The Kuzak’s Closet crew organized and liquidated 28 estates throughout April, May, and June. That’s a pretty incredible feat considering that’s only half of the schedule. The other half was filled with home organizing sessions and relocation projects. So while the last 3 months should be a complete blur (if you could take a peek back through my calendar you would see why), it was actually one of my most memorable quarters in my career. Memorable for many amazing reasons, lucky reasons, and even scary reasons. I’ve learned that there is never a simple estate when it comes to the estate organizing business but that’s what makes it fun.
For this recap, I’m only focusing on the estate organizing projects. The quarter went off with a bang, with a total of 10 estate liquidations in April. April used to be packed with estates sales on our calendar, weekend after weekend, but with the current business model changing and the demand for our services so high we have had to be creative when it comes to fitting in 10+ estates per month. Our estate liquidation model has gained popularity with families and real estate agents over the last few years but this spring we saw a major increase in private liquidations. Clients love it because it can happen quickly, they can add on organizing services like packing and relocation management, and there is more control over who gets the address of the house and comes to shop by way of @shopkuzakscloset. I wrote a blog post detailing how private liquidations work recently so if you’ve been wondering why/what/how you should check it out here.
This is one of my favorite candid shots of Billy EVER! Sweet Leila the golden retriever just wanted to be on the team! For this private liquidation we packed the client, coordinated his move to Napa and San Francisco, sold what we could on @shopkuzakscloset, and liquidated the rest.
@shopkuzakscloset has become a great and effective option for our clients. Sometimes our estate sale shoppers can get a little frustrated because items sell so darn fast. But, they also know that items are available and the process is much less stressful overall than a traditional estate sale/estate liquidation model. At least for Kuzak’s Closet. Our shopping crowds have gotten to be so large that it can be overwhelming at times, especially when there are client sales expectations involved. With @shopkuzakscloset we can list items for a fair price and have them sold in the matter of minutes. Shoppers don’t have to camp out in their cars to get in line and families (clients) can watch the action as it happens. which they love! It has added another layer to the transparency at Kuzak’s Closet which I also love. It has also given us another shopping base, and by that I mean that most of the shoppers who pick up items on @shopkuzakscloset are shoppers I’ve never seen in person before. They are folks who have emailed me or read my blog but don’t have the opportunity to shop religiously at our sales due to work or family commitments.
Antonio in the act of packing boxes, you can’t even imagine how many we go through each week!
Well with all that talk about @shopkuzakscloset and private liquidations don’t be fooled, our estate liquidations open to our email list have a following more loyal than ever. I just read a negative yelp review about Kuzak’s Closet saying that our regular shoppers are leaving in droves but the opposite is actually happening. The Kuzak’s Closet liquidation crowd is more like a club than anything else. Last week we had a liquidation in Los Altos Hills and a woman came up to the register to pay and told me it was her first time at a Kuzak’s Closet estate liquidation and she LOVED it. I asked her what her favorite part is and she said, “standing in line talking to other shoppers before we opened.” AMAZING right! This crowd of 4,000 shoppers has become friends and almost family over the years. We celebrate birthdays, pray for surgeries, and generally support each other on a weekly basis. It’s just darn rad and everyone in line plays a part which the entire Kuzak’s Closet team appreciates so much. So, even though that negative review was a bummer to read, I know it’s not about me or my business. It’s just a part of growing that not everyone enjoys.
Speaking of the Kuzak’s Closet crew, everyone worked their buns off this quarter. I mean, how many pianos can we possibly move each week!
Teamwork makes the dream work and I’m lucky to have such a wonderful group of people to have so much fun with each and every day. We all just pitch in and give it our all and our happy shoppers and clients make it worth it.
Billy has been in and out of the hospital this quarter which is a bit scary but also kind of the norm. I’ve opted to slow down my schedule for organizing sessions and consultations to help him drive the trucks and manage things on the ground and it has really taken me back to the beginning. Billy and I spend a ton of time together and it’s always an adventure.
