News & Politics

Help! I Need Somebody

More Than 75 Services That Make Life Easy-- People Who Fix Things, Run Your Errands, Do Your Wash, Cook Meals, and More.

When 1,000 American adults were surveyed last year by Bruskin-Goldring Research, asking what luxury they most wished for, the top answer was "someone to look after me." Butlers and maids were mentioned. A chauffeur. A cook. And, generally, help with the daily grind "so I can get as much sleep as I want."

Greater incomes and less leisure time have combined to boost the appeal of at-your-service businesses.

Take, for example, the demand for personal chefs, who will stock your refrigerator with homemade meals. In April 1995 the US Personal Chefs Association represented 450 personal chefs nationwide; less than six years later there are 5,000 members. The jump in Washington was dramatic: from three member chefs in '97, to 300 now.

"I can't train them fast enough" to keep up with Washington demand, says USPCA founder David MacKay. "I have twice as many classes in DC as anywhere else in the country."

The cocooning trend that began a few years back has dovetailed with the growth of that ultimate stay-at-home tool, the Internet. Online grocery purchases grew more than 50 percent from 1998 to 2000, according to New York research firm Jupiter Communications.

"We're banking on the idea that people want to offload a lot of boring activities," Timothy De Mello–head of delivery service– told the Wall Street Journal last year.

The Washingtonian came up with nine boring, annoying, or stress-inducing activities that you might prefer to pay someone else to do. Then we looked around Washington for companies that deliver those services.

The following list is representative. Prices, services, and other details, though accurate at press time, are subject to change–especially in such an ever-changing business environment.


running Errands

BUYING A PRESENT, PICKING UP PRESCRIPtions, meeting someone at the airport–who's got the time? These businesses do.

Concierge America, 301-986-0418; Ellen Epstein and Jane Lewit are the local faces of this "problem-solving company" that also operates in Boston, New York, and overseas. Epstein and Lewit have sold off a 3,000-volume personal library, researched family histories, dealt with the contents of homes after a death, even located 4,000 barrels of oil intended for a buyer in the Far East. The charge is $75 an hour for residential organizing, $100 for corporate organizing, $100 an hour for dismantling an entire home.

Errands-4-U, Oakton; 703-938-3790; Claire West–like several professional organizers, a former nurse–still has a medical bent: She'll take Northern Virginia clients to doctors appointments and hospital visits, pick up prescriptions or "light groceries," and ferry children to and from school. $20 an hour, one-hour minimum, plus 25 cents a mile over ten miles.

Errands Begone, McLean; 703-903-9409. After retiring from the foreign service in 1998, Patsy Wolf started running errands around McLean, Arlington, Annandale, and DC: grocery and hardware shopping, driving people to appointments, waiting for repair people, taking cars through inspection, and handling dry-cleaning pickups. $25 an hour.

Errand Specialist, McLean; 703-448-9748. Since 1982, Dot Woodbury has done any errand except grocery shopping and transportation of people; once she drove to the Pleasure Place in Georgetown to collect an inflatable doll for a New Year's Eve party. She charges $25 an hour; outside the McLean/Tysons area, add 32 cents a mile.

Just Call Ivan, Falls Church; 703-532-7667; Former Grand Hyatt and Watergate concierge Ivan Wiener has pleased clients as diverse as Andersen Consulting and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He can hire a helicopter, arrange a wedding proposal, have your luggage repaired, and take on other tasks anywhere in the area. Wiener works by contract, at $500 a month.

Personal Attention, Bethesda; 301-571-0182; Scott Kerman started out doing his sister's errands; now his 80-person staff handles DMV inspections, house- and pet-sitting, waiting for repair people, airport runs, help with parties, and home-office filing and bill paying. He's been in business for 13 years, covering DC, Northern Virginia, and Montgomery County. Oddest requests: saving seats in church at holiday time; composing a Dear John e-mail message. $25 an hour, but that comes down (as low as $17) the more hours you book.

Rent-a-Mom, Reston; 703-437-8571. Robin Sherman and crew will clean and organize your home, plan and staff a party, care for pets, prepare meals, even do laundry. $65 and up for most tasks; parties $20 an hour per worker, three hours minimum.

