Clarice Anschel and her husband lived in Newport Beach for a dozen years before they decided to return to the San Fernando Valley, where Clarice had taught school for 20 years. For two years they tried to readjust to life in Sherman Oaks, with little success.
"We hated it," said the former teacher, 71.
Then two years ago, their son bought them a condominium in Newport Beach. As excited as they were about the prospects of returning home, they were just as wary about the rigors of the move itself.
"My husband is 77, and I have a handicap," Clarice said, referring to a hip replacement. "My husband couldn't handle the move, I couldn't do it, and my son just didn't have the time."
The problem the Anschels faced is common among senior citizens. They solved their problem by calling Your Concierge Moving Services, a Laguna Beach company that caters to seniors' special needs.
"They handled everything," Clarice said. "They packed all the boxes and got the mover. The actual day of the move I went out and got my hair done.
"When I came to my new home, they had the beds made, the telephone installed, the shelves lined and the dishes and glasses washed and put away. I had asked them to do a couple of special things, like put some non-skid strips in the tub, and that was done too."
"It's a marvelous service," she added, "if you can afford it."
The company charges $25 an hour for each staff member involved in the move, according to JeanJean Chong, who along with Anya Sands founded the company three years ago.
"We break down everything," Chong says. "We figure how many people will be needed for each individual job, and how many hours it will take them. A typical four-bedroom house can take 40 to 45 hours, which would cost about $1,000."
Your Concierge is averaging four moves a week. The company primarily serves Orange County, although it also does jobs in the Los Angeles area.
Chong and Sands, both 25, met at Cornell University's School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration. They kept in touch after graduating in 1987, when Sands joined General Foods as a sales representative in Chicago and Chong became a restaurant manager for the Westin Hotel in Washington.
Neither was particularly satisfied with her job, so in 1988 they decided to team up. They began their business in Chong's native Honolulu, using $2,000 in savings as seed money.
The company's original focus was in the errand business, where the partners would do everything from planning parties to catering them. When a local restaurateur asked them to help him move, they agreed, and fell into their current line of business.
The partners moved to California after their market studies showed that Orange County had a large number of highly mobile professionals who often don't have the time to move themselves.
Today, half the company's clients are executives and working couples who don't have the time or inclination to oversee the many details involved in planning a move. The other half is composed of senior citizens, like the Anschels.
Typically, a client will call Your Concierge a week to a month before a move. Once the company is hired, drawings are sketched and lists are compiled so the crew will know where to set up the furnishings at the new location. The firm employs seven women on a part-time basis, each of whom averages 20 hours a week.
The night before the move, crew members pack their client's belongings, labeling each box on all sides with appropriate abbreviations, such as "KIT" for kitchen.
When the movers arrive the following day, one crew member is assigned to work specifically with them. Others are already at the new location, coordinating additional services, if contracted--cleaning crews, phone installations, arranging for utilities.
A handyman works with the company and takes care of such tasks as spackling walls.
At the new location, the crew directs the movers, unpacks the boxes, puts away linens and dishware, hooks up television sets and VCRs and even can have a gourmet dinner ready and waiting for the client's homecoming.
Ironically, the co-founder of the firm isn't sure whether she'd want someone packing her own personal items.
"I don't know if I'd feel comfortable having people pack my personal belongings," Chong admits. "Some people pack theirs themselves, but many just hand the whole thing over to us. After clients meet us and our crew, they're able to trust us."
Chong and Sands have complied with an assortment of special requests, including having the table set, candles lit, dinner ready and a favorite videotape in the VCR.
They've also had their share of unusual requests.
One involved a client who was planning to demolish a home in Harbor Ridge and then rebuild on the property. The customer hired the company to sell everything attached to the home. They ended up doing just that, selling everything from the front door to the kitchen sink.
Just as unusual was a request from a client who had hired the company for three previous moves, and was now relocating to Sacramento.
"She said she couldn't move without us," Chong said, chuckling. "We ended up packing for her in Newport Beach, and then the woman flew the whole crew to Sacramento to complete the job."
Said Clarice Anschel: "These girls really know what they're doing. They finished up in style and left a basket, lox and bagel and a bottle of Scotch. They also arranged a cleaning woman for me."