Even if the adventure is at the dump. Day after day. I honestly wish we didn’t have to throw anything away during the estate organizing process but it’s just part of the reality of breaking down the contents of someone’s life. We SO need a bigger trash truck but I just haven’t had time to go out and shop for one. Billy and I went three years ago to figure out what we wanted but the issue is where would we park it. If I could grow my fleet to 2 dump trucks, 2 transit vans, and 2 box trucks my life would be so good! Someday!
With all of these estate projects comes estate consultations and boy do I go to my fair share. My schedule typically has 10 consultations on it per week which is pretty amazing considering how many people call me each day for information. Some clients book a consultation right away, others wait to schedule a consultation for a year or two later. Estates are never really what they seem on the phone so I always like to take a peek in person to give an accurate estimate on the cost of service and also guide the family through any struggles they might be dealing with. Speaking of never being what they seem, this estate was one of the highlight consultations in April. This is the guest house. Yep, my house could fit inside of it 3 times. The main estate is even grander so fingers crossed it will sell sometime this year so we can all get inside to shop!
And speaking of not what they seem, our Lafayette estate sale in April was one for the record books. The family contacted me last fall and I kindly referred them to another estate sale company in their area because it was just too far away. The main point of contact asked me to reconsider, to at least come out to see it because her sister’s friend shops with us on this side of the bay and have rave reviews about us. Well, sister’s friend, thank you very much for the referral because this estate was extra special and one of the most memorable projects I’ve ever organized.
It was a major drive for all of us to get there. I mean, it was Kuzak’s Closet party of 10 most days but we carpooled and made it work. We typically have multiple projects going on each day so the big adjustment was getting almost all of our hands on deck to be efficient with our set up and organizing days so we could make less trips and still accomplish our goals.
My photos of this estate don’t do it justice, it’s the most amazing 1940s home with original details and a beautiful lot featuring a barn, a pool house, and a guest house. One of the shoppers who came to the estate sale said “I want to wake up in this house 60 years ago” and that really sums it up. This estate was something out of the past. The traditions and formalities of the past, a past that we all miss.
This office alone completely sums it up…
And the linens were so beautiful. My friend Kim texted me after I posted the marketing for this estate sale and said I should call it “live like Betty” and she was right. Betty had a pretty neat life!
The big question I received from shoppers was if the dishes were all from this estate and the answer was yes. The crazy part is that the family kept just as many dishes so what you saw was only half of the collection. This family had a chef and hosted formal dinners on a regular basis. Love it!
I was a bit nervous going to a new area for a sale of this caliber just because I wouldn’t know all of the players. It made me nervous in the same way I felt with my basketball team went to AAU regionals in 7th grade. I wouldn’t know all of the players, all of their moves, their secrets, etc..
For this sale we had over $20,000 of sterling for sale so I didn’t want to open the doors and have major chaos or theft or something worse but it all worked out. We had a huge crowd when we opened the doors but it was half familiar faces from the Los Altos area and half new faces that were a delight to get to know. We added over 250 people to our email list over the weekend so I think the shoppers on the East Bay enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed them! Sold!
When it came time to clean up the estate after the sale was over it hit me that it was really over. I endlessly thanked our clients for choosing Kuzak’s Closet and giving all of us the opportunity to be apart of such a spectacular life and collection of beautiful things. I cried on my way home which seems to be a trend this year when it comes to estate sales. But the tears aren’t sad, they are thankful happy tears.
Another major highlight in April was organizing and liquidating our cats and books hoarder estate. I love this type of organizing project because it really allows us to use our detailed eyes to look out for family treasures and also keep items out of the dump. Yes, this pile looks like trash to some people and we did throw things away but we also found new homes for items which is what makes our clients so happy.
We had this project on the calendar for 3 days but we ended up organizing it in only 2 days. The entire house looked like the above photo at the start so it was a thrill to see the after, an empty broom swept home. Well, raked and then broom swept..there was a lot of cat hair to deal with.
This photo just about sums it up but I love it! I would do more of these projects if I could but the reality is that the lawyers and fiduciaries who hire us to do them can’t always find another company to provide a bit for the service so the process is slowed down until that happens.