Service Matters, Northwest DC; 202-537-1732. In Northwest DC, Bethesda, and Chevy Chase Village, David Wise runs errands, transports people and groceries, and does odd jobs like walking pets and waiting for repair help. $15 an hour, two-hour minimum.

They won't wait at the DMV or for repair people at your home, but the (mostly) college students at CVK Group (202-546-5468) will hold a place in line for you at Capitol Hill and Supreme Court hearings. The ten-year-old company charges $30 an hour, $35 after 5 PM or for same-day service. (Most courier companies offer this service, too.)

United States Vehicle Registration Service, 2004 17th St., NW; 202-342-2558; Whether you're in DC, Maryland, or Virginia, 15-year-old USVRS can handle your registration, inspection, title work, lost tags, and parking permits. It'll also retrieve a car from impound, get a boot removed, and take your vehicle to the shop. About the only thing it can't do is get your license, which requires your photo and signature. Turnaround is usually one day. Prices range from $75 for registration renewals to $150 for boot releases; more complex suburban problems cost more.

Parking Tickets 2 Us, Northeast DC; 202-546-5544. "We're a mobile motor-vehicle department," says founder Jerry Jackson. Working primarily in the District (or within 45 minutes), he'll handle boot and tow releases, stand in line at the DMV and show up in court to contest tickets for you; he cannot take driver's-license photos or pick up an impounded car. Charges are $35 and up; boot and tow releases, $40; immediate "emergency releases," $75.

Dorsey & Associates, Northwest DC; 202-434-8189; www.parkingviolations. com. Michael Dorsey once worked for the City Council, then for DC's Bureau of Traffic Adjudication. Twelve years ago, he started a company that explains the District's ticket-fighting process and represents individuals and businesses at hearings, including people on the verge of losing a license or insurance. He won't go to court or to the suburbs; he charges $20 per parking ticket, $50 for moving violations, and $75 for accidents–or you pay 40 percent of the amount the hearing saves you. Is Dorsey's help worth the money? One firm with $54,000 in DC tickets thought so; so did the driver with 49 moving violations.


Doing the Laundry

WHY DRIVE TO THE DRY CLEANER EACH week when these cleaners offer home pickup and delivery of dry-cleaned clothing, often for no extra charge?

And the first two companies on this list–the Laundry Club and Mom's Laundry–even do everyday wash.

The Laundry Club, 703-771-8283, A few years back, Randy Kernus felt like he was constantly doing his family's laundry. One day it hit him: "Wouldn't it be nice if someone came and picked up my laundry and delivered it back all nice and clean and folded?" Kernus envisioned this as a business. "I thought my wife would have me put in a straitjacket, but she thought it was a good idea." Since August 1998, Kernus and his wife, Tammy, have provided door-to-door laundry and dry-cleaning service for homes in Loudoun and western Fairfax counties. The dry-cleaning method they use is a "wet cleaning" process that Kernus says is environmentally safe. Laundry costs $15 for the first ten pounds–a full laundry basket averages about that–and $1.10 for each additional pound.

Mom's Laundry, 202-686-1300, Mom's offers next-day, door-to-door laundry and dry-cleaning service in DC, Rockville, and the Tysons/Dulles corridor. "It's filling a void," Gregory Frank says of his five-year-old business. "We go out to Great Falls and service clients with magnificent homes with two laundry rooms. They have no time to do laundry." Clients are given special bags–one for laundry, one for dry cleaning–and can pin special instructions to any garment. Laundry costs $1.90 a pound.

Bergmann's Cleaning, Arlington; 703-247-7600, Bergmann's fleet of 71 trucks serves 16,000 homes in the Washington area. No extra charge for pickup and delivery.

Besson's Cleaning, 1329 14th St., NW; 202-667-4556. Pickup and delivery in downtown DC, Georgetown, Capitol Hill, Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Potomac, and Crystal City. No extra charge.

Foxhall Cleaners, 4590 MacArthur Blvd., NW; 202-333-5556. Delivery in Spring Valley, Glover Park, Palisades, Georgetown, and parts of Bethesda, Potomac, and Chevy Chase, at no extra charge.

Hershey's Cleaners, 106 N. Frederick Ave., Gaithersburg; 301-926-0771. This 50-year-old dry cleaner offers door-to-door service in Bethesda, Potomac, Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Germantown. Each dry-cleaned item costs $1 extra when delivered; laundered shirts are 35 cents more than in the shop.

