Skip Higgins’s company, Custom Movers Direct, helps members of the clergy relocate, providing peace of mind for the people who care for others.
- story by Dena Temple
As it turns out, Skip was exceptionally good at it. He joined North American Van Lines in household moving sales and was eventually named sales manager in the Memphis region, which covered all Southern states.
A lifelong Episcopalian, he moved an Episcopal rector in Baton Rouge, then another, and word began to spread through his church community. In 1982, after several years of helping Episcopal priests relocate, Skip founded Custom Movers Select. The bishop contacted all members of the diocese, and Custom Movers Select became the de facto mover of the Episcopal Church in the region.
“He said I was called by God to provide this service,” recalls Skip. “I don’t disagree.”
Skip never stopped looking for a better way to serve his customers. He applied to the FHA for his broker’s license, meaning he could shop among various shippers for the best discounts. He works with the four major carriers: Allied, Mayflower, North American and United.
As a broker, his customers get corporate rates, often significantly discounted. Because the moves are booked as corporate executives, his clients get especially attentive treatment from the moving companies.
Word of mouth continued to spread, and Skip was moving not only episcopal priests but Presbyterian and Lutheran clergy as well, since they had similar needs.
“Other Christian faiths tend to need my services less,” explained Skip. “Baptists tend to move with the help of their congregation, and Catholic clergy have few personal possessions.”
In all, Skip and Custom Movers Select have moved over 3,500 priests all around the United States.
Skip moved to Bay St. Louis in 1998 after a divorce and operates the business out of a home office near the beach. His four children, all grown, remain in the Baton Rouge area, and each have three children of their own.
“At 77 years sold, you realize you don’t have unlimited time,” Skip said. “I’m happy that we will continue to serve the church for the foreseeable future.”
Skip’s family has a long history on the Gulf Coast. “My mother, Mary-Miles Coe Higgins Walker, spent summers here as a girl. In fact, my parents carved a heart in an old oak tree when they were very young.” Skip smiles. “When my mother was in her 80s, I took her to look for that tree. The house there was long gone, having been destroyed by Katrina, but the tree was still standing – and there, too, was that heart.”
Skip handles all the details of the move with the help of his assistant of 5 years, Jo Gilmore, who handles the copious amounts of paperwork. They work hundreds of miles apart but operate as a well-oiled moving machine.
And that’s not always easy.
“Priests are sad to be leaving their congregations, yet they’re excited to start a new chapter. They are also entrusting me with everything they own; that’s a lot of responsibility. It’s my job to provide peace of mind to the people who care for others, when they need it most.
“When something goes wrong, it’s me trying to fix it. If things turn out okay, I’m a hero. If they don’t, the customer says, ‘That Skip, he never stopped trying.’ Either way I’ve done my best for them, and they know that.”
Today Skip advertises Custom Movers Select in national magazines focused on the clergy, but even in this electronic and social-media age, the best referral is the word of a satisfied customer.
“I help the people who help people. I feel like I was called to do this. And at 77, I doubt that I’ll ever stop.”
Click here to read our "Shared History" story about Skip's grandfather, Andrew Higgins.