And just when I thought April would be manageable we had 3 cars pop up that needed to be sold. The most memorable was the Model T that we sold from a Sunnyvale estate. It was memorable for two reasons…first because it was beautiful and completely restored, and second because it was the second time I’ve had the opportunity to sell a Model T and both situations where when another estate company failed to show up to complete the project. Weird right? So you could say I’ve gained my car sales knowledge by accident and you would be correct. I’ve never thought to myself “hmm, we should start selling cars now”, it just something that has come up as the business has grown, another problem that needs to be solved for the family and you all know that’s what we do best.
And we couldn’t do it without the help from our car buddies. The two men photographed below came to help me evaluate the car for condition and value. I met the man on the right, Dick, when I sold him an MG two years ago. He is so kind and knowledgable that anytime I’ve had a car that I’m not 100% sure about I ask him for his advice.
And he’s a hoot. He really digs in and I think he likes the opportunity to advise me as much as I like the advice!
In addition to the Model T we also sold a Chevy Malibu and a vintage Jaguar. It was a busy month! So busy in fact that on one occasion I came home at 6:30pm and crawled right into bed. I knew I was tired when I couldn’t finish an episode of the Real Housewives or finish my glass of wine before I fell asleep!
Well, that was April, now on to May…
Once the big wave of April is over it moves on to May and we start to get the panic calls from real estate agents and clients who need an estate empty in a flash because they want to make sure it goes on the market before school is out. I actually enjoy panic calls. I can offer a solution 90% of the time and the relief on the other end of the phone is instant, that always makes my day to be able to relieve someone’s stress.
My only real stress is processing the items that land in our trucks fast enough so we can keep up. I’m telling you, if I could have 4 more vans my life would be golden! If anyone out there has a parking lot in Los Altos that will rent spaces to me call me up!
We had a slew of interesting estate liquidations in May and this one in Sunnyvale was one of my favorites. Book buyers came and were instantly overwhelmed with the insane collection that my client’s mother accumulated over the years. Working with the two sons on this one was also interesting, the sale of the home may have been the end of their relationship (sad but something I see way too often) so I was happy to please them both with our service. One of the brother’s was convinced the other had thrown away three books that he wanted to keep so he asked me to pull them aside if I happened to find them. I offered a $50 cash reward for each book found to my staff throughout the day and surprisingly Sarah and Taylor were each able to find one. Cha Ching! We overnighted them to the client the next day and he was completely thrilled. Our estate organizing services can be really stressful with family dynamics, crowds of shoppers, loads to process, etc. so I try to make it fun whenever I can for the staff with games or rewards to boost morale.
Liquidation shopper piles always crack me up and you can see why!
Another favorite project on the schedule in May was a private liquidation in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was at an absolutely gorgeous horse property with a great client who was referred by a long time shopper. The entire team worked together (a rare thing most days) and we had a lot of fun. It was rusty and crusty which I love and @shopkuzakscloset shoppers had fun picking up their treasures.
To most people this sight would be pure trash but we were able to rescue a ton of goodies out of this estate to pass on to shoppers which is my favorite part about our liquidation services. Recycling and repurpose people!
So as I’m writing this I’m realizing that if May had a theme it would be doozy because looking back every single project was complex with a ton of volume. This next project was in Palo Alto. A realtor we work with called me one day to let me know she just had a listing appointment and she might have a shot at the listing if I could stop by sometime that day to put together an estimate. I always try my best to handle requests like this because it really does help the agent get the listing and lucky for both the agent and me I was 3 blocks away when she called with 20 minutes to spare before my next meeting. It would be a two part project, the exterior would be first and then the interior. I wrote up a combined bid and boom, we got the job. This project had a lot of logistics, the main one would be that we would need to load and process 5 uhaul size trucks of metal in a single day. Talk about a challenge but we did it! The yard doesn’t look so bad here but when you take a closer look…
It was a mess with so much buried under the weeds. The garage and driveway were also jammed with metal and junk, yikes!
After the metal day a dumpster arrived and we loaded the trash. Items that could be sold were put into the garage for an upcoming estate liquidation with shoppers and the yard was cleared and raked.
Talk about an improvement! It’s all about location and lot size in Silicon Valley so this was a major help to boost the value of the property.
The inside of the house was packed with boxes, many new items never opened. Our email list came in for the liquidation sale and had a total ball, it was fun to see because I think the other bid that they received to liquidate the estate just involved trashing everything.
