By Leah Weissman

Pilot staff writer

People walking down Chetco Avenue may notice that the office where Pelican Bay Travel used to be is locked, empty and dark - but that doesn't mean the business is closed.

Kerie Schaefer, owner of Pelican Bay Travel, moved the business at the beginning of December to her home, where she continues to meet clients through appointments and answer the phone at the same number as before.

andquot;I think I get more person-to-person contact now,andquot; Schaefer said. andquot;When people come over, it's just them and me. No one waiting in line, no other pressing matters.andquot;

The decision to move was spurred by a combination of financial and customer service reasons, Schaefer said.

andquot;Moving shaved operating costs by about $2,000 a month,andquot; she said. andquot;I don't have to pay rent or extra electric anymore.andquot;

Just before the move, Schaefer hired two women in Crescent City - feeling there needed to be more of a travel agency presence in Northern California.

andquot;I changed some other things as well,andquot; she said. andquot;The (women) who work for me became independent contractors, which means they work off commission.

andquot;They like it because they make 80 percent of whatever they sell, and they get to work in their own homes,andquot; Schaefer added. andquot;Before, I got the whole commission, but payroll was too expensive to keep doing that. ... I'm actually making more of a profit now.andquot;

Although the location of Pelican Bay Travel has changed, and some new workers have jumped on board, services are still relatively the same, Schaefer said - give or take a few things.

andquot;We try not to do stand-alone airline tickets anymore,andquot; she said. andquot;That means no car, no hotel, no tours - just the flight. But we do make an exception for existing clients.andquot;

Schaefer said that, instead of going through airlines anymore, she now uses a travel agent network to book cruises, tours, car rentals, hotels and national or international flights.

andquot;It actually doesn't affect the client or price at all - you still get the same low rates,andquot; she said. andquot;It just makes things easier for us because we don't have to go through the airlines.andquot;

As for the impact the changes are having on the business, Schaefer said she and andquot;the girlsandquot; are swamped.

andquot;People are getting ready for spring break, are booking early for summer - we are even taking calls for Christmas trips,andquot; she said. andquot;We are always busy this time of year.andquot;

Before Schaefer moved the business to her home and sales started to pick up, she had been trying to sell the travel agency.

andquot;I couldn't work up front and do all the back office work along with airline stuff, plus provide quality service to my clients,andquot; she said. andquot;I was really thinking about closing it, but I realized there was too much demand here.

andquot;And since we are doing so well now, it's not for sale anymore,andquot; she added.

Right now, Schaefer said her only form of advertisement is through word-of-mouth and using the well-known Pelican Bay Travel name.

Changing things has been a challenge, but Schaefer said the benefits outweigh the costs.

andquot;I get to work out of my house and it's cheap and nice,andquot; she said. andquot;And people like it because, instead of them having to stop by the office to pick up their papers, I deliver their documents to them now.andquot;

Pelican Bay Travel is open for business from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Meetings are by appointment only, and customers should call (541) 469-3158.