Yikes! To say that 2019 is off to a busy start is an understatement. The first quarter was packed with estate projects and estate consultations. To break down the numbers, we organized 4 estate sales, 6 estate liquidations, 18 private liquidations for a grand total of 28 empty estates. While the numbers are consistent with years past, the complexity of the projects has changed. We have been able to organize many more “meaty” projects due to a combination of continual brand growth and our services expanding with the addition of our private liquidation service.
Each quarter I like to round up highlights from projects that were memorable for me. This post serves are a journal as well as a peek behind the scenes at the mechanics of the business that you don’t see as a shopper or a client.
We kicked off the New Year with an estate liquidation in Foster City. It’s a little town built on canals just south of San Francisco. It’s always a treat to see our regular shoppers after the holidays but the the highlight of the project was when a shopper (I won’t name names) removed her boots to try on shoes and another shopper picked up her boots and tried to buy them. Cheers to a wild and crazy 2019!
I always give out a New Year’s postcard with a coupon on the back at the first liquidation of the year and shoppers remember that so it is well attended. Because of this the estate was empty in record time. Another empty estate, our first of the year!
It’s become more and more obvious that the Kuzak’s Closet fleet needs to expand. My New Year’s resolution was to purchase a box truck, something that’s been on my to-do list for over a year. Sounds crazy for someone with my personality to have an item linger on a to-do for that long but time just keeps flying by. Over the holidays I made a connection with a dealer who sells retired Uhaul trucks and we made a deal. I also made a deal to trade in our white van “Vanna White” for a larger F250 transit. Talk about starting the new year off right!
Only problem was I had to break the news to “Vanna White” and Big Red that they were breaking up. It was a bitter sweet watching them work together on their last day but the time had come. Vanna was converted to a catering van so she’s got a new gig and Big Red is semi-retired, only coming out for special occasions. Billy tried to bring Big Red to work every chance he can, he loves that old girl.
Out with the old, in with the new! It was hard to make the switch, I actually chose not to be there when Vanna drove away for the last time. I’m sure you are reading this cracking up but I get, well, we all get really attached to the work trucks on the team. They are major players and we appreciate all they do for us.
The timing for the new fleet couldn’t have been better with their first days on the job being at a large private liquidation project at a winery in Milpitas. It was located up in the hills so we needed to maximize all of our hauling capacity in order to not waste time driving around to trash and donation sites.
This project was a highlight because of the beautiful location up in the hills and our luck with the weather. We’ve had so much rain this winter and somehow we managed to have two sunny days while clearing out the side yard, storage, garage, and barn at this winery. Having clear skies made it so much easier to sort, load and sell.
The wine barrels were the most popular seller (surprise, surprise), we sold 22 on @shopkuzakscloset in record time. Buyers were purchasing for cocktail tables and DIY projects like planters and hose reels.
The winery is called Big Dog Winery and you can see why. This pretty lady is almost as tall as me and she loved watching us work.
And this is her side-kick Eddie, short on height but big on personality. He greeted us each morning and said goodbye in the afternoon, he would often be found sniffing around in the trash pile, inspecting the donation van, and helping @shopkuzakscloset shoppers load their cars.
Eddie=quality control team, love it!
And here is the view from the winery, talk about a great day at the office!
There are many times that we are sent to go things that may or may not be “approved” and cutting a lock at a storage unit is one of them. The reality is that is just has to be done sometimes. This photo is a highlight because I asked Billy to bring lock cutters and he brought the most ridiculous tool I’ve ever seen. Needless to say it didn’t work and we had to opt for plan “b”, I’d tell you what that was but I’d have to kill you. Ha!
If you ever wake up to a street full of cars on a weekday morning there is a pretty good chance that a Kuzak’s Closet estate liquidation is happening in the neighborhood. There are a few cases when we need to extend our liquidation shopping times due to the volume of treasures and that was a must in Los Altos for an estate on Via Huerta. This estate was complex with two separate deaths, multiple vehicles for sale, and a jam packed house.
We opened the estate to shoppers for an estate liquidation with extended hours and they loved it! Truck loads and truck loads left the estate and we far exceeded our sales goal for the family.
It was a highlight for me because of all of the complex elements on the back end of the project. Car sales (3 total), storage, remediation, pre-cleanup, @shopkuzakscloset listings, and an estate liquidation. I always have a lot to juggle that no one sees and many don’t appreciate but for this project it was a treat to partner up with a very organized and professional real estate agent, Jeff Stricker, to help check off everything on the estate to-do list.