Liquidation shoppers love to buy toilet paper…I’m serious…so you can only imagine the excitement when they came inside and saw this stockpile!
Empty! Don’t let the condition of this estate fool you, I’m guessing it sold for close to $3 million. Wowza!
A client called me on a Tuesday and told me they had to clear out their mother’s estate by the following Monday. The kicker was that it was in Half Moon Bay and we would have to liquidate it on a Saturday which meant traffic. Normally I would say no because Saturday liquidations aren’t popular with shoppers but I needed a day near the beach. I was hoping that we would be wrapped up by 3 and enjoying clam chowder on the beach by 3:15 but that wasn’t the case.
We opened the liquidation sale at 9am, it was busy and shoppers were excited but then at 9:15 a shopper sat down on a chair and the way he “plopped” down caused the chair to rock back and shatter the picture window behind it. THANK GOD he was okay, the chair luckily hit the window so hard that it was stuck in the glass actually holding all of the pieces in place. So, my nice day at the beach turned into a logistical challenge. It was Saturday and we would need to get the window boarded up, glass ordered, and installed by Monday. I called the client to let him know my plan and he was so understanding. That chair had been in that spot in front of the window for 50+ years, it was a pure accident. Jennalynn and Tammy each called every glass shop in San Mateo and $1,800 later the window would be repaired by Monday. Technically it would need to go through the client’s homeowners policy but with the house closing and moving on to a new owner on Monday I didn’t want that to hold up the sale of the house so I just paid for it out of the business. The client was so shocked and pleased with the way I handled it that he still called the insurance company and much to my excitement they paid me back.
So having clam chowder on the beach wasn’t the highlight of my day. It was actually going to the Half Moon Bay dump. If you’ve never been you should go. It’s on top of a mountain with views of the water, glorious! I had to drive the truck because Billy wasn’t feeling well and needed to go to the emergency room. Just another day in paradise, ha! To all of the people reading this who just think my day is filled with shopping for antiques or organizing designer homes you now know why I’m aging so fast…my day is 100% air traffic control. Life happens and we just have to adjust, I guess that’s what has me hooked and why I love doing this.
Onto something beautiful! I was feeling pretty good about the new landscaping at my house until I saw this backyard at a consultation. Man, I’m an underachiever! We organized this estate liquidation in June and it was a treat for shoppers just to see it.
Ending the month was a packed estate in Los Altos. From the looks of it we needed to have a consultation to make it a profitable project for the business but after meeting with the family I knew they needed to have an estate sale just to be able to uncover everything. I restructured the estate sale contract to make it work for both of us and we jumped into organizing it. We worked with three kids on it, one more closely than the others, Gregg. He’s my age with parents from the Midwest so many of the items were similar to what I grew up with. He had been taking care of his mother who had a version of ALS for years, his father passed away when Gregg was in college due to a battle with MS.
During the estate sale setup we took 6 loads of trash to the dump, processed 2 uhaul trucks of recycling, and setup a beautiful sale. The deal was that the kids could come to shop over the weekend before I took photos. With everything merchandised and organized it was the only way that they would’ve ever been able to see what was underneath the piles.
Here is a before of the sunporch…
And the after…
Dining room before…
Dining room after…
Family room before…
Family room after…
The attics (there were 2) were both completed stuff with treasures that no one had gone through in decades. It was like a walk down memory lane for me because so many of the toys I either had as a kid or wanted to have as a kid. Gregg was at the house during the estate organizing process. His enthusiasm and gratefulness made this major project of labor fun for everyone on the staff.
At the end of the project he gave me a jar of homemade jam from the plum tree in the yard that was made the year his mother passed away. That’s when I officially lost it and not only cried all the way home, I cried for two days off and on. It is such a treat to be apart of these estate “lives” and my theory of “be nice to people and you’ll only work with nice people” is true. We work with some amazing families and I’m so grateful.
Seeing this estate empty was tough, it would be the end of an era and likely the house and the plum tree will be torn down to make way for a mega-mansion which I’ll probably be organizing. Yep, it’s funny how estate projects are starting to go full circle and turn into organizing projects with young families.
