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RARE Moving Company looking to expand statewide and nationally

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
RARE Moving Company looking to expand statewide and nationally
Kemaul Reid of RARE Moving & Trucking stands in front of one of the company’s 7 trucks. (Photo: Yawu Miller)

Making it through the first year of a start-up business is never a sure thing, but by September 1, 2008 Kamaul Reid knew he was on his way to success. That’s when his aunt, sitting in the living room of his Dorchester home, was fielding calls from customers on what typically is the busiest day for movers. The scene outside provided confirmation that RARE Moving & Trucking was ready to meet the demand.

“We had ten rental trucks lined up on Bailey Street at 7 a.m.,” Reid recalls. “My neighbors said, ‘What are you doing?’ We were moving forward. We had already grown to a point where we’d found our market.”

Within three years of starting, RARE Movers was doing more than $1 million in business, Reid says.

He launched RARE Moving & Trucking after working for other moving companies over the previous eight years. Using his home as collateral, he borrowed money, bought a 24-foot Ford 150 truck and hired two assistants. Since then he has grown his business to include 40 employees, 7 trucks, 2 forklifts and a 25,000-square-foot warehouse and office space in Braintree.

Reid competes directly with Gentle Giant Moving Company, a 36-year-old firm with offices in Massachusetts and 12 other states.

“We cater more to the city,” Reid says of his business strategy. “And we’re smaller.”

Being smaller makes his firm more agile, Reid says. While competitors will often give clients a two to three week window for delivery on interstate moves, RARE Moving delivers in as little as 24 hours. The larger firms often will contract with local movers to transfer a client’s belongings to a warehouse and then wait until there are enough goods from other clients to fill an 18-wheeler before making the interstate move. The strategy is less expensive, but leads to frustratingly long wait times for the clients.

“People are willing to pay more if they can receive service right away,” Reid says.

Eighteen percent of RARE Movers’ clients make interstate moves, but the bulk of their business is inside of Route 128.

Reid grew up on Castlegate Road in Dorchester. He graduated from Boston Latin School and went on to attend UMass Amherst. But after a year on the Amherst campus, he returned to Dorchester to work his way through college, graduating from UMass Boston in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He worked for Gentle Giant to get through college.

Moving isn’t easy work — especially in cities like Boston, where the older housing stock often requires feats of skill and strength to navigate furniture through narrow stairways to third-floor apartments. Once, while moving a baby grand piano, Reid’s partner lost his balance, sending the behemoth down a flight of stairs into Reid’s head. Reid managed to arrest the piano, tilt it on its side, and get it the rest of the way down the stairs. Then he was off to Cambridge City Hospital.

“By the time I got to the hospital, I had muscle spasms and my vertebrae were shaped into the letter ‘S,’” he said.

He recovered from that injury. After a 1994 moving mishap when a hammer fell on his head, Reid penned a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel about his moving experiences, titled “Look What I Found Under the Bed.”

In 2000, he left the moving business, obtained his real estate broker’s license and began selling homes in Boston and Somerville. But pushing properties and papers wasn’t as fulfilling as the moving business, hammers and pianos be damned.

“I missed moving,” he says. “It’s gratifying to move people, to help people every day.”

In 2003, he returned to Gentle Giant, biding his time until he could start his own firm.

That time came in 2008, when RARE Moving & Trucking was born on Bailey Street. Reid hired two assistants and advertised on Yelp. In the first 30 days, he was able to line up 30 jobs. In that first year, he also reached out to Angie’s List, a website with crowd-sourced reviews of businesses.

“We already had 14 positive reviews when we went online,” he says. “The phones started ringing and they haven’t stopped since.”

Reid estimates that 70 percent of his business stems from online referrals, with another 20 percent coming from repeat customers. On the RARE Moving & Trucking website, customers can fill out a form to obtain an estimate. Reid says customers typically receive a phone call within an hour, offering a quote.

Reid also contracts with nonprofits that help people move into and out of homeless shelters and battered women shelters. While not as profitable as his other work, those jobs account for nearly 10 percent of Reid’s business.

Most of the 40 employees at RARE Moving & Trucking come from Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan. Reid sees local hiring as a way of investing in the community.

“They recycle money back into the community,” he says.

Eight years after starting RARE Moving & Trucking, Reid says his business is continuing to grow. Last year he moved 380 households and offices. This year he says he’s on track to move 460.

With more and more customers relying on the firm to move to the West Coast, Reid says he’s looking to open an office in California.

“We have a temporary storage facility out there,” he says. “Many of the clients we moved out there are looking to us to move them back to the East Coast or to the Midwest. It makes it worth it.”

Reid also has plans, beginning as soon as next year, for an office in Brookline and storage facilities in the Merrimack Valley and Pioneer Valley regions of Massachusetts to accommodate growing demand his firm is meeting in those areas.

Heading a growing firm is demanding. Reid often wakes at 4 a.m., before his wife and nine-year-old son are up, and works from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. He still moves furniture himself and travels to California, Texas and other states where he does businesses. Long hours notwithstanding, Reid enjoys every aspect of his work.

“It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” he says. “I wake up every day excited. I enjoy every hurdle and triumph that comes with this work.”