As is typical in the fourth quarter, the Kuzak’s Closet team focus shifted heavily to residential organizing services due to the back-to-school and holiday demand. While our organizing schedule was packed, the estate calendar was also packed with everything from estate liquidations, complex private liquidations, and an estate sales. My tag line on Instagram at the end of each estate project is “another empty estate” and for these final three months I was able to post that 14 times. This brings the 2018 total to 97.
As part of the team’s professional development, this quarter included a trip to Petaluma, a town I’d wanted to visit for some time. Sarah, Taylor, and I enjoyed poking around collectives, soaking up pricing details, beautiful displays, and item identification. Our Petaluma adventure was a huge highlight for the three of us. After all, any trip that involved driving over the Golden Gate is always a highlight. I swear the air is different on the other side of that bridge.
Our first stop by Acre Coffee, a hipster coffee house recommended to us by Monica from Living in Vogue. The gluten free waffles and avocado toast were divine!
Once we were fueled up, we hit Petaluma Highway and popped into shop after shop. Our favorite three collectives from the day were..
Sienna was full of beautiful furniture, home decor, art, and so much more. I’m a furniture lover and if I had a larger house I could’ve gotten into some trouble here! It was nice to chat with dealers working in their spaces too!
Our next favorite stop was Chelsea Antiques. The displays were beautiful in this store and I loved the mix of primitive cabinets with industrial furniture. I bought a French block print for myself.
Antique Society is the final favorite on our list. It’s out of town in Sebastapol and well worth the drive. It reminded me of the antique collectives I often visited as a child with my grandparents. There is a cafe in the entrance, a must-stop so you can make sure to have the energy to walk all of the isles.
Almost all of our stops were recommended by Vince Bravo, an antique dealer and friend through Instagram. Thank you Vince!
Our first liquidation of in October was a private liquidation at this fantastic vintage estate.
It belonged to this handsome bachelor and we nicknamed the project “Captain Cool”. He kept a neat and tidy house and filled it with interesting treasures that our shoppers snagged on @shopkuzakscloset. Our method of private liquidations with shopping available on our Instagram shop has grown in popularity with families and shoppers. It effectively finds a new home for valuable items all while maintaining the privacy many families would prefer.
Aside from Captain Cool’s midcentury treasures being popular, so was his selection of wallpaper. This bamboo print was a favorite, lining the entry and the hallways.
And this metallic print was in the dining room. Each bathroom and bedroom featured a different paper which could’ve been a blog post in itself!
Much of October fell under the “divide and conquer” model with very few projects involving the entire team. On one occasion Hope, Sarah, and myself were on the East Bay visiting with a family for an estate consultation and on our way back we spotted Big Red on the freeway. He was coming back to San Jose from an organizing project in Fremont. With all of the cars on the road in Bay Area traffic is seemed very humorous and you can only imagine Billy’s face when he saw us waving at him!
Another favorite estate in October was in San Jose. The estate belonging to Ruby, had sat empty for almost a year. It was packed to the gills with clothing, fabric, paperwork, and furniture. The fiduciary called for help when he realized he couldn’t empty it on his own and I’m so glad he did! Ruby passed away just shy of her 100th birthday. She was born in Buford Texas and joined the military as a nurse just out of high school. It struck me of how brave she was to leave her tiny town to join the military and head off to war. What an inspiration!
Seeing her smack dab in the middle of this photo, as the only African American in the photo, and a female at that, is pretty neat. Ruby had no children to sort through the estate on her behalf so we did the best we could. We spent a day going through every drawer and pocket and uncovered over $3,500 in cash. We were able to find her will and trust for the fiduciary. We also cleared the clutter so that shoppers could come in an take a little piece of Ruby home with them.
The Uncles have been on the team for the last seven years and over the last year they have really been a solid foundation to our services as well as my personal well-being. With Billy having more health issues and Ese leaving the company this quarter, knowing that they always show up with smiles on their faces along with a can-do attitude really puts my mind at ease. They have taken over the process of leaving the estates “broom swept and empty” with their dual vacuuming and de-cobwebbing talents. Vacuuming might sound like a breeze but it also involves a lot of vacuum repairs and clogs. We go through at least one vacuum each week. Fun fact: vacuums like the carpet at their own homes but they don’t like to go to new homes. Yep, after almost 15 years in this business this is one of my top takeaways.
Along with Billy being sick and Ese leaving, another challenge has been Big Red’s overall health. I know what you are thinking, that junky truck needs to go to the dump and stay there. While I agree, she is Billy’s pride and joy. The transmission went out at the end of October and with Billy in and out of the hospital in November she didn’t make a return to work until December.