Parkway Custom Dry Cleaning, 8402 Connecticut Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-652-3377. Parkway–long considered the place to take items that need very special care because it offers hand-cleaning and pressing–offers home service in DC, Chevy Chase, Rockville, Kensington, Bethesda, Potomac, and most of Northern Virginia.

Regal Custom Cleaners, 202-537-1846. Service in Northwest DC only. Delivered dry cleaning costs 25 cents per item more than regular prices; laundered shirts are 10 cents extra.

Rhode Island Cleaners, 4235 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-363-4652. This 67-year-old operation picks up and delivers in Northwest DC and the Maryland suburbs. Door-to-door cleaning costs 20 percent more.

Sterling Cleaners and Textile Service, 5909 Blair Rd., NW; 202-723-9535, Serves homes in Northern Virginia, and Northwest, Southwest, and Northeast DC. Also some homes in Southeast DC and Montgomery and Prince George's counties. 20-percent markup for pickup and delivery.



NEED TO REPLACE A BROKEN WINDOW-pane, install a ceiling fan, repair a fence? Many types of repairs are available from large companies like Sears HomeCentral (800-469-4663; www. and General Electric (800-432-2737; Or you can call an individual handyman. Here are several good ones–plus referral groups that can recommend other trustworthy repair people.

Home Connections (301-565-5902; and Home USA (800-466-3872) are two local referral services. Both check licenses, insurance, and references for home- improvement businesses, then provide referrals for reliable electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and other sorts of repair people. These services are free to homeowners; businesses that agree to be screened pay a fee each time their name is given out.

Case Handyman Services and Case Design/Remodeling, Bethesda, Falls Church, and Chantilly, 800-513-2250; The reputable Case Design spun off a handyman service in 1992, to handle jobs large and small: finishing basements and sunrooms, replacing windows and doors, plus carpentry, caulking, siding, drywall repair, gutters, skylights, and more. $78 an hour.

Delbe Home Services, Northwest DC; 202-237-0187; For $125 a year plus labor, David Burka's company will do a home inspection and inventory, then manage household maintenance as needed around the clock: He'll arrange for insured contractors and repair workers, advise on renovations, and guarantee all work.

Life Savers, Potomac; 301-424-0664. After 20 years in business, Karen Johnston knows property management and some 400 contractors. Life Savers can oversee most home and rental- property projects: She'll gather samples, buy materials, hire workers, and minimize mess. She covers upper Northwest DC and lower Montgomery County. $60 an hour plus $60 per contractor recommendation.

Minor Maintenance, Annandale; 800-995-0390. David Huff hires highly skilled workers who do carpentry, light electrical and plumbing, drywall, tile, painting, glazing, and such household tasks as "caulk a tub, glue a chair, scrub a dog." (Yes, the company once washed a dog.) Workers, all of whom are insured, can usually show up within a week of your call. Fees: $32 a visit plus $64 for the first hour of labor, then prorated by the half hour. One-hour minimum. No markup on materials, but he does charge to shop if needed.

Mower Man, Laurel; 301-384-6290; Have a snowblower or lawn mower that's on the fritz? Chris Suser's 11-year-old business comes to your home to service mowers and snowblowers on the spot, in all of Montgomery County plus Columbia, Ellicott City, and parts of Prince George's County including Laurel, Beltsville, and Adelphi. Suser's experience? He and his crew do many of the repairs for Home Depot.

Calling himself the Neighborhood Handyman, Donald Davidson (202-744-3647) serves District residents by repairing windows and screens, installing locks, replacing broken glass, resetting flagstone–"jobs that take less than a day to do but are too small for a contractor." That means no painting, plumbing, or electrical work. $60 an hour, two-hour minimum; after that prorated to quarter-hour.

Pro Home Care, Rockville; 301-330-4036; Stan Hummer's company has three divisions: handyman, home remodeling, and landscaping. Operating in Montgomery, Prince George's, Frederick, and Howard counties for ten years, he charges $35 to $65 an hour plus $35 a visit.