Ok, on to June! We work hard but we sure do have fun. So much fun in fact that it makes it hard to ever really leave Kuzak’s Closet which is why we never have any job openings. Jennalynn, bottom left has worked for Kuzak’s Closet since she was 16 and has gone off to college and on her breaks she always wants to come back for as many projects as she can. I’m partially convinced it’s just for the free lunches but even if that’s the case that’s okay with me. She is a hoot!
You might be wondering if I ever take a day off and the answer is pretty much no. Why? Well, when I do I wake up to Billy working at my house. One Saturday morning in June I poured myself a cup of coffee to find Billy outside the window pruning a rose bush. I have locks on my gates but he still manages to get in. I know I always talk about how much I love Billy but I really do, we all do. He is a pretty special person who I’m so lucky to have met 8 years ago. We are all lucky that I met him 8 years ago because he is a huge part of why and how I stay so busy.
We kicked off June with an unbelievable estate sale in Woodside. The home belonged to the late Arjay Miller who was a spectacular man. His son and daughter in law were referred by another family that we worked with on an estate sale in Atherton 4 years ago and they called me for a consultation. The meeting was supposed to last 45 minutes but it went on for two hours and if I didn’t have 4 more meetings after it Sarah and I would’ve stayed all day. The estate was packed with gorgeous artwork, collectibles, and custom midcentury modern furniture. We set a date for an estate sale once the family had a chance to remove everything they wanted to keep.
They wanted to maintain privacy and have me set up an RSVP sale to limit who would gain access and receive the address. I originally was going to sell tickets to get in but there would be no guarantee that ticket purchasers would purchase items when inside. So after a brainstorming meeting with Ese, Sarah, Cole, and Hope I decided to do something we’ve never done before. A private estate sale with items sold on @shopkuzakscloset for entry. It was risky and could have easily been a flop. My biggest fear was shoppers afraid of the pricing. The prices were estate sale prices not typical @shopkuzakscloset deals. I was also afraid of letting down shoppers but the reality is that after a night sleeping in the car, lining up, and choosing which direction the item you came for might be in, there is no guarantee that you can buy what you came for.
Sarah, Hope, and I prepped listings on @shopkuzakscloset, in total we had 105 drafts ready to publish by the morning of the sale. The process took us two days and I can’t tell you how many times we asked each other, “do you think this will work”?
I love this behind the scenes picture of Sarah and I in Arjay’s office, working on the last of the listings for the day. Taylor took the photo. She had a moment between organizing sessions to help us price the rugs and the artwork. We all have a specialty which is why we work so well together. It’s funny too because when everyone was hired it wasn’t like I was looking for a particular expert in something but it has worked out that way.
On the morning of the sale, it was marketed that the listings would go live at 8am. The first item was listed and within 15 seconds it sold. I continued to list items and instantly they were sold, and I often had to message a dozen other buyers regarding the item that it was no longer available. Shoppers had strategies, multiple phones, a computer and a phone, etc. to make sure they could view the listings and message me to commit to buy. I know it was stressful for shoppers playing along online but you can’t imagine how stressful and exciting it was on our end. I would call out “brutalist statue sold to Brian” and Sarah and Taylor would mark the items. Within 90 minutes we sold over $40,000 online. Considering my goal was $25,000 that was pretty amazing. Sales continued to tally up throughout the day as shoppers picked up items and shopped for other items available inside the house. At the end of two days the estate was bare and the clients were thrilled.
Many of the shoppers who came to pickup items drove from hours away. It’s amazing to me how far the reach of @shopkuzakscloset goes. When there is a guarantee that what you want to buy is yours after being the first to commit on @shopkuzakscloset it’s worth the trip.
My reward for being risky also included a case of wine, hand picked by my client from his personal collection. Taking risks is scary but rewarding, whether it pays off or not you always learn something new.
After the glamorous Miller estate we went right back to the regular program. Do you think we need a bigger truck yet? It’s just plain insane that Billy won’t get rid of Big Red, I mean how much more can she take?
We ventured up to San Francisco for a private liquidation that was a nice change of pace. I only go up to the city if it’s a project referred by someone we’ve worked with before or is someone we’ve worked with before. It’s all about parking tickets and traffic most of the time and everything has to be trucked out of the city to be processed so it’s a different ballgame but we’ve finally got the hang of it. Summertime in the city is also a treat because it’s so much cooler than it is on the Peninsula on most days.
