Former Banker Opening Private Vault Business in Loudoun

Friday, Jul 31 2015 01:50 PM

In his decade as a retail banking executive, Bryant Stone said he noticed two trends about bank safe deposit boxes.

"First, there was a disconnect between supply and demand," Stone told me this week. Banks often have years-long waiting lists to get a box, or they don't have the sizes that customers want, "especially larger sizes," he said.

Second, access to those boxes is limited to banker's hours, and obtaining access for children or business associates can get cumbersome.

That's why Stone is planning to open Commonwealth Vault and Safe Deposit Co. on Dec. 1 at the Southern Walk Plaza in Ashburn. He says it's the first private vault in Greater Washington, and one of only a handful of similar businesses in the nation.

A 300-square-foot steel vault is at the center of the 1,600-square-foot retail space, which includes two private viewing rooms, plus a waiting area for those who are not supposed to see what's in the box.

The business will be staffed during daytime hours with attendants who monitor the "security vestibule" cameras before allowing anyone to enter, much like many high-end jewelry stores. After-hours, customers can call a 24/7 concierge service that will meet them at the facility within a hour.

Stone is offering 350 dual-key boxes within the vault, which range from 3-inches-by-5-inches to 10-inches-by-10-inches. He's also renting larger boxes and lockers, plus a refrigerator-sized "mini vault." Prices range from $10 a month up to $200 a month.

About 15 percent of the dual-key (renter and business) boxes are already leased, Stone said. The Great Falls native said he started the business with two partners for about $150,000.

Most people use safe deposit boxes for important documents, jewelry, coin collections, sports memorabilia and art. But you never know what people might stash inside. An unclaimed box auctioned earlier this month in Washington state contained a leather-bound journal signed "Picasso," in addition to gold teeth, pocket watches and baseball cards. The sketchbook has not yet been authenticated as one belonging to the Spanish artist.

"They can put whatever they want in there as long as it's not illegal, dangerous, explosive, perishable, liquid or alive," Stone said.

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