Self Storage Start Ups Offer Hassle Free Storage in the Big Apple With a Digital Twist

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In the City That Never Sleeps, New Yorkers must contend with tight living spaces; yet they also enjoy the convenience of being able to have just about anything delivered right to their residences. Inspired by these facts of life in the big city, entrepreneurs have created a new business model for schlep-free self-storage: empty bins and boxes that are delivered for packing and then carried off to a warehouse to be delivered on demand.

Over the last year and a half, a handful of up and coming self-storage firms, including urBin and MakeSpace, have begun offering New Yorkers starved for both space and time the convenience of valet storage with a digital advantage. Clients have the ability to schedule pickups and deliveries online and can even view photos of their belongings.

Rather than rent entire storage units, urBin offers clients 40-by-20-by-20-inch heavy-duty lockable storage containers, which can be stored for as little as $20 a month per container. Similarly, MakeSpace will store up to four smaller, lightweight containers for $25 per month, and $6.25 for each additional bin. Storing large or loose items costs more and retrieval fees (ranging from $20 to $25) are additional. Both companies also have storage facilities in New Jersey.

However, urBin and MakeSpace aren’t the first or only valet-storage services in the New York metropolitan area. Opening in 2008, Box Butler stores both bins and clients’ own boxes. Scott Sinclair, Box Butler’s chief executive, openly welcomes the competition and feels it will draw more attention to the new business model. “They are educating the consumer,” he said.

For those who are reluctant to rent a storage unit and want to avoid copious amount of schlepping, the new business model is a welcome one. In fact, 1 in 10 households in the U.S. currently rent a self storage unit. This has increased from 1 in 17 households in 1995.

For example, Jason McMann, a doctoral political science student at Princeton University, has lived in five different apartments while hunting for a more permanent place to call home. Until recently, he had been storing his belongings in a friend’s basement in Queens. Unfortunately, shortly after moving his belongings there, the fire department declared the makeshift storage a hazard during an inspection.

Now, McMann uses urBin. “I didn’t have a truck or anything to transport my stuff. So having my stuff picked up, that was a big attraction,” he said.


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