House calls ring a bell

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 9, 2012 - 6:33 PM

A handful of service providers save clients time by going mobile with a house call.

Chalk up another trend to the boomers.

Researchers and demographers say that a low tolerance for waiting and a high desire for convenience from older consumers will push more businesses and entrepreneurs to come a knockin'.

That means everything from auto mechanics to computer repair people to dog groomers will be figuring out how to reach customers, especially those baby boomers, in their homes.

The Amazon model, for example, is a twist on home delivery by centralizing a warehouse, keeping prices low, and sending packages directly to customers' homes, said George John, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

That's for goods. Services aren't far behind.

John said he expects that the aging of baby boomers may move the pendulum back to businesses making service calls. (Remember the milkman?) "As people become less mobile, there will be more house calls," he said.

LaRhae Knatterud, director of aging transformation at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, agrees that house calls may thrive again as boomers' health declines. "As they have trouble driving, the need for convenience may come back," she said. "Boomers don't want to depend on anyone to drive them to these services."

The frazzle factor also has younger customers hoping for a home-based solution. Massage therapist David Huset said most of his clients asking for home visits are looking for convenience. "It's busy people with small kids who throw in a 'Thomas the Tank Engine' DVD while I massage a messed-up shoulder," he said.

For LeShaing Hawthorne of Brooklyn Park, using a mobile dog groomer for her Yorkie mix saves a couple of hours in a busy day. It's also less stressful for her dog. "She doesn't come home freaked out anymore," said Hawthorne. Best of all, the price ($65 to $95, depending on the size of the dog) is in line with bricks-and-mortar stores.

Other businesses can't say the same. St. Anthony Mobile will come to a customer's home to fix a car that won't start or repair a tire, said manager Aaron Pratt. Still, the $50 service fee deters many customers. "We only make a couple of house calls per month," he said.

For now, most businesses still want us to come to them. Minneapolis only requires a few service providers, such as auto glass repair, pet groomers and auto mechanics, to have licenses, but there hasn't been an uptick in the number of businesses requesting those, said Grant Wilson, manager of the license division at the city.

"We had one or two pet groomers get licenses last year, but none this year," he said.

It never hurts to ask a current service provider if it does house calls. Here's a sampling of businesses that are already making the rounds.

Auto detailing

Mobile Carwash Inc. (952-746-1386, www.mobilecarwash inc.com). Mobile will come to your home for auto detailing. Prices range from $140 to $280, depending on the size of the vehicle. Oil changes are also an option.

TV repair

East Lake TV (612-722-8085, www.eastlaketv.com). Maybe it's an old console TV that no one wants to load in the back of the pickup. Maybe it's a 60-inch flat screen that's bolted to the wall. Either way, East Lake will come to the home or business and repair it on the spot, if possible. If not, it's possible to remove just the power supply or video module to take back to the shop, not the whole unit, said owner Doug Mamer. Home visits cost $40, many of which are to fix an "operator error" blue screen rather than a part malfunction, Mamer said.

Geek Squad (1-800-433-5778 or www.geeksquad.com) also repairs electronics, computers and some appliances.

Computer repair

Alex Audio Video and Computer Service (763-533-5377, www.alexav.com). Many customers might be able to be helped over the phone, avoiding the $95 service call, said owner Sara Samuels. Besides computers, Alex will also repair audio video equipment.

Doctors and nurses

Start by asking your regular doctor about physicians or nurse practitioners who make house calls. Most health care professionals offer their home visits only to those who are homebound and in need of geriatric care.

HCMC Home Visit Program (612-873-2723). For geriatric patients in Hennepin County.

Specializedmedicalresponse .com (763-202-1447). For medical house calls and preventive care for any age.

North Clinic Geriatric Services (763-587-7737). Three physicians do home-care visits for qualified homebound seniors in the metro area. Most of the patients will need a doctor's referral.

Auto mechanics

St. Anthony Mobile (612-789-5148, www.stanthonymobile .com). When busy two-car families with one car out of commission can't make it to the station, St. Anthony Mobile comes to them for $50. It's not for major repairs like a timing belt, said manager Aaron Pratt, but problems with tires, batteries and starters are fair game.

Massage therapists

When you find a massage therapist you like, ask about home visits. Many of them will consider it, said David Huset, who has been doing house calls since he graduated from massage school in 2005. "I can do full body massages on a chair without having the client get undressed," he said.

David Huset (612-978-1490 or davidhuset@gmail.com). Fee: $1.50 per minute.

Jeanne Ward (jwardhealingarts@gmail.com). Fee: $100 for 70 minutes, including travel time, throughout the metro area.

Dog groomers

There are nearly a dozen mobile dog groomers in the Twin Cities, said Tory Tate of Willow's Dog Wash Mobile Grooming in Champlin, but a lot of people still don't know they exist. For a more complete list, do an online search for dog groomers in your area.

Willow's Dog Wash (763-273-6899, www. willows dogwash.com)

Cutting Edge Mobile Grooming (651-334-5704,www.cuttingedgegroom.com)

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633 or jewoldt@startribune.com.

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