The next project that makes the highlight list was an estate liquidation in Menlo Park. It’s a highlight only because it took MUCH longer than expected. We use the term “we are in the weeds” at Kuzak’s Closet when a project has no end in sight and we knew early in the day that we were in the weeds on this one. Yep, not every project goes to plan. It was a two story house which always slows us down, it was a rainy day, and the attic could’ve been considered a separate estate. Kevin spent most of the day excavating and organizing the contents of the attic to be hauled post sale, Save and Billy loaded and unloaded our trucks, John and Antonio loaded shopper trucks, and the rest of us got our steps in going up and down stairs. The only radio station that came in was a 90s rap station so I was in my hay day and John and Antonio had a few good laughs when they realized I knew all of the words to my favorite songs from yester-year.
We ran out of room in our trucks around 7pm and with the dump and the donation sites closed I had to call it a day. I let the client know we would need to come back for a second day to clear the garage and the side yard which was tough for me, I’m typically right on schedule and I’ve only had to let a client know of an extension 2-3 times over the last 15 years.
John and Save came back on the second day to continue to load the trash and ended up processing two more loads or trash in the rain. While pulling the items around the side of the house from the back John fell in the pool, something I wish I could’ve been there for. Poor guy!
Summit Wood Road, wowza what a project! When I met this client for the initial consultation I walked in and instantly knew it would be an amazing estate sale. Unfortunately due to the lack of parking that just wasn’t an option. Our requirements for an estate sale are $30k+ worth of merchandise, parking for 200 cars, and availability on our schedule which is typically 2-3 months out.
With the estate sale option off the table our private liquidation service was the next best option. I knew it would be important to showcase the house a bit to help tell the story of the amazing treasures inside. Our client was a long time collector of artwork and antiques. He and his partner traveled to Greece annually and hosted many of their favorite artists from Greece in their home for pop up gallery events over the years. The unique layout of the home paired with the blue and white color scheme gave the feel of being on a cruise ship.
The artwork was superb! I especially loved this woman and kicked off the private liquidation sale on Instagram @shopkuzakscloset with her in the stories.
Here is a taste of the listings from this amazing project. For those shoppers who made a purchase on @shopkuzakscloset and were able to pick up and shop at this magical estate they were so tickled to be able to see it in person. For those who weren’t able to come I created a house tour on the Kuzak’s Closet instagram stories which was equally appreciated.
Loading, loading, loading!
Another empty estate!
Our first estate sale of the year was bitter sweet because it was the cute and cozy home of a friend and shopper. Terry passed away over the holidays and when her family asked me to curate a sale I couldn’t say no. My goal was to organize Terri’s dream sale and let all of her shabby chic treasures shine in the marketing and find their next happy home.
Terry started with shopping with Kuzak’s Closet at our Castle estate sale and was a loyal shopper ever since. She often wrote funny emails, always commented on social media, and encouraged me to go to the beach as see the ocean as much as possible. She will be missed by so many and I’m lucky she could be a light in my life for the last 8 years.
It was nice to see so many of the items that she bought from Kuzak’s Closet go home with shoppers a second time around.
The next project in my highlight list is our Sunnyvale “Rats” estate for obvious reasons. Rats! I love a down and dirty estate and I’m so glad our clients chose to work with us vs. a lower cost alternative that would just trashed the entire place. I am passionate about hand processing estates because of what is uncovered through the process and the level of dignity it can add to a project where a client isn’t there to speak for him/herself.
I know what you are thinking. What does it matter if it gets put in your trash truck vs. a dumpster? Why do you care if it gets shoveled out the door vs. sorted and processed? I like to know with certainty that there will be no lingering questions or thoughts wondering what was uncovered. Were there important documents in the office? Was there cash in the freezer? I like to be able to give a positive yes or no answer. I also like to pass on treasures to the family from their wishlists and to new owners through resale or donation.
We were greeted by the real estate agent who yelled from the front door upon our arrival “I didn’t know this was a hoarder’s house!” If you ever want to see me move fast just mention the word hoarder! I sprinted up the sidewalk!
Here are a few before photos…
We suited up with protective gear and dug in. We started with the living room so that we could clear space for additional sorting, piles for the family to review, and an area for shoppers to pick up their @shopkuzakscloset purchases.
Through the sorting process we were able to clean up and sell 20-30 items on @shopkuzakscloset. Below is a peek at what we were able to uncover…
Billy in protective gear cracks me up. He is so cute, always asks” are we going to the moon today?”
