Local entrepreneur banks on private vault service

Bryant Stone standing outside the vault at Commonwealth Vault and Safe Deposit Company in Ashburn. - Courtesy/ Commonwealth Vault and Safe Deposit Company

Banks are generally a 9-to-5 business; so are the vaults housed therein.

Bryant Stone, a former banker with US Bank and BB&T, wants to change that with one of the metro area's first private vault services in Ashburn.

Stone opened Commonwealth Vault and Safe Deposit Co., which had a ribbon cutting Dec. 1, with $150,000 he raised between himself and two investors.

As a banker, he noticed there was a vast demand for certain vault and safe-deposit services that was not being met by traditional banks and financial institutions.

"A large percentage of banks who offer safe deposit boxes are operating on a 3 to 5 year waiting list," said Stone. "At the moment, there is no wait list at our site."

Because banks are limited by vault space, they offer few options of larger boxes for individuals hoping to protect their valuables.

Stone wanted to dispatch the rigidity with which the safe-deposit industry worked, offering a 24-hour concierge service that allows users to get into their vault whenever they choose.

He also decided to offer larger safe-deposit boxes, customized storage lockers and mini vaults for lease.

Stone's company offers more flexibility on contract and size offerings and in contract titling because it has none of the same regulatory burdens of a bank.

The company doesn't provide insurance on belongings in the vaults, a policy it has in common with local banks.

Stone says providing insurance would go against many of the principles of anonymity for which he started the company.

"If I were providing insurance, it would require my clients to tell me the contents of what's going in the vault,"said Stone.

But why Ashburn? "My market research overwhelmingly showed that the highest concentration of sold-out bank branch vaults was west of Route 28 and north of the Dulles Greenway," said Stone.

Services vary in price from $10 to $250 a month. Vaults and safety deposit boxes are commonly used to hold important documents, family heirlooms or sports collectibles.

Anything may be put in them as long as it isn't illegal liquid, explosive or alive.

Stone takes pride in the security he's offering his customers.

Customers immediately face a security checkpoint at the door.

To get access to the vault, either Stone or an employee must provide an escort.

The actual vault has a higher UL rating and thicker steel plates than most local banks.

Stone says the largest box offered at most banks is 10-by-10 in size. He offers a "refrigerator-sized vault."

Pricing for the storage at the business is:

3-by-5-by-24 for $120/year

5-by-5 for $180/year

3-by-10 for $300/year

5-by-10 for $360/year

10-by-10 for $420/year

15-by-10 for $540/year

15-by-5 for $420/year

Currently Stone has filled 15 percent of the 350 boxes, lockers and vaults he has in stock.

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