Another major cloud over October was the loss of my good friend John Rossi. We met through Kuzak’s Closet estate sales and became fast friends with our love of real estate and home remodeling. We often had coffee dates and I could expect an email from him in my inbox on the daily. He requested a meeting with me in October, he wanted me to review his friend’s estate. When I got the meeting I realized it wasn’t for a consult, it was to let me know he was ill. We enjoyed coffee and coconut donuts while reviewing the landscaping from my backyard. I told him I’d visit again the following week but just a few days after my visit I received a call that he was gone.
I still find myself looking out the window at estate liquidations around at 9:45am to see if John is coming in but then I’m reminded that he won’t be coming in anymore. He was very clever and funny and we will all miss him for a long time to come.
The end of October was filled with estate consultations, some that were completed this year, and others that will be completed at some point in the future. This estate is one that I put a bid on and I hope that we have the opportunity to organize and liquidate it in 2019. It’s a massive project that I estimated would take 10 days with the full Kuzak’s Closet team (the largest project we’ve completed to date took 5 days). I’m just waiting to get the green light from the family, fingers crossed!
The entire home, porch, driveway, basement, guest house, and back yard are packed!
Estates like this one were taken off the market as the holidays grew closer. They will be relisted and hopefully sold in 2019. There is a lot of waiting in this business but the key to the success of Kuzak’s Closet is that we are always ready to dig in and get to work once we get the green light! Families and real estate agents love us for that!
November was when we took over Almaden Valley! We had two large estate liquidation projects on the Country Club, both sprawling ranch homes with vintage goodies inside. When the streets look like this at 7am you know a Kuzak’s Closet estate liquidation is going to open at 9am!
Military Al continued to keep us on our toes in November. He isn’t online so it’s amazing that he is able to keep up with all of the Kuzak’s Closet action. I guess it’s a compliment to his personality that he has friends on the email list that keep him in the loop.
With these estates on the country club I was reminded that I hadn’t been golfing as much as I needed to!
I mean, nothing reminds you that you need to golf like The Long Cypress! Many of the treasures from these estates sold on @shopkuzakscloset before the liquidation shoppers came into shop. Families really love this model because they feel like they get to be apart of the liquidation by watching the sales online.
Between Almaden estates we liquidated a few on the Peninsula, including this fun Menlo Park estate. It was personally fun for me because we were able to work with Paul Newman, a real estate agent who hired me for one of our first private liquidations back in 2010 in Alameda. Repeat business is always the greatest compliment!
Sarah, Hope, and I listed items on @shopkuzakscloset and buyer pickups started at 11am. The estate was bumping with buyers picking up and shopping for additional treasures all day long!
Another empty estate indeed!
Billy was hospitalized in November for 4 days so everyone had to pitch in to process items for donation and trash, even Chris Kuzak! He often invites me to his office, he works at Google so it’s always a treat to snag a free lunch and one of the fancy juices from the juice bar. We don’t have fancy benefits like that at Kuzak’s Closet but we do have a little thing called “life skills” which involves talking to customers, packing boxes, and unloading trash at the dump. I’d say it’s a fair trade!
The consultations in November led me over the rivers and through the woods if you know what I mean. I spend so much time in my car these days meeting with people. I did a calculation on the calendar and so far in 2018 I’ve met with 178 families for estate consultations. 174! With the volume of empty estates completed this year that is a 54% close rate booking a service that matches their goals. I should go back into the 2017 calendar to compare the numbers because I felt like I met with more families than ever this year. I think that is due to the growth of Kuzak’s Closet brand recognition with professional partners like lawyers and real estate agents and word of mouth marketing from our estate shoppers.
I met one of my favorite client’s from the quarter when she happened to stop by one of our organizing sessions the day before, she was delivering lunch to our client. She had sold her house and didn’t know how she was going to get it emptied by the deadline, just two weeks away. I was able to fit in a consultation the next day and she booked the service on the spot.
As I left the consultation I couldn’t help but think, this is exactly why our liquidation services were created. Short timeline, no problem! No parking, no problem! Her stress was instantly relieved when I explained how we could help. Her project turned into one of the highlights in December so keep reading…
We capped off November with our second Almaden Valley estate. It was a rainy day and no one was complaining about it because the rain helped the smoke from the Camp Fire disappear.
Shoppers were happy to get out of their homes after being cooped up for a few weeks with the smoke. Just as the shoppers started the line up, the power at the estate turned off and remained off until 1pm that day.
It turned into an estate liquidation in the dark and I think shoppers loved the thrill of the hunt even more! Flashlights were out and bags were filled!
In addition to the traditional estate liquidation services we also included removing the window treatments, carpeting, back shed, and the conversion of this storage room back into a garage.
