Melysa Benedict was nineteen years old when she walked into the storefront that would change her life. Selling glass-framed motivational posters business to business, she found herself in front of a sales manager for a moving company. The sales manager was so impressed with the pitch that she offered Melysa a job. “I went from making cash under the table to a “real job” making $500/week,” Melysa says. “It was like winning the lottery!” And so, Melysa got her start in the moving industry.
But, like so often in life things get worse before they get better. “Six months into my new job, I was addicted to heroin,” Melysa admits she would run home during her lunch break to get high. Not long after, she was living under a bridge in downtown Denver. “This was a serious low point”, she says. In desperation to get clean, she packed up and moved to Florida. Two weeks into sobriety, and only twenty-two years old, she found herself pregnant. “That was all the motivation I needed to stay clean.”
Stitch by stitch, Melysa’s life started to sew back together. “It was a true struggle being in active recovery and back at ground zero and supporting a child alone. To get to work from my new place, I would have to take a two-hour bus ride and ride my bike the rest of the way when I was 6 months pregnant. But that’s what I had to do as a single mother.”
Well into her continuing recovery, and her fourth year at the moving company, the sales manager who had hired her invited Melysa to help her start a brand-new moving company. Melysa agreed and shortly after found herself running the entire company. In early 2007, they were expanding and Melysa moved from Denver to “a strange new land” to launch their Colorado Springs division. “In the year it took me to get it up and running, I realized that I should be doing this myself,” she says.
On May 14th, 2007, Melysa launched her very own company, 5 Star Moving & Storage, focused on local moves within Colorado. “Starting a company on my own was scary, but I had worked for other moving companies and basically had run one all on my own. I knew I could do it.” And when the company she had left shut down after less than a year after her leaving, Melysa knew she had done the right thing.
5 Star Moving & Storage got its start in a studio office above Meadow Muffins (now Mother Muffs) in Old Colorado City with nothing but a start-up loan of $12,000.00, a laptop, and a folding table. She leased a box truck and parked it over at a 1,000-square-foot warehouse across from the old Bear Creek Lanes off Highway 24 and 21st St.
Things clicked gradually. In 2012, an associate in the industry opened a division in Colorado Springs, offering to split a 10,000-square-foot. warehouse with 5 Star. The other company primarily focused on military moves, something Melysa wasn’t versed in. Working alongside them, she learned their systems and, when they eventually closed down their Colorado Springs office, she took over their clients and contracts.
5 Star had operated as an independent local moving company since its inception. Another associate in the industry had brought up the idea of her becoming an agent with Arpin Van Lines, a 130-year-old, multi-generational, Family-owned Van Line headquartered in Rhode Island. Coincidentally, there was an Arpin-branded trailer parked in front of her warehouse that had been sitting there for a while. Taking the initiative, Melysa called Arpin’s corporate office to let them know about the trailer. The call led to a meeting; the meeting led to a dinner; and the dinner led to 5 Star Moving & Storage becoming part of the Arpin Van Line family. After joining Arpin, 5 Star gradually expanded into the warehouse next door where they currently operate out of 20,000 square feet of space. 5 Star Moving now services local, interstate, military, and International moves to date.
“Joining Arpin was what lifted the ceiling for me,” Melysa says. “Up until then, I had to learn everything on my own through trial and error.” Arpin had 150 other agencies across the nation and they collaborate, sharing their knowledge and support. “No one can grow when you keep things close to the chest. You won’t ever become something more that way.” It should be noted that a Van Line’s “agents” are still 90% Family-owned and operated independent companies who represent and operate their long-distance moves. Melysa clarifies, “A van line and the local agency is a copacetic relationship that brings national recognition for the smaller Family-owned company and brings a local presence to the national van line. There is no change of ownership, nor is this a franchise. This business model keeps our small brick and mortar businesses where they should be: supporting our local economy with jobs, community building, and local culture”
In March of 2020, Wheaton Van Lines purchased Arpin Van Lines. 5 Star was one of only 50% of the Arpin agents that were invited to join Wheaton Van Lines after the merger. At first, Melysa was skeptical, concerned she would lose her “Arpin family” but it turned out to be nothing of the case. “Wheaton is a fantastic company with the same values and expert support. The merger has filled in some important gaps, enabling us to serve our clients at an even higher level of quality.
