Back in the mid-1990s and into early-2000, consumers began to dip their feet in the pool of the wild, wonderful, world of shopping online. We all did it and some of us were doing it with reckless abandon. I remember, living in Seattle, and working as a single bachelor at my first "corporate job." Often toward the end of the business day, I would log into my account on www.kozmo.com
Kozmo's business plan was to function as my pathetic friend, ready to deliver movies, ice cream, dinner, starbucks, magazines, candy bars - you name it - right to my door in an hour with no delivery charge. I'd order at 4:30pm from my office, online, then leave the office at 5pm, take my 20-minute walk home and "knock-knock-knock" my Kozmo bike courier had my dinner, my pint of Haagen Dazs and my DVD.
Ahhhh! I was in for and evening of bliss.
This dot-com era delivery startup launched in 1998, raised $280 million from Softbank, Flatiron Partners, Amazon, and Starbucks but eventually went out of business very quickly in 2001. Although Kozmo filed an IPO, it never went public at the time. A sad end for my pathetic friend.
This kind of shopping was a no-brainer for me and my friends at the time. As a 29 year old single, corporate drone, living in Seattle during the dot-com era, I had faith that my dinner would be hot and delicious (it was!) and my ice cream would be heavenly and comforting (it was!) and my movie would be just what I needed at the time (it was!)
I knew what I was getting sight, unseen. How could Kozmo ruin dinner, a movie and Haagen Dazs? (For the record, they never did.)
Now, flash forward to today, consumers shop like this all the time now except it's become Kozmo-on-steriods!! Consumers are buying cars on www.carvana.com and new clothes on www.stitchfix.com and whatever they damn well need, want or lust after on www.amazon.com
Things are different now. It's commonplace these days to shop for all kinds of things online, sight, unseen.
Billy Pillen resided in Long Beach, CA and about two years ago, he went on www.google.com and searched for this collective set of words: "small town, less than 10,000 residents, gay friendly, retirement" - his search results at that time yielded:
some town in Ohio (that Billy blocked out of his mind because all he could see were harsh winters ahead)
...and yours truly, Eureka Springs, AR.
Billy was retiring and wanted a change. Having lived in two homes his entire life, he was now shopping for his retirement home, and his retirement community.
Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kozmo anymore.
I met with Billy at one of his favorite local spots, Missy's White Rabbit Lounge and we discussed this approach to his new adventure. I was fascinated that he would do all of this online and move to our little corner of the world, and into his third home, sight, unseen.
At this visit, I learned that Billy grew up in Pasadena, CA where he resided first in his childhood home with his beloved Mother. In 2002, he moved to Long Beach, CA (his second home) and in 2020, the year that changed our lives, Billy retired after many years with the United States Postal Service and was now ready to seize the moment and escape into his next life chapter - in his third home, in retirement.
The winner - Eureka Springs, Arkansas!
This prompted a lovely story from Billy about his faith --
I was very close to my mother.
I was age 11, and I wanted to make my Mother an Easter Basket. As I worked to create this basket, I knew I wanted to include a bag of M&Ms, since they were my mother's favorite, but they cost $1.00 and I did not have $1.00. So I got on my bike at 7am and biked over to the baseball field. Out there on the field, I got down on my knees, clasped my hands and closed my eyes. I prayed and prayed for the Lord to bring me $1.00 so I could buy my Mother that bag of M&Ms to add to her beautiful Easter Basket that I was making especially for her.
I opened my eyes, and I kid you not, after I finished praying, there was $1.00 on the ground by my foot and I was able to get that bag of M&Ms and give my Mother that wonderful Easter Basket.
From that point forward, I had unwavering faith.
Billy had spent a fair amount of time online virtually visiting Eureka. He could tell in his heart, the more he learned about this place - he knew he found it!
EUREKA! You have found it!
Once again, Eureka Springs lives up to it's name and reputation. He loved what he saw, lots of acreage, beauty, culture, nature, community - and he could not believe that this town of 2000+ had three diversity events each year.
I asked Billy, "how did you find your agent?"
I googled the collective words: gay real estate agent eureka springs and at the time, from that search, I found Karen Kinsel."
I connect with her.
She called right back.
It was meant to be.
Billy clocked some minutes using FaceTime with Karen. Karen knows Eureka! She fostered her virtual relationship with Billy and streamed him through local yards, homes, hillsides and downtown. With Karen co-piloting his search efforts and his unwavering faith he knew he was on the right path forward and his unwavering faith propelled him.
As expected, a search like this would have it's ups and downs. Most houses were on the market 8-12 months and then they were snapped up. Other people were buying properties sight unseen just like Billy and they were going fast. All of a sudden, there was nothing on the market. One day there was 100 homes, shortly after there were 3. With retirement looming closer, he knew he needed to get into escrow. He was was putting in offers on homes but was disheartened to learn that they already had offers pending and so his offers were falling through. He had to get serious. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic created a market of tele-workers that were sweeping in and gobbling up homes.
He knew he was unlikely to win a sale in Eureka Springs with his current home in contingency in Long Beach, CA. So first, he worked to sell Long Beach as he continued to watch the market with Karen. California would not provide the comfortable retirement experience Billy was seeking. He knew Karen would work in his favor and she did.
So everything was done via FaceTime and online. Virtual tours, videos, gallery-photo viewings, MLS listings, etc. At one point, Billy came upon East Mountain, and Karen, guided him.
"That place looks like it needs a lot of work."
"This one has loud neighbors."
"You might like this lot, it's flatter than most lots in this town."
Karen listened to Billy. She knew he wanted to be here and she wanted to make it happen for him. A few years prior, well before pandemic, and by virtually searching us out, Billy had fallen in love with Eureka Springs from his home in California. He saw all that Eureka Springs had to offer online and his unwavering faith kicked-in knowing in his heart of hearts that one day, it would happen.
In May 2020, that day arrived. Billy purchased 32 Mountain Street.
In June, July and August of 2020, the remodeling efforts were underway. Billy was still in Long Beach, CA and decided he wanted it all completed before he arrived. Not only did he purchase this home sight, unseen, he remodeled it to his preferences sight, unseen.
Everything from foundation work, inside/outside painting, wood floors upgrade, outside deck replaced, stairs improved, kitchen remodeled, retaining wall fortified. Billy created his neck of the woods to his liking and it turned out great.
This heart-warming story comes to an end with magical punctuation - as Billy searched for his Eureka home, he did so with unwavering faith that one day he would find it. He did.
At the time I went over to take photos of Billy and his fur-family for this blog-post, the Universe spoke to us sending over a single heart-cloud into our experience at the time we were documenting his journey.
This is Billy.
Billy knows that the Universe is speaking and that things will go well.
Billy has unwavering faith in his heart.
Billy moved to Eureka Springs.
Billy is smart.
Be like Billy.❤️