Seeing this vintage stove go home with a happy shopper made the whole project worth it. I’m SO GLAD this didn’t end up in a scrap metal pile or worse the dump! What a beauty!
My workers compensation policy was up for renewal when we were organizing this project and they were NOT impressed with the “enter at your own risk” sign on the Kuzak’s Closet Instagram feed. Oh well, it’s what we do everyday so if I’ve gotta pay a high premium for that it’s better that I’m covered.
We vacuum and sweep each estate at the end of the project and Antonio the VP of the vacuum department. It might seem like a waste of time considering the old crusty carpet is often ripped out by the real estate team the day after we are done but it’s therapeutic and I like that it leave the estate “happy” again.
What a crew!
By now you are getting an understanding of just how busy January was. In total we completed 2 estate liquidations, 7 private liquidations, one estate sale, 5 car sales, and 20 consultations.
Yep, somehow I found time to meet with 20 families with everything else going on. One of those consultations was with a family who needed help with mega estate project in Naglee Park…
When I took a look at this project I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve seen packed estates before, sure. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen a packed estate with so many interesting items and value. My bid for the project was a bit unconventional so I was surprised when the family called me in February to commit to hiring us for the project. I’ll cover more on this project later on in this post.
It’s no surprise that we ended January with colds and respiratory infections. On our last project of the month was a private liquidation in Atherton and I added a few extras to my typical morning grocery store visit to help us great through it. At one point during the day we all did a shot DayQuil, it was pretty comical.
Another empty estate, our last for January 2019.
We kicked off February with our Lovely Los Gatos estate sale. It was a gorgeous project in a neat old house just a few blocks from downtown. My entire team loves estate sales because we have longer days together organizing the items vs. processing items for trash and donation. They enjoy the transformation process and then the sale process when shoppers and come in and appreciate our efforts and the client’s collections.
Ryan Gowdy was the real estate agent on this project, he is one of my best friends and he also has a great eye for knowing which service we will be able to offer because of value/timing/location. For this project he knew it would be an estate sale and he was right. He promised the family an estate sale with us during his interview process for the listing (risky move with our busy schwedule) but it all worked out. There were so many fun things at this house that reminded me of my grandparents house in Michigan. The client was a gem to work with and it was fun to see shoppers enjoy it all.
I had to snap this photo on the morning of our second day just because it made me so happy to see everyone that works at Kuzak’s Closet enjoy each other’s company. On this day Sarah, Hope, and Kevin had a few minutes to enjoy their coffee and have some laughs before we opened. Our days can be long and stressful and we get through it all because of each other and the friendships that have formed over the years.
Those friendships are what make it seem like a well oiled machine because we all work together, delegate, and respect each other’s area of expertise.
That’s a wrap, another empty estate!
In my estate highlights from Q4 I mentioned a project that I hoped we would have the opportunity to organized, the “organized hoarder” and lucky for us we got the job. It was a two-tiered project starting with an estate inventory for probate.
We spent two days sorting likes with likes and building a list of items by room.
You guessed it, the list was long!
One of our main goals was to find a trust or a will so the estate could get out of probate but we had no luck. Our client was a very organized electrical engineer so it was surprising that he didn’t have a system set up considering he had so many other systems in place. Check out this surveillance system, it covers the entire property!
My parents came to visit in February so I opted to take advantage of the extra hands and put them to work for a day. They had to help me gather additional information for the “organized hoarder” project mentioned above in the same day that they helped me measure furniture for @shopkuzakscloset listings from a neat and tidy Los Altos estate. My dad couldn’t believe the difference in the two estates and was really interested in how the billing and scope of work for each project differed but was also similar. After this visit I think he finally understands what it is that I do.
The private liquidation services for our Hacienda project included packing up items that the client marked to keep and hire and manage a moving company that could put the items into storage. I spoke with our client over the phone on a few occasions but didn’t meet him in person until the project was completed. That happens more often than you think.
The furniture at the estate was totally my style. I absolutely loved this plaid sectional! I was glad we were able to get it sold and off to a happy new home! I even offered delivery to ensure it would have a second life.
Here is a glance at a few of the other items sold at this estate on @shopkuzakscloset. This is the style that I call “ready to wear” because it’s ready to go right into your home.
We wrapped up Hacienda on my birthday and opted to celebrate a bit after work which was well deserved. It was our first sunny day in weeks so we all enjoyed the sunshine over margaritas on the patio at Fiesta Vallarta in Los Altos. How many margaritas? What happens at FV stays at FV!
