Nicole Rondeau is a mover and a shaker. Well, a mover, at least! A Brandonite for the last 12 years, she’s the local franchise owner and very active operator of Transitions, a Western Canadian company that specializes in moving people and their possessions. She particularly enjoys working with seniors and has remained friends with many of her “oldies,” as she affectionately calls them, long after their relocations are complete. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Do you just move people in Brandon, or do you travel to the surrounding communities as well?
I have moved people into Brandon from pretty much every small town surrounding — Killarney, Miniota, Minnedosa, Rivers, Melita, Hamiota. I’ve moved people as far as the Maritimes and BC. I moved a woman with Alzheimer’s from here — her son called me from BC, asked me to move her. So I packed her up, got the truck loaded, shipped it off, drove her to the airport, put her on the plane, and he picked her up.
This whole thing is fascinating for me, because I know a lot of people who are at that point in life where a change of residence is in order. Are most of your clients elderly people who are downsizing, or do you do divorces and that sort of stuff, too?
I have done divorces, and it was a woman who called and she said, ‘My husband left me, so I am moving. And he’s paying for it, I’m not lifting a finger, so move me.’
And then I’ve moved military people who weren’t with the military anymore, but who had never packed up their own stuff, so they just wanted it done. But mostly it’s seniors.
And usually seniors who are downsizing?
Mostly that’s what it is — going from a house to a condo, or a smaller place or an apartment, or from an apartment going into Riverheights Terrace, or Lions Manor, or Victoria Landing.
When Victoria Landing first opened five years ago, that’s when I bought my franchise. And when Winnipeg started, they moved seven people their first year, so I thought I might have one. And I had 40 the first year.
You essentially do everything, right?
Yes, we walk in and we give you a free estimate. I’ll go in and I’ll tell you exactly what it’s going to cost, and that’s what it’s going to cost — it’s not going to vary, it’s not going to be different at the end — it is what it is.
Even if the actual move is years down the road?
Yes. So I go in, I do the estimate, I give them a quote. Then they can decide if they want to do it or not. So we go in, we take care of the utilities, read the meters — all of that stuff. We go through every cupboard, every closet, every item in the house, and determine whether they want to keep it, garbage it, donate it, sell it, or move it.
Once all of that’s done, on move day the truck will come, take the stuff, and by about four o’clock in the afternoon, we have them completely set up, pictures hung, everything. They walk in — they’re done.
Then we go back, we clean up the old place for the new owners or tenants. It’s all scrubbed down — fridge, stove, freezers — all washed. And then they just come in.
We also do estates. So if somebody passes away, and family isn’t here, we’ll just go in and either ship stuff, sell it, store it — whatever they want done.
For a bit extra, I understand you even help your clients with garage sales. Now those can be dusty places and you’re in there up to your armpits doing a million things. What appeals to you about that?
We don’t even think about it. It’s just fun doing it! It’s fun sorting all the stuff, and helping them make decisions. And seniors are SO interesting. They are! They’re interesting to talk to, they know a lot, they talk a lot — it’s a lot of fun. We have so much fun moving them!
When you say ‘we,’ does your husband help with the business, too?
No. My husband, Denis, is RCMP. So it’s my daughter, Devon, who is a manager at The Keg and who flies — she’s got her pilot’s license and she’s taking commercial — and a friend of mine, Sherry Cey. She works at Investors, but she works with me, too.
Have you ever moved anybody more than once? And is there a more popular time of the year to move? I imagine it’d be tough in winter.
There are a few people I’ve moved a couple of times. One woman, I’ve moved her four times.
And more people want to move in the winter than the summer. People usually just want to enjoy their summers here — they seem so short. A couple of years ago, we moved four people the week before Christmas. And one of them was from Carberry. So we had to hurry so much because all these people wanted to be moved for Christmas, and it was all last-minute stuff. And we did it.
You mentioned to me earlier that you find these moves exciting? Why are they exciting?
It’s so much fun. We just really love it. And my parents passed away — my mom went 26 years ago, and my dad, 35 years ago. And I have no seniors in my life — I have no grandparents, no nothing. So this is like a treat.
And we just try and make it fun, and take the stress off of them. They have no stress. All they have to do is tell us what they want done. Yes, no, keep, throw away — whatever.
Is it hard for people to make those decisions?
You know, mostly no. But even a lot of the people we move, some people have all their kids living in town, but the kids don’t want to have to deal with it. So sometimes it’s even all the kids pool together and hire us. And sometimes we don’t even see the people — they might be in the hospital and family will phone from out of town: ‘Can you go in and move them?’
I have no plans to move, but even the thought of doing so makes my skin crawl, because over the years, folks just seem to build up a lot of stuff, and I’m certainly guilty of that. And you mentioned people’s kids hiring you because they don’t want to be bothered with their parents’ move. So how do you manage to do it time and time and time again, when it’s something that so many people dread?
Well, I’m not attached to any of the items, for one thing. And we love the packing and so forth. It isn’t hard work — we don’t find it hard. And we pack as we go, and if we have access to the new place a week before move day, we bring all the stuff over, put all that stuff away, and then on move day, our truck comes in — we always work with the same company — so they come in, take the big stuff, go, and we’re there at the new home, and we just place everything. And if we don’t like it, we rearrange it. And when the people move in, usually they love what we’ve done, but if they don’t, we just move it around. And if they phone a month later and they want stuff moved around, we’ll move it around again. We just make sure they’re happy with the way everything is.
I took interior design when we lived in Montreal, so it’s easy to make the places look good when we set them up. We have had, when they see their places, people start crying. Because they can’t believe it’s their old stuff in their new place and it looks nice.
That’s like the most fun part — the decorating. And it always goes really well.
I’m sure it would depend on what sort of furniture or how many items the people own, but is there an approximate average cost for a move?
The average is usually around $3,000.
Any advice for people who are considering a move?
Keep what you love. Try and keep what you like. And get rid of the rest.
To contact Rondeau, call 761-0378, or visit www.movewithtransitions.com
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 4, 2012