IDAHO FALLS – Over the last year, many industries have been drastically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A local company that provides a variety of services for businesses and individuals has seen the impact firsthand and how it’s affected people locally and nationwide.
InterWest Moving & Storage at 1765 North Yellowstone Highway in Idaho Falls is one of four brands under the iWest umbrella of companies. It is a locally-owned and operated agent for Atlas Van lines. Among its list of offerings are packing, loading and transportation services for household goods, as well as storage, warehousing and relocation services.
It also provides other niche services, such as package receiving and distribution for the Idaho National Laboratory, warehousing and install logistics for designers, along with delivery and product management services. Its hospitality division delivers and distributes furniture for hotels.
Brent Keim, one of the company’s owners, tells EastIdahoNews.com the moving aspect represents the bulk of their business, which saw a slight decline last year.
“Household moving went down,” Keim says. “The people that were (moving) were coming to Idaho because they were trying to get out of the metro areas.”
Brent’s sister, Chelsey, who is also part-owner of the business, says 66% of the moves last year were people moving into the state, a trend that hasn’t been seen since 2017. There were about 700 inbound moves in 2020 and roughly 380 outbound moves.
One cause for the increase in inbound moves, according to Chelsey, is lifestyle changes related to the pandemic. Other factors include cost of living and the booming economy.
“Idaho is great,” Chelsey says. “There are lots of available jobs and I think that’s another reason people are relocating here.”
So far, Chelsey says 2021 is shaping up to be an active year for new move-ins. The peak moving season doesn’t occur until June but there’s already an influx of requests on their schedule.
“Before (COVID), people would plan a move out a month or two. Now they’re calling in saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got to move next week because my house sold.’ The dynamic has changed a lot. Last year, a lot of the moves … were people moving (home from college since schools were shut down). This year, we’re seeing the normal pattern resume of people moving for more typical reasons.”
Inbound moves aren’t the only thing that have increased. Brent says online furniture orders skyrocketed last year.
“Business went up 20 or 30% in 2020 over the previous year,” Keim says. “Companies that were either quarantined or shutting down facilities needed us to hold their stuff because they weren’t operating and so we had an increase in that kind of business (too).”
The Keims have been involved with InterWest Moving & Storage since 2005 when they bought it from the Gellings family. InterWest first opened on Utah Avenue in the 1980s. Atlas has been represented in eastern Idaho since 1954.
Brent says his dad recognized a huge need for the type of services InterWest provides while making a real estate transaction.
“Their phone was ringing off the hook and he was trying to work with (the client). They weren’t able to do everything that was coming in,” says Brent. “He asked if it was something we wanted to do and we decided to give it a shot.”
Until 2015, the company was still using moving trucks from 1969 and a 4,000-square-foot warehouse. It’s since grown to include 180,000-square-feet of space and more than 60 new trucks and trailers. It also has two other locations in Belgrade, Montana and Salt Lake City.
“We didn’t necessarily set out to be who we’ve become but it’s something where we just recognized the opportunity and capitalized on it,” Brent says. “Our customers are people who want a high-end service … and we’re just going to continue to provide that service and build partnerships.”