The next project in my highlight list was a little Hansel and Gretel house. I loved the character of this little estate, our client’s daughter called her mother “the Lolita of the senior set” and she was right on. Her mother’s last wish was not to have a traditional estate sale with shoppers milling about her house so our private liquidation service was the perfect fit. Over the course of two days the estate went from full of character…
To neutral and ready for a new buyer…
We sold this blue Caddy in February and it is hands down my favorite car that we’ve sold so far this year. Our client had the tiniest garage in Sunnyvale and somehow he managed to fit this inside. It was in flawless condition, the paint was great, the body was great, and the blue interior was also great.
It floated down the freeway when I picked it up and I instantly called my husband to try to talk him into trading his Audi in for it. He didn’t agree to my plan so in the end it was sold to the highest bidder, a local high school student who was snagging it for his first car. Talk about a DREAM! I would have loved to have this car as my first car! His mom is from Michigan and went to Albion College, Go Brits! His dad is a regular shopper who has since told me that the car is a hit with his son’s friends, gotta love that!
That rounds out February. In total we completed only 1 estate liquidation with shoppers, 5 private liquidations, 1 estate sale, sold 2 cars, and met with 16 families for consultations.
With the lack of estate liquidations for our email list in February it’s no surprise that shoppers came out in droves for our first estate liquidation kicking off the month of March.
Kuzak’s Closet estate liquidation shoppers are die hards, look at that line!
Remember that Naglee Park project that I mentioned in the January section? Well, we started to organize that estate in early March. Typically we are able to organize an estate for an estate sale in 1-2 days and this project took us three weeks. In addition to the main house we sorted and merchandised items from the basement, yard, garage, and brought in items from the families off site storage. I had large team work days scheduled in the beginning, the middle, and the end with Hope and Sarah working independently in between. This is an action shot from Day 1.
We organized quite a few estates between the start of the Naglee Park estate sale setup to the actual estate sale.
This beautiful craftsman estate in Mountain View that we processed as a private liquidation was a highlight for sure. It was a stunning house that I originally looked at in October of 2018. Because of the change in our real estate market it sat for a few months before being picked up by a new real estate agent with a price drop and finally sold.
The estate was packed with Stickley Furniture and other custom made craftsman pieces. It’s still amazing to me that the new owners didn’t opt to buy it all with the house. It’s kinda like peanut butter and jelly, it just goes together.
Goodbye gorgeous dining room table!
It was also a memorable project because we were able to fit it into the schedule with another Mountain View condo, liquidating the pair of projects in one day. March always has tricky timing like that because of escrow and closing dates from February listings. I’d like to say I’m used to it at this point but it still gets to be stressful to fit it all in. Luckily the two estates were just a mile apart so the staff could divide and conquer.
Our private liquidation on Fairway in Los Altos was a favorite because it’s in walking distance of my house. I’d like to say I walked there but with my typical day bouncing between projects it wasn’t possible. It’s a beautiful estate that looks out onto the 11th hole of the Los Altos Country Club. We had a tight schedule to fit into between the client’s move and the real estate team coming in to paint and we made it work. The estate featured a three car garage, two levels, a movie theater, a wine cellar, a home gym, and a pool. Shoppers picking up items from @shopkuzakscloset enjoyed the tour indeed!
Wowza! Another empty estate!
We had an estate sale in San Mateo pop up quite quickly on our schedule so it took some juggling to make it work but I’m glad we did. It was a beautiful estate located right on the boarder of Hillsborough and San Mateo with way too many beautiful antiques to count. Our client and her late husband loved the phrase “we’ll always have Paris” and the estate featured a huge French poster collection, french signs and antique collectibles, and so much more.
We had the nicest group of shoppers come through the sale over the course of two days. They were lined up to shop per usual. I was actually at the estate the night before, arriving at 7pm to do some final pricing and there were already two shoppers camping out. Unreal!
The driveway was a non-stop loading zone for shoppers. The printers cabinet in this truck was one of my favorite pieces at the estate.
Move it out!
A shopper wanted to buy the painting above the doorway and all of a sudden teamwork was in motion. Haleigh, smiling in the photo, is our newest team member so you may have noticed her face at projects over the last few weeks. She started in early March and will be working as an estate specialist helping with liquidation projects, sales, and packing projects. She job shadowed at the Rats! project and the organized hoarder inventory so she knew what she was signing up for. If you see her at a sale tell her congrats on joining the team!