RELOCATING? SELLING AFTER A RELATIVE'S death? According to the American Business Collaboration for Quality Dependent Care, more than 40 percent of workers are helping elderly family members–often from a distance. Many organizing services (see page 96) can coordinate packing and moving and arrange estate sales. Here are businesses that specialize in major transitions.

All the Right Moves, Herndon; 703-758-2577; Esther Berg's insured and bonded staff of 14 is tops at relocating seniors, downscaling homes, assessing storage needs, and arranging estate sales. They'll get the old home cleaned out and the new one organized. Works mainly in Northern Virginia. $75 an hour, with a two-hour minimum, plus supplies and any contracted labor. Also offers home organizing.

Amazing Space, Georgetown; 202-625-1414; Organizer Dixie Allen downsizes for seniors around the Beltway–she can arrange the move; handle consignment, charity, and auction disposal; then simplify and arrange the new space to suit. Allen also spiffs up homes for real-estate open houses. $75 an hour, with three-hour minimum.

Art of Moving, Bethesda; 301-320-0888; Genevieve Auguste's insured and bonded staff manages everything: choosing a mover, recommending a real-estate agent, deciding what goes and what stays, and settling in–they'll even hang the clothes and do the dishes. Operating around Washington, as well as New York City and central and south Florida, the company charges $35 to $60 an hour, with special packages for seniors.

Busy Buddies, Springfield; 703-422-0797; Mary Ann Brewer, Nancy Loyd, and 12 employees will strategize your move: an initial assessment, then rounding up people to pack, move, and unpack, charities to take leftovers, and cleaning services for the old home. They'll put food in the fridge and bric-a-brac on the shelves, make the beds, and dispose of trash. Insured and bonded, Brewer and Loyd have done this for five years within a 50-mile radius of DC. Minimum two people for four hours, $320; seniors, $295 (retirement moves a specialty).

Clearly Organized, Reston; 703-471-6085, Florence Feldman and her staff of five specialize in long-term organizing of homes and home offices. They've done "maintenance" with some clients for years–everything from coaching on paperwork to placing furniture. $45 to $60 an hour, four-hour minimum.

Exclusive Estate Sales, Northwest DC; 202-364-2852; www.exclusiveestatesales. com. William West Hopper and Claire M. Tieder's firm focuses on downsizing situations like divorce as well as empty-nest transitions. They'll value your items, plan and run sales, dispose of leftovers, and handle cleanup anywhere in the country. Flat fee of $3,000 to $10,000.

Moving On. . . , Towson; 410-321-1387; Moving On specializes in moving older people into retirement or health-care facilities and in coordinating moves from out of town: everything from preparing a home for sale and disposing of possessions to arranging for utility hookups and new carpeting. Founder Pamela B. Mitchell handles clients in Montgomery, Prince George's, and DC as well as Baltimore. Fee: $500 to $1,500 depending on scope of project, plus costs of moving and other labor.

Simplify Your Life, Falls Church; 703-237-9559. Former nurse Mo Osborn understands both the practical and the psychological aspects of a move, particularly for seniors. Anywhere in the area, she acts as clients' liaison with recommended appraisers, movers, estate agents, and other businesses. $50 to $60 an hour; free consultation.



NO TIME TO TAKE YOUR CAR TO THE SHOP? Want to surprise someone with a spiffed-up vehicle? These folks can help.

Auto Repair Anywhere, Beltsville; 301-595-1155. Eiji Yanagi fixes vehicle engines, brakes, and electrical systems and does maintenance (but not collision repair) anywhere around the Beltway and beyond. The former Toyota mechanic charges $33 an hour for labor plus $30 per service visit.

Bill Hamm's Car Care Center, 7406 Westmore Rd., Rockville; 301-294-9155. Free pickup and delivery of a car from your home or office with a minimum $50 of service. No painting or body work. Customers are in Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Germantown. Hamm's will even wash and gas the car for an extra $10 and up, depending on the amount of gas.

Brake Masters, Fairfax; 703-385-3453; Steve Newman will drive anywhere within 50 miles of DC, seven days a week, to provide free estimates and mobile brake service. His rate is $67.50 an hour–prorated–plus parts; he doesn't charge for driving time. His 14-year-old service is good enough to have earned a mention in the Wall Street Journal last year.

