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House Calls : From Food to Fitness, You Name It and There's Probably Someone Who Will Deliver It to You

January 20, 1989|JOHN NEEDHAM | Times Staff Writer

For the trendy who "cocoon," for the plebeians who play couch potato, for those too busy for the freeways or too angst- ridden to drive, life can be lived at home. The good life. The swell life. The I'm-OK-who-cares-about-you life.

Too tired to shop for groceries? Call Grocery Line, minimum order $50, fee 10% of the bill. Too flabby to show up in a gym? Call Body Sculpting. For $40 per 1-hour session, three times a week, payable a month in advance, Jeff Bathiany will bring his gym and exercise equipment in his van to your house. Too disheveled to go to the beauty parlor? No problem, Rendezvous Images will come to you.

In days of yore, the milkman delivered. The kid from the grocery store pedaled his bike to your door with your order. The doctor made house calls. Eventually, the milkman disappeared, though the guy from the pool service started coming by. The grocery store stopped delivering, and the gardener showed up instead. The doctor traded in the trusty black bag with a stethoscope and tongue depressor and stayed in the office with a million-dollar machine that diagnosed diseases almost before they were discovered. But people started delivering bottled water to your house.

Now, the pendulum is swinging back in Orange County--at least in neighborhoods where they eat Brie rather than Velveeta and drink wine from glasses instead of straight from a bottle wrapped in a brown bag.

"Our typical client has the money to spend on the car; they have a nice car, and they don't have a lot of time to take care of it," said Bruce Strysik, who owns a car "detailing" business. The average cost to a Strysik customer is $100 a month, for which the car is washed weekly and waxed and detailed monthly. Basically, a good detailing leaves a car looking better than when it left the showroom and features thorough vacuuming and loving attention to chrome, rubber, tires and wheels.

"I would say the majority of our customers have a Mercedes," he said. "We of course will do any kind of car, but I would say we do more Mercedes than anything else."

For the stay-at-homes who want good entertainment, there are sound engineers and audio-video suppliers like Greg Steffani, who works for a San Juan Capistrano company called Home Electronic Systems.

Steffani's company is installing a $180,000 system in a house being built that will cost more than $4 million when it's done. The system includes doors that open as people approach and close behind them, a specially designed column in a bathroom that swings around and unveils a TV, and a living room couch that pivots so people on one end of the L-shaped couch won't have to look over their shoulders when a projector pops up from the floor, a screen comes down from the ceiling and the movie starts.

Steffani's firm has also done jobs for $2,000. "Almost everything we do, somebody has a little something extra they want," he said. Sometimes they want to control a downstairs videocassette recorder from an upstairs bedroom. Sometimes they want speakers in showers and saunas, or under water in the swimming pool.

Business is good, Steffani said, because of all the new construction in the county.

For the evening's entertainment on the newly installed video system, there are stores that will deliver the cassette you've been meaning to see. There's a hitch with orders from the Video Station, though: The customer has to order a pizza from the restaurant next door, as well. The pizza person delivers the pie and the movie.

Mike Cresci, owner of the Mission Viejo video store, said the system started out of necessity: There were too few parking spaces at the shopping center where his shop is located. The movie charge is $2.50 a day, same as pick-ups at the shop.

The pizza-and-movies combo "is just another thing that we do to be different, to be competitive," he said.

For those seeking finer fare than pizza, Restaurant Express will pick up a meal at a nice restaurant and deliver it to the home. The price is just $4 more than what the restaurant charges for on-scene diners, and instead of tipping the waiter one greases the palm of the delivery person.

The bare-cupboard crew, meanwhile, can find help from Grocery Line.

The Newport Beach firm began operations in September and provides customers with a catalogue of 3,000 items available from the Pacific Ranch Market. A partner in the company, Frank Greenberg, said orders placed from 8 a.m. to noon are delivered by 5 p.m. to "an affluent client base" from Irvine south to San Juan Capistrano.

Greenberg said 98% of the company's customers are women and estimated the household income at $60,000 to $80,000 a year. His customers are "more concerned with quality and service than they are with price," Greenberg said.

By storing orders in a computer, the company can file the customer's preferences in such matters as cuts of meat, ripeness of vegetables and color of toilet paper.

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