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Valet Self-Storage Startup Blue Crates Launches Service in Chicago

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Blue Crates LLC, a startup business specializing in valet self-storage, has launched service in Chicago. The company uses an online platform that allows customers to schedule item pickup, maintain a visual catalog of stored belongings, and schedule delivery of items to their home.

Similar to other valet-style storage operators, Blue Crates offers by-the-bin storage targeted at residents who don’t have adequate home storage. Items are stored in a secure warehouse in Chicago, according to the company website. Monthly pricing is $7.50 per company bin and $15.50 per wardrobe. Blue Crates will also store oversized items, such a bikes or golf clubs, for $10 per item per month. It doesn’t accept furniture or large appliances.

Customers can use the company’s platform to manage their belongings. The fee structure includes one free pickup and one home delivery each month, no matter how many crates are requested, the source reported. Additional deliveries are $25 each. Item returns are fulfilled within 24 hours. Customer aren’t allowed to visit the storage warehouse.

"This is really about closet extension for urbanites," co-founder Michael Walker told the source. "You basically have an infinite closet that you can expand and contract as you see fit."

Walker founded the company in 2015 with his brother Matthew by building out the technical infrastructure of the company’s website. Blue Crates began accepting customers last year, storing bins in a 500-square-foot downtown facility. It needed to lease a larger warehouse within nine months, according to the source.

Though the Chicago market already has established valet-storage operators, including Los Angeles-based Clutter and New York-based MakeSpace, the Walker brothers believe there is room for competitors. "Within the self-storage space itself, there are several different players in the traditional … market," Michael Walker said. "And there's some differentiation between all three [valet-storage] companies."

The Walkers launched Blue Crates with about $250,000 of their own money and have grown the business to include seven employees. The company has received funds from Elmspring Accelerator, a Chicago-based organization that invests in technology startups. Logistics company Best Dedicated Solutions recently accepted Blue Crates equity in exchange for helping to pay for the startup’s development and operating expenses, the source reported.

In addition to valet-storage services, Blue Crates also rents bins and wardrobes to customers who may be moving residences but don’t plan to store with the company. The Walkers are looking to expand moving-rental and storage services by partnering with apartment operators willing to offer their services as an amenity for tenants. Kass Management Services, which oversees 9,000 Chicago apartment units, is among those testing the platform, according to the source.

“Our goal is to expand throughout the Midwest. Some of our building partners have expressed interest in having the service in some of their buildings in LA, Atlanta and San Francisco,” Michael Walker told a source. “So there’s real potential for us to start expanding into other markets, likely to our building partners first and then the general public soon after.”

Sources:

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