Uncle Kevin took the lead on this and within the matter of two hours this converted garage looked like a garage again.
These smiles are a refreshing sight! Aloi has been Billy’s “sidekick” this year to make sure he is following the rules his doctors set for him. The bad news, he breaks most of the rules. The good news, she and the rest of the gang are here to drive him to the hospital. At the end of November he decided to be stubborn and come to work when he was supposed to be at home and Sarah had to call 911 to rush him to the hospital after he couldn’t breath. It was a bit scary for the team for sure. I was in the middle of a consultation in Atherton when Sarah texted me to get to the project ASAP. By the the time I got there he was already at the hospital and he stayed for a few days so they could monitor his heart and his breathing. He will hopefully make some health changes and rest more in 2019, if not Aloi and I will have another tough year trying to keep tabs on him!
So far this quarter you should now understand why we drink so much coffee!
On to December! Somehow we always manage to have an estate sale around the holidays. This year we had a fabulous estate in Los Altos Hills that was home to Clyde and Lois Noel. Clyde passed away most recently and you can read more about his interesting life here. He and Lois had a wonderful happy home full of artwork, books, and vintage delights.
We nicknamed it the “Happy Holidays” estate sale and it was so nice to see our loyal shoppers one more time before the end of the year.
Just before we opened the doors I popped out through the side door in the garage to see how many shoppers we had lined up. We had a great crowd on Friday and Saturday with lots of fun catching up with shoppers both days.
At the end of day one I was rewarded with happy hour at the Los Altos Country Club with my friend Robertta who I met through Kuzak’s Closet estate sales. I didn’t realize how badly I needed a margarita until I sat down, it was a treat!
On the end of day two I was rewarded with another empty estate! The marketing and pricing model that I’ve always used really does the trick and our customer service is the icing on the cake for most shoppers!
The finale of the year was this MEGA estate in Woodside, it’s the one I mentioned earlier in the November section. This monster of a home featured over 6,000 square feet in the main house plus a full basement with a gym, a 4 car garage with an apartment up above, a pool house, a guest house, another 4 car garage. Our clients divided the items they wanted to keep between homes in San Francisco and Carmel and the rest was liquidated through @shopkuzakscloset.
The listings started popping up at 11am and the estate was sold out by the following morning. Beautiful antiques were mixed in with modern furnishings from stores like Restoration Hardware and Serena and Lily. It was a hit!
These bar stools were my favorite item that we sold! Our client is a designer and he designed these for the pool house with inspiration from his Montana cabin. So cool!
The guys were really busy loading up @shopkuzakscloset pickups on the second day and before we knew it, the estate was empty!
What a project!
We celebrated our year of hard work with a holiday party at Pompeii in Los Altos at the end of December. It was a fun event, filled with good wine, great food, and lots of laughs.
I typically organize a game for us to play, sometimes it involves Kuzak’s Closet trivia, other times it involves drawing a number and opening a gift. This year I changed it up a bit and wrapped up 20 gifts that could be opened with the luck of the dice. If you threw a double you could open, if not you were skipped. Inside the boxes were items like a lunch cooler, whiskey, cash, free vacation days, lotto tickets, and more.
Gifts were wrapped with red trucks to honor Big Red!
Shirley was our honorary guest. She always sneaks into our holiday events and we love it. We love her! If you’ve never met Shirley, you can find her at the end of an estate liquidation, once the crowds are gone she always brings us coffee and snacks. Shirley was lucky at the party and got to open 3 gifts.
The rest of the gifts were seemed to go home with just the right person. It’s funny how that happens!
The holiday party is also when Hope presents me the vessel from the year. She collects “a little something” from each estate and drops it in a vessel and the collection builds all year long. It’s such a special gift for me and for the rest of the team. I have a vessel from the last 4 years that Hope has worked at Kuzak’s Closet and they happily sit on a shelf our office smiling at me while I’m there working. Hope always says “look at how many people you helped this year” and it’s really touching, we really do have the opportunity to help so many people at Kuzak’s Closet.
The rest of December was packed with consultations with families wanting to liquidate in January. The tricky thing is that our calendar is already packed in January so it’s going to be a juggling act to fit it all in. The week before Christmas I met with 9 families which if that is a sign for things to come, 2019 is going to be another busy year!
My favorite project on the horizon is a probate estate that has the term “organized hoarder” written all over it.
There are many interesting components to this one so I hope the court approves our bid!
Another exciting project on the horizon is this cute Los Gatos estate full of French antiques scheduled for an estate sale the first weekend of February.
Enjoy your holiday break, get rested and refreshed and we will see you at our first estate liquidation of 2019 on January 8th in Foster City!