DOWNTOWN — Moving into a new house or apartment and want to use feng shui to add balance to the place? Want your pet pooch to feel stress-free and comfortable during the chaos? Oprah Winfrey’s dog trainer is available.

A little over a year ago, NorthStar Moving Company, co-founded by Santa Monicans Laura McHolm and Ram Katalan, started offering 21 luxury packages named after celebrities that range from pooch care to eco-friendly home cleaning.

The idea, said McHolm, was born out of listening to their clients and what they were going through when it came to relocating.

NorthStar Movers founders Laura McHolm and Ram Katalan. (Photo courtesy NorthStar Movers)

NorthStar Movers founders Laura McHolm and Ram Katalan. (Photos courtesy NorthStar Movers)

“We’ve always known moving is more than just taking a box from point A to point B,” McHolm, who is director of marketing, said. “It’s really moving a family and it’s a thousand details.”

She said NorthStar is the first company to look at luxury moving in an industry that is very “box centric.”

The company gives clients access to well-vetted people like Oprah’s dog trainer, who can come and get your dog acclimated to the new home or yard and give dog training tips.

The company, which formed in 1994, has more than 150 employees and was named the best place to work for the fourth consecutive year by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

Whether it’s down the street or across the country, moving is something people do at least once in their lives. Recent statistics show that number is increasing.

The nation’s overall mover rate increased from a record low of 11.6 percent in 2011 to 12 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That represented about 36.5 million people, the majority of which, or 64.4 percent, moved within the same county.

Most Californians moved to Texas, followed by Arizona and then Nevada, according to the 2011 American Community Survey estimates.

Providing luxury moving packages is a niche idea for a targeted market, said Kevin Miller, president of Santa Monica-based Westside Rentals. He said moving assistance, which is a service millions of American use every month of the year, can have a negative connotation as some report having had bad experiences.

NorthStar Movers, founded by two Santa Monicans, doesn't just move boxes.

NorthStar Movers, founded by two Santa Monicans, doesn’t just move boxes.

For Westside Rentals, the busy season is May through September when hundreds of college students are relocating for school and need a place to live. It’s also a time when the majority of renters have to either renew their lease or pack up.

Miller said it seems as though NorthStar is catering to a “high-end clientele.” Not everyone can afford to have a personal chef to cook meals. Most order a pizza.

Providing amenities like pet care is a “very cool concept,” Miller said.

“They’re thinking, ‘How do we position ourselves differently than other moving companies?’” Miller said. “(N)ow the big question is who’s going to follow? In six months to a year, is this the new way [of moving]? Is this going to become the norm?”

For NorthStar’s luxury packages, the prices are a la carte and based on the person’s needs. Clients pay the companies partnered up with NorthStar directly. McHolm and Katalan would not provide pricing information.

NorthStar averages 8,000 moves a year both locally and across the country. The most popular luxury package is the car moving service, Katalan said.

The key to successful moving is to have a plan and be prepared for everything, McHolm said.

“Our dedication is to our clients and our goal is to be their mover for life,” McHolm said.

Actress Kristy Swanson, most known for her role as Buffy in the movie “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” has been using NorthStar for the past decade and with its help moved eight times. As an actress, she said she travels constantly.

Last year, she moved three times and used celebrity dog trainer Tamar Geller so her dog wasn’t stressed out in the process. She also used a package to help organize the kitchen and office in her new home because she was in the middle of making a movie and didn’t have the time.

In addition to being an actor, she’s also a mother and a wife, so limiting stress and giving her more free time to spend with her family and on her career was critical.

When it came to prices for the luxury packages, Swanson said her family wouldn’t spend anything that was over the top or beyond their means.

“Moving isn’t cheap, it is an expense, there’s no doubt about that,” Swanson, who lives in Valencia, said. “What’s great about NorthStar is they’re really great about helping you budget and figuring out what’s important to you and what’s not important to you.”

 

ameera@smdp.com

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