Tech veteran Matt Bell opened The Shop in Seattle as a place where people who are into cars and motorcycles could store their vehicles and hang out with like-minded gearheads. Two years later, the business is running great and it’s time to take a road trip.
Bell said this week that the shop has raised $4 million in a Series A funding round and intends to open a second location in Dallas by next May. A third location, in either Austin, Houston or San Diego, is being looked at for the following year, and fourth, fifth and sixth locations will follow.
“The idea of The Shop Clubs Inc., was to be more than one, and Seattle was the first test market to roll out, and that was a success — we exceeded our expectations,” Bell said. “The goal was always to keep growing this brand and this service across the country.”
PREVIOUSLY: A look inside The Shop, the new hangout for car geeks rolled out by Seattle tech and restaurant vets
Bell said the purchase of a 55,000-square-foot industrial warehouse space was just completed in downtown Dallas a few days ago, next to the city’s Love Field airport. The same concept as the first location in Seatte’s SoDo neighborhood will be replicated — car storage and work space, a private club and a restaurant/bar that’s open to the public.
Seattle restaurateur Ethan Stowell partnered with Bell to launch and manage Derby inside The Shop back in August 2017. Stowell is no longer involved and Derby is run in-house now. For the Dallas location, Bell is hoping to team with a chef and brands local to that environment.
The Shop charges a $150 standard monthly membership fee, with a $500 initiation fee. It’s $230 a month per car and $75 per motorcycle for secure, climate-controlled storage. And that storage capacity has grown significantly since The Shop first opened at 2233 6th Ave. S. in a 36,500-square-foot space. A second building was added to double storage capacity, and a third building is just ramping up, Bell said.
“The car storage has significantly outpaced any of our expectations. And the membership has grown steadily, 40 percent year over year,” Bell said.
After getting off the ground with help from friends and family, Bell said the new seed investment will be The Shop’s first and last such funding round. The business, which employs about 60 people now, reached profitability very early and will self-fund growth from here on out.
Bell, who previously worked in tech at companies such as Modern Systems, SourceLabs, Azaleos and Skytap, has enjoyed the crossover between tech and cars and The Shop is working hard on developing its own software to make the experience richer and deeper for members. An app already helps connect members to each other and to services The Shop offers.
Bell called Dallas an ideal market to expand into and he said there are a lot of similarities to Seattle in that marketplace with a lot of tech moving in and companies such as Toyota relocating headquarters operations to the region.
But while The Shop has attracted celebrity clients in Seattle such as musicians — like hip-hop star Macklemore — as well as professional athletes, Bell stresses the variety he’s attracted. And building community among car geeks and providing a place to gather is the big selling point.
“We have some cars that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and some cars that are worth hundreds of dollars,” Bell said. “The dynamic here isn’t about necessarily who you are in the outside world. It’s what you drive and what knowledge you have to share.”