Eaton's Estate Services: Transitioning with the times

BUSINESS. Owner Russ Eaton turned his business into a comprehensive home clean out service, after multiple clients asked him, "what do I do with the rest of the stuff?"

Aug 20 2019 | 01:26 PM

Russ Eaton has built Eaton's Estate Services into a booming business over the years. Based in Newton before moving to Andover, Eaton's is a home grown company with roots in the community and branches that reach around the world. As times have changed, Eaton's Estate Services now includes not only estate buying, purchasing gold, silver, art and furniture, but has found a huge niche in clean out services.

“We buy the lot,” Eaton said. “If you are moving, downsizing, getting divorced or married ask us for help. We purchase every day. Sooner or later you will need a service like Eaton's.”

The company's foundation is built on purchasing household inventory at competitive prices.

“ We are a full service company purchasing everything from investment grade antiques to grandma's coffee pot," he said.

It all started in 2001. While working for General Electric as a lead electrician, Eaton was responsible for the North American Satellite Earth Stations.

“At that time Jack Welsh was the CEO and the internet was in its infancy,” Eaton said. “A cleaning lady came into my office one night and could not wait to tell me that she just sold a juicing machine on ebay, that she took out of the garbage, for $400.”

Armed with this knowledge, and having each employee take an ebuisiness course, Eaton started a ebay business.

“Growing up, my mother was a private nurse, and had some very wealthy patients,” he said. “It was in their homes that my education began. The staff introduced me to art, furniture cut glass bronzes. It was like growing up in a museum. It was from 5 to 12 years old that I was schooled by the staff. Later in life it was like the perfect storm.”

In 2001 he started his internet business and later that year, Eaton opened his first store, before later moving it from Newton to Andover.

“The decision to open a store in Newton was easy,” he said. “There was cheap rent and loads of people at the time. It was the center of the county where people had to come when they needed doctors, lawyers, or government services.”

“Shortly after opening, I began to have problems with the town government,” he said. “I'm closed on Saturday for religious reasons, but I was the only retail business open on Sunday. I put a flag out so customers could see that I was open when they were leaving the theater. I received violation notices. I put a sign on a bicycle and parked it down the street, more violation notices. I put inventory on the sidewalk, more violations. On Sundays I would fill my dumpster, parked behind my store, and I received more violation notices. The Town Manager told me he did not want the lid left open, and actually had someone come in on Sunday several times to cite me. Amazingly dumpster lids were open all over town.”

The Township Manager is away and unavailable for comment on Eaton's statements about how he was treated by the town of Newton. Mayor Helen R. Le Frois said, "I am not familiar with the violations to which Mr. Eaton is referring, however the town is doing everything it can to make running a business in Newton a positive experience. To this end, we've merged our planning and zoning boards to streamline ordinances and are doing things to make it easier to operate a business. The retailers have it hard enough with all of the online ordering and big box stores. We aim to help them as much as we can."

As for home clean outs Eaton said, " “We are usually involved after a loss. Personal property holds memories of the loved one. We give the property the same respect that we would if it belonged to one of our loved ones.”

Clean out services has its moments: Eaton was once was asked for a home clean out price estimate that included a grand piano.

“I told her it was in the clean out price. She immediately wrote out a check. We later found that the piano was made of cement, painted black: It took two days to cut it up and remove it. You just never know.”

After years of operating the business as a buying service, some clients asked Eaton, “What do I do with the rest of the stuff?” One day, an older woman asked that same question and when Eaton said he didn't know what she should do with the rest, the woman cried. So Eaton told her he would clean out her entire home.

“I always say every home has some assets and some liabilities," he said. "The assets are that things we pay for, the liabilities and the items we charge to remove. We always give a credit for the assets.”

Eaton's Estate Services owns a 40-yard dumpster. (A yard is 3x3x3. They charge $1,299 to remove and legally dump 40 yards).

“Some national clean out companies charge $800 to remove 14 yards,” Eaton said, “And most clean out companies charge $2,000 to remove 40 yards. We are a private company and do not have to pay a franchise fee or pay for the dumpster. The average price for a 40-yard dumpster delivered to your property empty is $950, then you would have to fill it on your own.”

Over the years, Eaton has noticed people are leaving the Garden State.

“New Jersey is a wonderful state to live in, however most people realize it comes at a large price,” he said. "...New Jersey is the most moved out of State in the U.S....Welsh of GE once said 'fill the need and you will always be successful.' We will continue to fill the need in the form of appraisals, purchasing, and cleaning out.”

Eaton said he was called in to an estate in Connecticut which had a family member that used his company several years ago.

“They hired a competitive clean out service that was charging several thousand dollars to clean out their mother's home but after starting the project the executor began to feel uncomfortable,” Eaton said.

The homeowner's gut feeling that the clean out service was moving too hastily, turned out to be true.

“The home was filled with great art, statues and ephemera... We were able to find three signed letters from Thomas Edison among many other items.”

Eaton looks for the value in items and tells his customers: “There are three main forms of value; Value in use. 'I have a lamp and tonight I'm going to turn it on.' Value in place, 'I have a lamp and later tonight I will turn it on.' And value in trade, 'I'm going to sell that lamp.'”

We look for items that have a low value in use and a high value in trade.

For further information, call (973) 383-6937 or visit www.eatonsservice.com.