We had three huge organizing relocations for home organizing clients so that’s what I think of when I think back to June but with those projects came some pretty nice items for sale on @shopkuzakscloset. We moved a client from Los Altos to Portola Valley and she left most of her designer furniture behind and shoppers were thrilled about it! This dining set was just a beauty!
And it appears on buyer pickups that they are trying to share their love of shopping with Kuzak’s Closet with the next generation. This little cutie was excited about her new lamps…
And this guy was calm and cool over his new wall hangings. I love it!
The most memorable liquidation for me in June was in San Jose. The liquidation was on a Monday so that caught shoppers off guard. Liquidations are typically on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The house was jammed with toys and games so I made sure to arrive extra early on Monday morning to prep the house. When I arrived the front door was open and a man was standing on the porch. I’d only met with the real estate agent so he didn’t recognize me but I instantly recognized that it was his home. I took him inside and he was stressed and confused, he panicked about the liquidation and the removal of his things so he broke out of his assisted living residence on Saturday night and had been frantically packing and stacking items that he wanted to keep. He didn’t have a key and the locks had been changed by the real estate agent so he removed the handles to get in. His daughter didn’t think that was funny when I called her with an update but I thought it was pretty rad and also sad. So instead of prepping the estate for the liquidation that was going to open in 90 minutes we focused on creating a big pile for him in the living room to be removed later.
He didn’t have a car at the house so I asked him how he got there and he said Uber. So, a man with memory loss was able to break out of assisted living and get an uber, he’s a savage! I didn’t feel comfortable putting him in an Uber to take him home and since I he hadn’t eaten since he broke in on Saturday I decided it would be best if Billy took him to breakfast and then drove him back to assisted living. Also risky because of liability if something happened to him on the ride but sometimes you gotta use your heart and not your brain. It was the right thing to do.
In the end I told his daughter we can always come back to remove his pile of items to keep but I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it that day. I mean, he had priorities. This note says it all!
While all of this was happening inside the liquidation shoppers were lining up outside. We ended up opening 15 minutes late but they all seemed to figure out what was going on and were supportive. It was also an eye opener to many of them what the other side of an estate liquidation looks like as far as client services/relationships.
Shoppers had a ball as usual, they were glad to give my client’s treasures a new home…
Billy’s granddaughter graduated from high school and he threw her an amazing graduation party. The entire Kuzak’s Closet crew attended, it was amazing. I love the Tongan culture, so much love and so much food!
Another highlight was selling Military Al a new car. If you’ve never met Military Al you need to. Just get in one of our estate lines and introduce yourself. He’s pretty fantastic! He bought the Fiat 500 that we sold from a San Francisco estate. I’m not sure if it will fit all of his estate treasures, he likes to buy in bulk and frequents pretty much every sale in Silicon Valley.
The estate lines always amaze me. This was taken at an estate liquidation in Los Altos Hills at the end of the month…
Hope manages the lines and often does it in costume which she then sells to a shopper in line. It’s pretty entertaining. As I mentioned in my Q1 highlights, she was promoted to this position and does a great job at it.
Our final liquidation of the month was a MEGA liquidation which means it’s open for extended hours. We only do that a few times per year but it’s fun. It allows for shoppers who can’t typically make the sales to come on their lunch hours. I wish we could do it more often but we are so under the gun on timing because we need to empty the house completely (and the trucks) by the end of the day. With the dump closing at 5pm and Bay Area traffic you can understand why the hours are typically limited.
This sticker wall was behind a piece of furniture in the kitchen at our MEGA estate and it just cracked me up. Nothing of significance but something that took someone a long time to create. So odd!
It also cracked me up to see these three all dressed alike at the liquidation. Military Al always wears Hawaiian shirts and now he has his buddies Bob and Chuck dressing the same. What a crew!
Well, that’s a wrap on June and another busy quarter at Kuzak’s Closet. I hope you enjoyed the behind the scenes details of the most memorable projects for me. Q3 is looking just as busy so wish us luck, the second half of the year will be over before we know it!