How do you move a million-dollar chandelier? Ask Bryan Cooper, owner of Elite Services. He’s done it. He has also moved lions and an entire 12-horse vintage carousel.
From their unassuming offices on South First Avenue in Pocatello, Elite Services carries on a professional moving and storage tradition that started in 1896 with Pocatello’s Lee Hawkes Transfer. Gary Cooper bought the business in the mid-1970s and added the name Trans West Systems. Trans West started operating warehouses in addition to transport. Since then Gary’s son, Bryan, and grandson, Nick, have made it a family business.
“When I was 8, I worked in the warehouse stacking cans for 25 cents per hour,” Bryan Cooper said with a smith.
Bryan took over the business in 1999, changed the name to Elite Services, and the business added interstate moving to its offerings. Nick, Bryan’s son, began working for Elite in 2016 after his departure from corporate management. Now, three generations have worked for the company.
The moving industry has changed a lot since 1896. Horses and wagons became trucks, and the industry has been through cycles of regulation and deregulation. In the mid-2000s, businesses stopped paying moving companies directly to move new employees. Movers had to shift their marketing strategy from business-to-business to business-to-consumer. Elite had to make the same change. Through 2005, they had been agents of North American movers (ranked No. 2 in customer service out of 243 U.S. agents). Elite became independent in 2006 to better meet the needs of their changing market.
“Going independent made us better movers. We can guarantee precise delivery dates and the customer has one contact throughout the process,” Bryan said.
Innovative services have helped Elite maintain its reputation.
“We are proudly the only moving company in four states that can move a full storage container,” Nick Cooper said.
Storage containers are weather and rodent proof and are up to four times larger than a typical storage pod. A five-bedroom house can fit in a 40-foot container. Elite will drop the empty container on-site. Once it is full, they will pick up the container and either store it or move it to the new location. This means customers only have to move their items once.
When I asked what Bryan was most proud of, he said, “my customer service.”
“One lady got mad and called me a red-neck. Now she is one of our best customers,” he said. “I love finding a way to make customers happy.”
Bryan Cooper loves his work.
“I lie awake nights before a big job, planning how the move is going to go,” he said.
Nick and Bryan Cooper came to the Small Business Development Center in 2019 and have been working with them for over a year.
“The SBDC has been a great help,” Nick said. “Ann (Swanson) helped us build a new web site and connected us with a student group that produces updated marketing materials and new logo.”
In 2020, they plan to work with the SBDC on selling to the federal government.
When they are not moving homes and chandeliers, the Coopers are a baseball family. Bryan coached baseball for 17 years. Now, Nick coaches his son, Paxton, in the local leagues. Hunting and fishing round out their leisure time.
By the way — the reason the million-dollar chandelier was so valuable?
It was from the original set of “Gone with the Wind.”
Reach Elite at www.esimovingcontainer.com or call 208-233-2337.
Ann Swanson is the regional director of the Small Business Development Center at Idaho State University’s College of Business. She can be reached at 208-282-4402 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The SBDC is taxpayer funded to provide no-cost consulting and low-cost training to any small business.