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A Look Back on 25 Years of Capacity

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In celebration of our 25th anniversary, Capacity Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder, Thom Campbell, kicks off our milestone year with an oral history of the company. Throughout the year, we’ll look back on major milestones, game-changing moments and how we navigated a few inevitable bumps in the road. We’ll also highlight a handful of client success stories too – because 25 years doesn’t happen without the amazing brands we’ve been lucky enough to support. 


In the late 90s, fulfillment wasn’t a word that many people knew how to define. Jeff [Kaiden], Arlen [Fish] and I were doing different things. Jeff and Arlen were in business school at night. They had day jobs. Jeff was a consultant designing distribution centers with his father. I was working on Wall Street with Morgan Stanley. 

Jeff and Arlen were in an entrepreneurship class at NYU and had the idea to create a 3PL in response to the wild west days of the dot-com boom. They asked me if I was interested and before we even sketched out the business on the back of a napkin, we were all in.

In those pre-bust dot-com days, everyone was working on coming up with the next big internet-powered, consumer-facing innovation. And that’s really what struck us: 

Someone’s going to have to ship all of this stuff. 

We saw an opportunity that was not getting a lot of attention – and our advantage was that we had Jeff and his father, Allen. After working for NASA, Allen got into designing distribution centers, taking them from the dark ages of paper and chaos to tech-driven predictability. Allen’s reputation carried a meaningful level of currency. It’s what helped us buy our first WMS, a foundational piece of the business. It helped us find a client, NetGrocer, who would let us operate out of their building. And it helped us raise a little bit of money. 

But then the real mountain climbing began. 

We spent the next nine months cold calling 100 businesses a day

Little by eventually not so little, we started winning clients. NetGrocer wound down in the early 2000s and with an option on our lease to take over theirs, we did. And then we filled it. We added another building and another and it wasn’t long until our northern New Jersey campus had grown to nearly 1,000,000 square feet. 

In the early 2010s, we eyed west coast expansion. To play at the level we wanted to play at, we had to have a bicoastal presence. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the two largest in the country. Anchoring in the New York and Los Angeles metros also gave us access to customer-dense regions – especially as we made the concerted effort to focus on the beauty vertical. 

A handful of years later, we set up shop in Indianapolis, creating a midwestern shipping point to bring our brands closer to their customers. 

There were major innovation milestones along the way 

I think back to our work with Birchbox, an ecommerce subscription box pioneer. In their early days, they were doing 5,000 boxes per month out of a small midtown Manhattan office. We only handled fulfillment for them for a short time, but we helped them scale that 5,000 boxes per month number to 125,000. 

Our work with one of the beauty industry’s leading cosmetics brands was a major milestone too. Here you have an ecommerce brand that was fueled by a couple major sales per year. They’d go from hundreds of orders a day to tens of thousands. These orders were wildly complex to fulfill. Customers could pick a curated selection of products and units-per-order could range from seven to nine or even more. We nailed this for more than 10 years and it pushed us to get smart about labor flexibility and automation.  It also sparked our relationship with Sephora.

Our relationships with our team members tend to have that sort of longevity too 

People stick around here. They even come back, multiple times over. One of our customer service guys has done three tours, each time bringing back new knowledge, new growth and new energy. Ever since we grew up from a couple of founders to a mature team, we’ve been able to maintain continuity – which is huge. When you have people that have worked together successfully over a long period of time, there’s an energy that is contagious. There's a universal knowledge. We all know how we’re going to operate because we’ve all been doing it together for so long. And as new folks join, knowledge sharing from across the organization is a big part of onboarding. 

Twenty-five years is a moment to look back

It’s also a moment to look forward. We know that we’ll continue to invest in technology. We know what indicators we will monitor to inform strategy. Things like pricing. But as it’s been for the last 25 years, we will continue to listen to our clients. What do they need? What are they asking for? 

If we can do that, the next 25 years are going to be great. 

So to our past, present and future clients, our partners, our founding team, our longtime employees and folks new to the team… 

Thank you. You’re why we’re here and you’re a big part of where we’re headed.