehicles.
The facility, which opened this month, will allow car enthusiasts a place to keep their rides, and also hang out with fellow car buffs.
“We’re catering to the automotive lifestyle. It’s like an automotive country club,” said Dean Liebowitz, a classic car expert who serves as the new facility’s general manager.
Along with the secure vehicle storage areas, the facility includes a lounge where members can have a drink, conduct a conference call, watch TV or even shower after a spin in their vehicle.
Service will include trickle-charging batteries, tire pressure checks and regularly starting engines if customers request it. Also available will be pickups and drop-offs from nearby McClellan-Palomar Airport, and car detailing, among other services. Members will even have a cigar-smoking room on the premises.
“My client wants to be pampered,” said Butler.
“This is for people who want to keep their car secure, keep it well-maintained, not to have to worry if they’re going out of the country,” he said.
Butler took a reporter around the facility on a recent afternoon, showing off the various levels of security, from a perimeter gate, to the coded entries for the lounge and storage areas, to the battery of cameras that will be monitored around the clock. A smart-phone app will even allow car owners to see their vehicles at any time, like a high-tech nanny cam. When the facility is closed at night, concrete and steel posts will be installed in front of the roll-up doors as an extra precaution.
To maintain privacy, Butler doesn’t promote the facility’s address; rather, he invites people interested in his services to call for an appointment.
On the day of a reporter’s visit, three high-end cars were on display in the warehouse —two classic Porsches, and a 1930 Isotta Fraschini, an Italian-made roadster nicknamed “the Flying Star,” said Liebowitz. The latter vehicle is a one-of-a-kind model worth more than $1 million, he said.
“It’s the type of car we’re looking for,” Butler said.
Barnaby Brokaw of Carlsbad, a collector who owns eight or nine classic cars, had brought over his 1965 Porsche 356c for the afternoon.
“This car would definitely be right at home here,” he said.
“This is for the guy who’s been bitten hard and likes different types of cars,” Brokaw said of Butler’s new storage facility.
The chance to hang out and talk cars is part of the attraction of a facility like Rancho Santa Fe Motor Storage, he said. “I love the people, the people are as much fun as the cars.”
Butler estimated the facility will hold about 125 cars when full, or a combination of cars, boats, motor homes and motorcycles.
Along with car storage, the facility will offer affiliate memberships for those who want to use the lounge and kibitz.
The storage center will also be available for private functions, he said.
Normal hours will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, but owners can get their cars at any time of the day or night with three hours’ notice, Butler said.
While there are probably a half-dozen similar facilities in Southern California, this will be the first in North County, Liebowitz and Butler said. They expect it to catch on with local high-end car buffs.
“The automotive lifestyle has become a big, big thing,” Liebowitz said. “Cars have become more valuable than Picassos.”
For more information, visit www.RSFMotorStorage.com, or call 760-305-8938.