November 1, 2014
The Dutiful Daughter has announced plans to expand its operations from Connecticut into the Commonweath of Massachusetts. There is a need across the country to help our population with de-cluttering and downsizing.
Manchester Life, September 10, 2010
Most people who have been through the process rate moving yourself or cleaning out a home of an elderly relative on the low end of the happiness scale. That’s one reason why The Dutiful Daughter has been such a success for the Wlochowski family: founder and mother Jane Wlochowski and her co-owner, son Aaron, plus husband Michael and elder son Jason.
The company not only helps people move out of their homes, it arranges for disposal of furniture and other contents. The Dutiful Daughter gets a lot of referrals from estate lawyers, retirement communities, real estate agents and satisfied clients.
"Other people do what we do, but I think what sets us apart is customer service," Ms. Wlochowski said. "Each person is treated differently. We don’t lump them in categories. Something that might normally take 15 minutes we’ll spend two hours with the person to make sure they understand. We give them four or five options on how to proceed with emptying the house or moving. Then they tell us what they want us to do, whether it’s moving, to cleaning to painting. It’s like one-stop shopping."
The company offers a menu of services: removal of contents of household and other moving services, sale of contents of household, cleaning of household to prepare for sale, estate sale or tag sale organization and operation, and home improvement (carpentry, painting, etc.). All houses are custom priced based on square footage, amount of contents and conditions of the home.
Prices start at a $400 minimum charge. A sampling of other charges shows it costs $135 to have the firm change a lock, $295 to winterize a home and $250 to clean out a basement. Then there are law firms that sometimes call on The Dutiful Daughter to handle a complex estate matter, a job that can take weeks and costs thousands of dollars, Aaron Wlochowski said.
"We screen all of our auctioneers, buyers and contractors," Ms. Wlochowski said. "If we deal with people who are disreputable, that reflects back on us. And I always ask for feedback. If we recommend somebody and they don’t treat a client properly, we’re never going to recommend them again."
The screening included a friend who has started working for the firm on a contract basis. He is the first non-family member to help.
"We want to make sure that anyone who is working with us is working the same way with the same integrity and is doing the exact same thing we do," said Aaron Wlochowski. The Dutiful Daughter has gotten so busy recently that they have brought on another person as a contract employee.
"We watched him work. We tested him," said Ms. Wlochowski. "We set something up inside a house that might be valuable, some money. He found it and came right to us and he passed with flying colors. But we did it again at another work site, because it’s our reputation."
"When we bring things to an auctioneer, if it’s someone new, I stick something in that is really valuable." Ms. Wlochowski said, "to see if he will say, ‘Here, you want to sell this separately.’ It makes you feel better than when somebody takes a box lot, takes the good thing out, which has happened, and keep it. You’ve got to do your homework and test these people for your clients."
"It’s about trust," said Aaron Wlochowski. "The clients are entrusting us to go out there and maximize the revenue from what they have." The Wlochowski’s also check out antique shops and shows so they know what is popular and selling at what prices. "We bring stuff to an auctioneer in Rhode Island because he does well for certain items and we know we can do better for our clients," said Aaron Wlochowski.
Another way The Dutiful Daughter sometimes helps clients is instead of an estate or tag sale, and the costly staffing of the sale for a day, buyers are brought in to bid on items in a house. "This actually is less money for us," he said, "but it’s better for the client."
"And they get 100 percent of the income," said Ms. Wlochowski.
"She calls it The Dutiful Daughter," said Aaron Wlochowski, "but she only has sons. But for most of our clients, it’s a name that resonates."
Ms. Wlochowski said she got the company name when she and a crew of 10 were working on cleaning out a cellar at a 14-room home in Hartford. A neighbor asked if she was the daughter of the house owner. When she said "No. I’m doing it for a friend," The neighbor said "You’ve got to be crazy, only a dutiful daughter would do this."
Ms. Wlochowski got into her special activity indirectly when she was working for a Manchester law firm that mostly handled estates. If the deceased had no family or if the family lived out of town, she was often asked by the firm’s lawyers to clean out a house and hold a tag sale.
"That’s how I kind of got started back in the ‘70’s. Then friends asked me to do this for them, and then friends of friends. It was part time. So, from the 70’s until last year it was basically word of mouth. Friends would tell friends and then, because we did a lot of moving people into retirement communities, the retirement communities started to contact us because they liked the way we move people in. We were efficient; we didn’t disturb clients who were already living in the facility. So, now we do a lot of work for retirement communities."
From the start, the firm has had a steady flow of people moving out of homes into over 55 communities, assisted living facilities and other retirement facilities. The Wlochowskis expect that aspect of the business will grow as more baby boomers reach retirement age. "Sometimes a lady or gentleman, they just need someone to sit there and talk with them. We took four months to move a gentleman into Duncaster, but he wasn’t ready and we understood that. We wanted to go at his pace," said Aaron Wlochowski.
Another resident of Duncaster in Bloomfield, Joan Kohn, was moved into the facility by The Dutiful Daughter two months ago. "I can’t tell you how impressed I am with that family. They bring honesty, and caring." She was moved out of a big house in West Hartford where she had lived 21 years. Ms. Kohn said the company helped her give some items to charity, other items were auctioned and a few items were discarded. "They did whatever I asked them to do with great expertise and a wonderful attitude. They left the house so clean that the new owners were very pleased."
Real estate agents tell Ms. Wlochowski, "Oh, you did so-and-so’s home. Can you help my client? So it’s still a lot of word of mouth. We just did a job six months ago where the lady was so pleased that she recommended us to all her friends who were moving and we got six more jobs," Ms. Wlochowski said.
Realtor Andrea Ladd, who covers the Hartford area out of her Newington office, said of the firm, "My clients have been very happy with them. They’re sincere, very accommodating and understanding. They pretty much will do anything." Recently, Aaron Wlochowski said he has been making presentations about the company’s services to real estate agents organizations in hopes that they can recommend The Dutiful Daughter to their clients. "We give people a comfort level,” he said, “because no matter what, there’s an owner of the company, a family member, on the job."
The company tries to complete a job, even when the unexpected occurs. "My brother was at a house and the Salvation Army came by to pick up a couch," Mr. Wlochowski said. "But they wouldn’t take it because it was stained. So we took it out to a dump."
"So, it’s the little finishing touches," Ms. Wlochowski said. "Why nickel-and-dime people? If you can’t help people, shame on you. Often I’ll go to somebody’s house and all they really need is to make some phone calls to hook them up with the right people, so I’ll give them the numbers even when we don’t get the job."
The firm works mostly in the Greater Hartford area, Aaron Wlochowski said, although it has traveled to other parts of Connecticut and to Western Massachusetts and sometimes Boston.
"We’ve done Cape Cod, we’ve done Long Island, we’ve even done the Caribbean Islands," Ms. Wlochowski said.
"We were on vacation and someone was moving off island and they asked me to sell their home’s contents. And they were surprised by what they got from the sale."