The past three years have been pivotal for 5 Star Moving and Storage. “During the pandemic, the military work dried up overnight. It gave us time to plan and to adjust our scope of services. 5 Star gave its major focus back to local clientele, including delivery and storage for interior designers, restaurants, large commercial distributors in need of local delivery services, and custom home builders, among other lines of business. “Anything to keep our doors open, and our crew members working and supporting their families,” Melysa explains. “I thought about what was most important to me as an owner, as well as what I wanted 5 Star to become”. I’m proud to admit that we didn’t have to let anyone go during the shutdown. And now that we are moving past the pandemic, the lines of business that we went after have stayed, and increased our footprint of services.”
Lots of industries have faced challenges in hiring employees post-2020. “I put a lot of focus on training new employees and retaining current ones. The moving industry is challenging; it is skilled labor. But the trouble is, that many people do not understand it or give it the effort or recognition that it deserves. Finding reliable employees who WANT to work hard is difficult, so creating an environment where they are recognized and fulfilled and continue to show up is essential.” Melysa’s goal over the next two years is to continue growing as well as to elevate the culture in her business so that her team is even more committed.” I want the guys coming into your home to feel like your family for the day. And a good way to make that happen, is that they feel they are part of mine first,” says Melysa. “The moving industry saved me and gave me something to strive for. This industry understands second chances, and it is a big way I give back in my recovery, knowing that I can offer that chance to others as well”, she says.
There is a lot that separates 5 Star Moving & Storage. “We’ve been open for over sixteen years,” Melysa says. “But we still own five trucks and a semi-tractor. I will be the first to tell you that I do not want to be a company that makes their dollars by “quantity.” We are a smaller organization, that caters to lovers of a “niche” experience. And to do that, we spend more time on each client. You can expect a noticeable difference in customer focus between us and a company that has twelve trucks and five semi-tractors…”
“We consider ourselves to be a ‘boutique mover.’ Our ideal client is someone who isn’t looking for the cheapest price; rather, they are looking for the best service. Our ideal clients aren’t pre-packing their goods to save a buck; they value their time more than money and they allow us to do the job they’re hiring us for.”
5 Star’s value proposition to their Realtor partners is to help make their transactions even smoother and give them the ability to offer more value to their clients. “Your clients are juggling so much already. Let us save them time, energy, and multiple headaches by orchestrating their moving and storage needs.” One of her favorite programs is working closely with real estate agents and their preferred Title companies to assist the client in packaging their moving services with the rest of their home-buying experience. “I enjoy spending time with our community REALTORS to discuss how to make their clients transition just a little bit easier,” Melysa says.
What Melysa loves the most about working in the moving industry is that it’s a new story every day. “There are so many pieces to the moving process. To me, there is something incredibly satisfying about taking something with 100 steps, orchestrating it from start to finish, and completing each step smoothly. Especially when you are involved in someone’s exciting journey into a new phase of their life, whether it is across town, the country, or the world.” And in an industry that works so closely with customers in a very emotional and complicated time, there is ALWAYS a way we are growing, changing, and becoming a better company to serve our clients,” Melysa explains.
Outside of work, Melysa has a wonderful extended family. Along with her 20-year-old daughter Fae, “who literally saved my life,” Melysa chuckles. She has an amazingly supportive boyfriend, Justin, of 6 years, along with his children Blake (18) and Sierra (13). And she loves horses! She has owned her horse since he was two days old. “That horse is my heart and soul; among so many other things, he teaches me how to communicate without talking.” He probably is one of my best instructors on how to take care of customers and show them I care.” Melysa also loves golf, traveling, and scotch; “Preferably all together,” she says with a smile.