Eldersburg delivery service brings meals and more

January 25, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

After a long day shoveling snow or battling through an icy commute home, why cook?

Just a phone call away, a multicourse supper awaits your order with promises of timely delivery to your doorstep.

Dial your dinner choices into Liberty Express, and drivers will deliver the meal and maybe a video or flowers to help you forget the day's cares.

"We will deliver or pick up anything," said Ross Naumann, owner of the delivery service on Liberty Road. "For a buck-fifty, customers can't beat the services."

If you can't reach a unanimous decision on cuisine, not to worry. For an extra dollar, the service will pick up from a couple of different restaurants.

"These businesses are springing up everywhere," said Mr. Naumann, 30, who said he "got inspired" by Take Out Taxi in Ocean City. Similar services are booming in Columbia and Laurel, he said.

Since he opened Dec. 27, requests have ranged from meals to medicines for both people and pets.

From dinner to dry cleaning, Liberty Express can cut a household's shopping errands in half, said Mr. Naumann. Customers pay the drivers $1.50, plus a tip.

He opened the delivery business in Eldersburg -- just days ahead of the bad weather and in time to serve house-bound victims of cabin fever meals from their favorite local restaurants.

"The badder the weather, the better the business," said Mr. Naumann.

Weather alone doesn't drive people to their phones.

"We have a lot of working families where parents come home too tired to cook," he said. "There is only so much fast food and pizza a family can eat."

Patrons select entrees from abbreviated versions of 10 area restaurant menus. The options offer a wide range of ethnic and American foods.

"Everyone's menu is different," said Mr. Naumann of the restaurants. "What one does, the others don't."

About 5,000 menu booklets will soon be available to South Carroll residents and businesses.

For now, fliers are circulating word of the new business.

"I spread fliers around the business community and have been really surprised at the amount of business," he said.

A former sales representative for a restaurant supplier, Mr. Naumann got tired of working for a commission and wanted to work for himself.

Through his client contacts, he said, he realized a delivery service could expand restaurant sales.

"Restaurants don't always get the sales, especially in bad weather," he said. "Many don't deliver, and I told them how I could generate business for them."

It took several months to put his idea into motion. Eldersburg, his home town, was ideally suited to the business.

"I grew up here and have seen it really explode," he said.

Drivers serve a five-mile-radius area and will venture over the border for an extra dollar, he said. Many area businesses are using Liberty Express for lunch and many residents are dialing in their dinners.

Unlike some services, Liberty Express makes no time claims.

"Nicer restaurants can't cook a meal in 10 minutes," he said. "Chefs need time to prepare."

Still, most deliveries turn around in about an hour.

Weekdays, three drivers -- he hopes to hire more -- deliver lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays, the drivers are on the road from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. During off hours, the crew delivers groceries, flowers, candy, videos and dry cleaning -- whatever customers want.

"People are finding out about us," he said. "We aren't sitting around waiting for the phone to ring."

Because the shopping facet is more time-consuming, he is considering charging customers a percentage of the total bill, Mr. Naumann said.

"People think this is an unbelievably good idea," he said.

The business is popular with shut-ins, retirees and children unexpectedly off from school, he said. His drivers will pick up videos for parents who have ordered them.

With 24 hours' notice and availability, he will also bring dinner from a Baltimore restaurant. He is considering late-night specials with waiters -- the drivers -- for romantic candlelight suppers.

He is giving the business six months before he measures its success, he said. If Liberty Express works, he said, he will branch out to other areas of the county.

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