Details, Details, Details, Rockville; 301-294-3050; www.detailsdetailsdetails. com. Want your car or truck made spotless? This business will pick it up, wash and detail it, and deliver it back to your driveway. (They do boats and airplanes, too.) Does your vehicle need an oil change, tune-up, or other maintenance? This outfit can also bring your car to one of its network of mechanics. Working in Montgomery County and upper Northwest since 1977, the company charges a flat rate of $20 to $165, plus a travel fee.

Mobile Auto Detailing, Chantilly; 703-263-2268; Since 1987, Randy Coffey's vans have gone to homes and offices to detail vehicles (wash, wax, polish, vacuum, shampoo, etc.), fix dents and dings, and install mobile phones. Detailing $40 to $260; dent repair $150 for first panel, then $100 a panel; phone installation varies by maker. Discount if you bring your car to him in Chantilly.

Mobile One Detailing, Bethesda; 301-656-6004; Because Scott Martindill sends several workers to each job, they can detail a car, truck, or van in 1 to 1H hours; they do airplanes too. Mobile One works around the Beltway. $65 basic wash/wax/interior cleaning; $165 to $185 for the works.

Mullins Mobile Auto Care, Haymarket; 703-754-2173. For 14 years, Charles Mullins was a master mechanic at Don Beyer Volvo. He still specializes in Volvos but now runs his own shop–and he'll pick up and return your car at your home or office, anywhere in Northern Virginia. Most work is finished the same day. $50 an hour; no delivery or mileage charge.

William Ivins Automotive, Takoma Park; 301-585-8268. Bill Ivins will come to your home to do tune-ups and to fix brakes, timing belts, exhaust systems, front-wheel drives, and cooling systems. $55-an-hour charge per job; no transportation charge for work around Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and upper Northwest DC, but travel of more than 20 minutes means an extra $20 to $35.





BUSY, UPSCALE WASHINGTON IS A BATTLEground for several online grocery-delivery services.

Order any day of the week from HomeRuns (; 800-882-7867) for next-day delivery (except Sunday) within a two-hour window, anywhere around Washington. Choose online from more than 8,500 grocery items, with a double-your-money-back guarantee on freshness and quality. HomeRuns has won awards for its service in its home state, Massachusetts. There's a $2.50 delivery charge and $50 minimum; manufacturers' coupons accepted.

NetGrocer (; 888-638-4762) ships nonperishable groceries and drugstore items by FedEx to Montgomery County, Northern Virginia, and certain Northwest DC Zip codes; orders are guaranteed to arrive on or before the fourth business day after leaving the warehouse (orders received before 2 PM are shipped the same day). Shop online by clicking on grocery store, then on aisle, then on your choices–later, you can call up previous lists. You don't have to be home to receive your order. Delivery fee depends on order; there's no membership or service fee.

Late last year, Peapod (800-573-2763; or, in alliance with Giant Food, took over's service to most of Northwest DC and Fairfax and Montgomery counties. Log on, choose food and household products (using helpful details such as unit price, fat content, and ripeness), and enter a two-hour delivery window (you don't have to be home). Minimum order $50; delivery charge $5 to $9.95.

Horizon Foods, Fairfax; 888-327-9366 or 703-385-6188; "A mobile showcase containing the finest-quality poultry, beef, seafood, fish and pork comes right to your home," Horizon promises. The nationwide company delivers Omaha Steaks products, "restaurant-quality" appetizers, pasta, pizza, vegetarian dishes, and desserts. All portions are flash frozen and vacuum sealed; some selections are free-range and antibiotic-free. The Web site suggests cooking methods for each item. Free delivery; no minimum order, but items are sold in bulk (for example, 16 filets in a box) and cannot be broken up.


IS YOUR BASEMENT, YOUR ATTIC, OR YOUR family room overwhelmed by clutter? A professional organizer can help you decide what to store, what to toss, and how to control the problem in the future. Referrals are available from the local chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), 202-362-6276, or you can try one of the following:

Clutter Begone!, Alexandria; 703-998-8343; Shannon McDonald whips your home into shape for selling or just living in. She teaches organization and storage methods, re-arranges furniture, and finds haulers and cleaners to help. She works around the Beltway. $50 an hour.

Clutter Happens, Leesburg; 703-771-0024; "Nonjudgmental" Jocelyn Esposito teaches clients to improve messy habits–setting up a home office, making the best use of space, and filing instead of piling. The initial consultation is free; services are $60 an hour, but you can keep in touch by phone or e-mail for free.

