Akron Beacon Journal

- Mary Ethridge

"Broker attempts dream matches"

Professionals too busy to go on own search let Lunch Date do asking

Think of your nightmare date. I know you’ve had at least one. We all have. Mine was a guy – we’ll call him Pete because that’s his name – who picked me up in a convertible. In December. It was an old car, the heat wasn’t working and we had to push it down my mom’s driveway to get it started. This all would have been OK with me if my date had shown even a hint of a sense of humor. In fact, at age 20, I was inclined to view most situations as adventures, and probably would have laughed if Pete had even cracked a smile. But the date turned out to be four hours of mirthless misery. What good is a guy if he can’t make you laugh like your girlfriends? That would be the first thing I’d tell Mike Green if I were ever in a position to use his services. Green is a professional matchmaker. People think nothing of hiring a realtor to help them choose a house or a headhunter to find them a job. Personal shoppers pick out entire wardrobes for time-pressed executives. So Green wants to know, what could possibly wrong with paying someone to find you a mate – or at least a pleasant companion with romantic potential? Just think of it as a speed shopping for love.

Green, who grew up in the Cleveland Suburb of University Heights, is celebrating his 10th anniversary as a matchmaker of professional men and women. In 1994, he founded the Cleveland – based Lunch Date, which he says has led to at least 300 marriages. Many of his clients live in the Akron area, he said. For $595, he’ll set up eight dates with people he thinks match his clients interests and desires. For $200 more, the clients get a full dozen at love. He has more than 1,000 clients in his database, Green said.

The emphasis is on Lunch because it’s a small commitment of time. If you don’t like the person, all you have to do is finish the meal, go back to work and forget about it as best you can. Green isn’t promising every match will be a gigglefest, but he believes your chances of success are better with him than without him.

Investing in herself

Elizabeth, a 31-year-old graphic artist from Bath Township, contacted Green at Lunch Date soon after a close friend found a husband through the service. Elizabeth, who asked that her last name not be used, said she’d like to get married and have children. All too often, work and other obligations hinder her ability to go shopping for a mate on her own. “I consider the service an investment in myself,” she said. Elizabeth said she takes comfort in knowing Green investigates his clients to make sure they are who thy say they are. “A lot of people out there who say they’re single are actually married,” she said. “And the men in the bar scene aren’t looking for a relationships.” The service is on the pricey side intentionally, said Green. He believes it weeds out lower income people in whom his upper class clientele wouldn’t be interested. Green is part of the burgeoning industry of dating services. Although matchmaking is one of the oldest professions on Earth, it has taken new twists and turns in the past several years, said Robert Dombkowski, chairman of the Singles Industry Trade Association, a new group for those in the dating business. Singles now make up 47 percent of all adults, said Dombkowski. What used to be seen as a somewhat embarrassing transitional time in one’s life has now become an accepted lifestyle. As families spread out geographically, they become less of a factor in helping members find a suitable mate. Add the rise of technology to those changing demographics, and you’ve got the makings of a dating service boom.

Dating industry grows

As e-commerce has changed the way people purchase clothes, online dating services have changed the way they shop for mates. As people have become acquainted with dating services be trolling Web sites in the privacy of their homes, acceptance of the whole nation has spread to include more traditional services such as Green’s. “The popularity online has migrated over into off-line services. The industry has become multifaceted and a lot of services are combining traditional methods with technology,” said Dombkowski. Revenue for dating services rose an average of 40 percent last year, industry statistics show. And the industry shows no sign of letting up. “Singles have become a consumer group of their own,” said Dombkowski. “Our business is just reaching its stride.”

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