If moving was fun; if people enjoyed packing and hefting all their stuff, often into some reluctant friend’s pickup truck, Derek Norman’s DRN Moving company wouldn’t be starting its 25th year.
Norman admits he wasn’t particularly good at geometry, but after high school, the guy realized he could pack a truck like a champ. That skill eventually led Norman to launch DRN Moving in the late 1990s.
“I realized decades ago that I just had a knack, fitting things into a truck securely and efficiently,” said Norman, who moved to Key West from Canada when he was 11. “My parents had gotten divorced and my mom had always wanted to live in the Keys, so we came down here. My mom met and married my stepfather, who was a teacher at Horace O’Bryant. And then she opened a jewelry store on Duval Street, back when the town and Duval Street looked a lot different.
“I went to Glynn Archer back when that was a school, and not City Hall. Then I spent a few more years back up in Canada with my dad, but came back and went to Key West High School, Class of 1990.”
After high school, Norman was managing restaurants in the Lower Keys and considering going to culinary school. He also considered getting his business degree. But his main goal was to make and save money, get married, buy a house and support himself.
“I had met Jacqui, who became my wife. I was working a bunch of extra jobs trying to save money for a house,” Derek Norman said. “I was doing landscaping, cooking and then started loading and unloading Ryder rental trucks for people who were moving. I was good at it. And it paid $10 an hour, which was good news back then.”
One day, a woman who was moving homes approached Norman and said she didn’t feel like renting a truck, packing her stuff and hauling it to the new house.
“She asked me if I would handle all that, and then charge her for the labor and truck rental,” Norman said. “That’s when I realized there was a business possibility here. As I said, if moving was fun, if people liked doing it, then I’d be out of a job.”
The Normans started DRN Moving in 1997 using rental trucks and bought their first truck in July 1998.
“I’ll admit I had no idea how to run a business, but I had some wonderful mentors around me, including accountants, mechanics and others,” said the successful business owner. He now has a staff of about 20 employees and five trucks that handle residential and commercial moves between neighborhoods, cities, states and even nations.
“When we first started, we were only authorized to do intrastate moves, meaning within Florida,” Norman said. “We were also doing furniture and other deliveries for Sears and Pier 1 Imports.”
Now the company is authorized to handle residential and commercial moves between neighborhoods, cities, states and nations. “Now we can do it all, including military moves, which was the final piece.”
DRN Moving also offers packing services, so people can do as much or as little as they’d like when it comes to boxing things up and labeling everything, Norman said.
“It’s interesting, people seem to be doing less and less of their own labor today,” Norman said. “Especially younger people. When I was younger, I didn’t even consider using a moving company. It was all about bribing some unhappy buddies who had pickup trucks with pizza and beer. But today, more and more people are letting us do the heavy lifting, and I’m certainly not complaining.”
DRN Moving is now based on Rockland Key, where it also has warehouse space to store large crates of belongings, often for military families departing the Keys for their next assignment.