Ok, now back to Naglee Park. What a beast of a project. When we met the family for the initial consultation my pitch wasn’t to have an estate sale, it was to host an event. Our estate sales seem like events anyway but this one needed to have special elements like extended shopping time, creative marketing, and alternative hours. With a project of this size it’s important to maintain a level of organization, interest, and appeal so that shoppers from all over the Bay Area will be drawn into the sale day after day.
The neighborhood where the sale was located was in a restricted parking zone, with no parking allowed between 9am-1pm due to the proximity to San Jose State. With this in mind I opted to open the sale at 2pm on a Thursday and continue the sale through Sunday.
With our three week lead time on organizing the project I was able to take the estate marketing photos a week prior to opening up the sale, allowing for the marketing to kick off on a Monday vs. the normal Wednesday launch. I added a top 10 blog post from this project to the marketing to-dos and it really helped shoppers start to think about their top 10 items from an overwhelming 350+ photos on the blog.
For this project we templated every room, transforming them into shopping zones with the flow of shoppers in mind. We also cleared the landscaping from the backyard, brought in tents, and created paths for shoppers to shop outside and in the workshop.
The entire house was transformed and brought to life. Here is a look at the transformation…
We didn’t release the address until 10am on the day of the sale to curb shoppers from camping out overnight for a spot in line. I was hoping this tactic would also buy us as a staff some time to have a morning meeting without interruption from shoppers/list management but I was wrong. When I pulled up to the estate at 9am there was already a list with 20+ shoppers and a lawn full of people. I hate to get involved in the list because it’s like managing a first grade classroom. While I wanted to rip it up and wait for the address to go out at 10am I opted not to get involved and leave it the way it was. The unfortunate thing was when shoppers who patiently waited for the address arrived at 10:05am and there were number 41+ on the list. If you are one of those people I apologized in person at the sale and I’m apologizing again now.
I was planning to do a silent auction in the hold area on driveway of the estate starting at 12:30pm but with the mob of people waiting for the sale to open I opted to change plans and bring 12 items out onto the front lawn one at a time for shoppers to make a sealed silent bid on. Items were from my Top 10 list and favorites of Hope and Sarah’s.
The bids were sealed and put in a fishbowl and calculated before the next item came out so that shoppers would know who the winner was and how much money they had left in their budget.
It was fun to watch for many and a good way to keep shoppers engaged before the line up began.
I flew Jordan (he worked with us for 5 years) in on Thursday to help with opening day at the estate sale. He lives in Los Angeles now and we wish he would come back to us full time! He helped cashier during the silent auction and managed the backyard during the sale.
At the close of the silent auction the list of 250 shoppers lined up around the block…
My goal was to get everyone who was in line when we opened into the sale by 4pm and we made it with room to spare. I hate to see shoppers lined up outside but it doesn’t do anyone any good to have too many shoppers inside the house at once or lined up to pay. I purposefully let in more shoppers than I normally would just to give shoppers a bit more pressure to make decisions, get a ticket for payment, load up and roll out. This is an action shot from the hold area 20 minutes into the sale, shopper piles grew and grew!
At the end of day 1 we had met my initial sales goal and were a happy relieved bunch!
The lines continued on day 2, day 3, and day 4 of the sale. Shoppers came back 4 and 5 times and by the end of the estate sale the estate was picked clean. It was amazing at how much we were able to move out of the house in just four days.
Seeing trunks like this loaded up with goodies day after day never got old.
And seeing huge pieces like this craft cabinet head out to a new house never got old either. There were so many interesting finds at this estate. You’d never believe it was only a two bedroom house!
The Youth: Jennalynn, Haleigh, and Aloi worked really well to manage the hold piles and keep the cashier station moving along. It’s fun to see them all have fun together, “makes me feel young again” to quote the mom from Mean Girls. Actually, it just makes me feel like the old crusty management, ha!
But they crack me up, especially Jennalynn who is always up to something. I asked her to take charge of lunch on the third day and she rolled up on a Lime scooter with bags of burritos, what a hoot!
At the end of the sale we broke down our supplies and loaded our trucks with tables, tents, etc. Everyone just wanted to take a seat for minute but the only seats left were in the trash truck and on the lawn. We all cracked a can to celebrate another successful project and decompressed with some laughs for a few hours.
Well, that wraps up March. In total we organized 3 estate liquidations, 5 private liquidations, sold 2 cars, and met with 7 families for consultations.
It was a busy quarter and so is Q2 which is why I’m behind in posting this. These quarterly highlights are fun for me to assemble and I hope you enjoy reading them as a happy shopper or as potential client wants to know more about the variety of our estate services. See you at the next sale!