Now that Chicago-based Doorage has expanded its valet storage business to the cities of Madison and Milwaukee in Wisconsin, the company’s founder says he’s aiming to launch in three additional markets by the end of this year.

In addition, Sean Sandona, who founded Doorage in 2016 and officially launched the pick-up-and-delivery storage business in 2018, said he’s currently in talks with “larger players” as potential partners for a  national rollout of Doorage in 50 markets over coming years, including in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, among others. He declined to name the potential partners.

“The demand is huge,” Sandona, 42, founder of several non-storage companies in Chicago, said of the emerging valet storage market in general. “We’re just in the early stages of it.”

In Chicago, Doorage operates six trucks, with two more on the way, and leases two warehouse facilities where customers’ belongings are stored, after being picked up at people’s homes. Doorage is one of a handful of valet storage firms battling it out in the crowded Windy City market, along with Blue Crates, MakeSpace, Clutter and BinSwap.

The race is on

Last month, Doorage, founded with private investments, pushed north into Wisconsin, starting services both in Madison and Milwaukee, with two trucks and leased warehouse space in each city, Sandona said. Doorage picked those cities because of their proximity to Chicago.

Sandona says to expect another expansion round later this year in three other cities, which he declined to name. “We’re keeping it quiet because it being such a competitive market these days,” he said.

Doorage, whose name is a play on the phrase “storage at your door,” is one of many start-up valet storage firms, also variously known as “on demand” and “concierge” storage, across the country.

Most valet-storage entrepreneurs are convinced their industry model is the future, compared to traditional self-storage facilities, where people drop off and pick up their own belongings at rented lockers

And Sandona is no different in his optimism, saying he expects the firm to eventually have “corporate-owned” services operating in 50 major markets – and possibly franchising Doorage businesses to others in secondary markets by 2020. “A lot of people are reaching out to us,” he said of potential franchisees.

While he wouldn’t disclose who he’s talking to regarding potential partnerships, Sandona said he expects to announce a “second seed funding” round in a matter of weeks.

Like other valet firms, Doorage charges by the cubic foot of belongings that are stored, not via renting out a set amount of storage space, Sandona said. Doorage offers “tiered pricing,” in which the more one stores, the less they pay per cubic foot, starting out at $1.40 per cubic foot per month for small amounts of belongings and going as low as 35 cents per cubic foot for larger amounts of belongings.

One of Doorage’s target markets is college students. The firm recently signed a deal with Illinois Wesleyan University to be its “exclusive preferred” storage company on campus, Sandona said.

Michael Cappelletti, founder and CEO of Cubiq Inc., a valet storage firm in Boston, said he’s glad to hear that another valet storage company is growing, even it mean it possibly expanding into his home market of Boston.

“As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats,” he said. “I think it helps the [valet] industry. The most difficult part of the business is just getting the word out about valet storage.”

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Jay Fitzgerald