HomeConcierge, Centreville; 703-803-7275. Emilie McLaughlin, mother of six and wife of a general contractor, knows kitchens. She helps clients save time, effort, and money through streamlining, master lists, and smart ideas like keeping appliance booklets and repair records in a binder. She'll even, on occasion, shop for kitchen items and replace furniture. $25 an hour.

Jill-of-all-Trades, Capitol Hill; 202-544-5455. Jill Lawrence, energetic "holistic organizer," says she shapes up not just homes and offices but lives. She'll identify your "clutter type," then suggest systems you can use to file important papers, sort mail, pay bills, display treasures, store seasonal items, pare possessions, and find everyday essentials. She'll also declutter a home before its sale. $55 an hour for homes, $65 for businesses.

Perfect Timing, Derwood; 301-926-6754. Joyce Becker, a past president of the local chapter of NAPO, charges $75 for an initial consultation, then a minimum of $40 an hour to organize messy homes around the Washington area. She specializes in "difficult situations," well beyond a little clutter.

TimeWise, Northwest DC; 202-686-1302. For more than 15 years, Terry Watson has specialized in home and business paper management (no kitchens, closets, attics, or garages). Another past president of the local NAPO chapter, she charges $60 to $90 an hour, with a two-hour minimum.


figuring out THIS


BIG-NAME COMPUTER-TRAINING FIRMS may send a consultant to work one-on-one, but watch the cost–some charge as much for one student as for a class of ten. Instead, try groups like the Capital PC User Group (301-762-9372; and Washington Apple Pi (301-984-0300;, which will refer people who can set up systems or train you in their use. A few alternatives:

Advance IT, Reston; 703-620-6001;, advanceit@ Monique Davis has turned her corporate consulting background into Web-site development and office automation for mom-and-pop businesses. She can advise on which software to buy or customize according to home-office needs. $30 an hour for installing software; $75 an hour for Web database development.

Balanced Spaces, Reston; 703-742-9179; Former office manager and bookkeeper Susan Kousek trains people in Windows, Quicken, PowerPoint, Excel, WordPerfect, Outlook, and more within a 40-minute radius of Reston. She can also organize your home or office and set up systems to manage your e-mail, receipts, bills, and bank statements. $45 an hour for residential organizing, $65 for home-office organizing, $75 for corporate organizing, $85 for computer training; three-hour minimum.

Kuta Consulting, Bethesda; 301-758-1515; Software trainer and Columbia Union College instructor Mary Kuta specializes in Microsoft Office applications. $50 to $80 an hour depending on complexity.

Marchetti Associates, Burtonsville; 301-404-2210; Your Macintosh is on the fritz? Phil Marchetti used to fix them as an Apple service provider; now he drives around greater Washington to do hardware upgrades and repairs, basic software training, and small-business networking. $70 an hour for recreational home computers, $85 for home offices; plus $20 to $30 travel fee per visit.

Metro Networks, Arlington; 703- 626-5320;, Former software developer Brian Scott does in-home computer help and repair, network support, and training (but no printer repair) in DC, Montgomery County, and as far west as Leesburg. He charges approximately $75 an hour.

PC.HLP, Bethesda; 301-320-2104; For nearly ten years, Henry Winokur has helped individuals, families, and small businesses set up and use computers; he can help with hardware, software, and minor repairs except on Apples. $75 an hour for noncommercial users, $90 for nonprofits, $125 for businesses, two-hour minimum, anywhere around the Beltway.

PubPro Services, Sterling; 703-404-8665; Former network administrator Bob Simanski does one-on-one consulting and troubleshooting for any Windows environment; he also can set up a Web site and desktop publishing. $60 an hour for recreational and home-business users, $75 for commercial businesses, with two-hour minimum; outside a 40-mile radius of Sterling, add travel time and mileage.



WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT TO HAVE YOUR own chef make just what you like at home? You can.

The US Personal Chefs Association (800-747-2433; matches you with available personal chefs by Zip code. You and the chef draw up menus and agree on a number of meals a week; the chef handles shopping, packaging for fridge or freezer, and cleanup. Chefs set their own rates, but most charge $10 to $20 per meal per person, including ingredients, depending on your tastes and the number of servings.

One such local chef is Robyn Webb–nutritionist, cookbook author, and head of A Pinch of Thyme cooking school in Alexandria (703-683-5034; She not only can act as your part-time cook, but she can reorganize your kitchen to make it more efficient and give one-on-one cooking lessons. The minimum order is five meals a week for two people; she'll work out menus and portion sizes with you, then shop, cook, and deliver meals on Monday andWednesday for the week, anywhere around Washington. $350 a week and up, including ingredients and delivery.

Or get a restaurant to cook for you. is a portal for meal-delivery services around the nation, including Takeout Taxi in our area (301-565-3030, 703-578-3663, 202-986-0111; Choose off published menus from Takeout Taxi's hundreds of member restaurants; order by phone or Web, and pay $4.99 for delivery plus a 5-percent service charge ($10 minimum order).

Waiter on the Way (301-869-0300), another affiliate, charges $4.99 for delivery of a $10-minimum restaurant order; 75 restaurants from north Bethesda to Germantown take part. Waiter on the Way also delivers bulk orders to businesses.

A la Carte Express (202-232-8646; delivers meals in much of Northwest. The catch: The restaurant should be within two "zones" of your home or office; a Web-site map shows which restaurants you may order from in each area of the city. Most orders arrive within an hour, though A la Carte sometimes refuses distant orders during busy periods. You pay $4 to $8 for delivery, plus tip., 800-239-2438; www. Ordering online can get you restaurant meals, hotel reservations, and soon other products and services. When I typed in The Washingtonian's address (1828 L Street, NW), I got a list of 32 restaurants, from Alero Mexican to Zorba's Cafe, which would deliver. A similar test with a North Arlington address produced 41 available restaurants, while a Rockville address got nothing. A Bethesda address turned up 18 choices, all in upper Northwest DC. Minimum order $15, $3.99 to $7.99 delivery; plus 3.9 percent for noncash orders.

Dean & DeLuca, Georgetown; 202-342-2500; Taking up where Neam's Market left off, this gourmet emporium offers a personal-shopping service–with a day's notice, you can have anything delivered the next morning. There's a $50 minimum and, beyond Georgetown, a $15 charge.

Diet-to-Go, Newington; 703-550-3438 or 301-951-3438 or 800-743-7546; On Tuesdays and Fridays, this company prepares orders and ships them to distribution sites in Virginia, Maryland, and the District. You can pick up meals at a distribution point–often a gym, deli, or cafe–or receive them at your home or office. Meals contain your choice of 1,000 or 1,600 calories; there are four weekly menus, and substitutions are allowed. "We have completely removed you from the food-preparation process," Diet-to-Go notes. "That's an important step in successful weight loss." The cost of 21 weekly meals is $88.95 to $99.95; 14 weekly meals, $48.95 to $85.95; partial-week plans also available. ( delivers meals–along with snacks, videos, CDs, books and magazines, electronics, and drugstore items–to most District addresses in under an hour. If your DVD player is broken and you're dying for American Beauty, empanadas, and Pop-Tarts, Kozmo can deliver it all. The catch: You have to drop off returnables at allied businesses (like cafes and Starbucks locations) or pay $5 for pickup; no charge if you place another order. There's free delivery on any order over $30; $1.99 fee otherwise.

Sutton Place Gourmet will deliver prepared meals and groceries–including cards, cakes, and Champagne–within an hour's drive of its six local stores. No minimum. $7 to $35 delivery fee; for everything except prepared foods, add a $10 shopping fee. See for locations; no ordering online.

Wellsteads, 1711 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-522-7737; An "e-restaurant" to which you can call, fax, or e-mail your choices from a huge menu–from salads, sides, and entrées to pizzas, desserts, and beverages. They arrive in about 45 minutes, some ready to eat, others needing a few minutes in the oven. Minimum order $8; free delivery within a three-mile radius of the Courthouse Metro station. Wellsteads plans to expand around Washington this year.




IF YOU OFFER A HOUSE-CALL or delivery service that takes common chores off people's hands, please send your company name, address, and phone number, and a brief description of your services to Sherri Dalphonse at or The Washingtonian, 1828 L Street, Washington DC 20036.