In Search of a Soul Mate

Never mind the web, these women hunt dates the old way: With intuition and lots of cash.

by Alice Chen.

Carole ShattilCarole Shattil owes a lot to matchmaking.

Her grandfather, Julius, a Lithuanian native, had moved to the United States but found it difficult to meet a wife. So his sister arranged for her friend in Lithuania to be his bride. The two never saw each other before she arrived, but they married and stayed together for life. They bore three sons, one of whom was Shattil's father.

Sixteen years ago, Shattil founded CheckMatesInc., a firm that combines matchmaking with headhunting. Prices start at $2,500 for a trial membership, $5,000 for 18 months of local introductions and $10,000 for two years of local and Los Angeles pairings. The latter package allows clients to specify certain attributes in matches, such as high income, high profile or particular physical traits.

On this dreary winter day, Shattil is meeting with Mr. Retro Glasses (not his real name), who took an eight-month hiatus after seriously dating a match. The duo recently broke up, and Mr. Retro Glasses is back in Shattil's tiny office in One Embarcadero Center to dissect the situation and hear about his next match. It's like a therapy session.

"How'd you end things?" Shattil asks.

"There were compatibility issues," says Mr. Retro Glasses, a clean-cut financial executive. "There was tension at a family wedding."

"You were going to counseling (as a couple)," Shattil recalls. "You probably learned a lot."

"I learned to start slower," Mr. Retro Glasses says. "At 45, I'm happy to be alone. It takes a special person."

Soon, Shattil moves on to new prospects.

"Belinda's been married. She's warm," Shattil says, showing a photo. "She has a master's in English literature."

Shattil continues, "A new person wanted to meet you. She's 42, married three years and divorced five years. She's a runner, volunteers for the Coast Guard and does marathons."

Mr. Retro Glasses whistles.

Later he tells me, "Carol's easy to get along with. She has a sense of what I like."

Another client concurs.

"She's very intelligent, outgoing and social," says Scott, a 56-year-old CEO of a biotechnology company. "She has many, many, many friends."

Shattil is a tall, thin woman in her late 40s who smiles constantly and wears a large section of her wildly curly hair haphazardly clipped back. She is a zealous reader, ballet dancer and music enthusiast. She's the type of woman who socializes with clients and visits their homes. Shattil's also driven to succeed. She e-mailed me at 12:40 a.m. to arrange our interview.

Shattil grew up in Chicago. Her father was an entrepreneur and her mother a teacher and homemaker. She studied psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was just starting her master's in movement therapy at UCLA when her father died at age 55. His death jolted Shattil, and she left school and worked as a corporate recruiter in Chicago. She married a furniture-maker, but divorced seven years later.

Shattil burned out in the corporate world and wanted more fulfilling work. She had already made a practice of fixing up her bosses and co-workers, so she decided to move to the Bay Area to create Check- MatesInc. with her sister.

Initially, Shattil's business provided blind dates, but was unsuccessful. Now she brings in clients for a psychological profile and chooses an initial pool of at least 12 matches. Clients browse through photos, discuss prospects and then select their own matches from the pool.

"They don't walk away saying, 'You picked the wrong person for me,' " Shattil says. "It's a team effort. You can't control chemistry. No one can. You can only present and give people what they want."

Business is picking up for Shattil, who recently reopened her Los Angeles office.

"I enjoy what I'm doing," Shattil says. "It's not work."

It's her life.

Alice C. Chen is a freelance writer in the East Bay. Her work has appeared in Newsweek and on Chicago Public Radio.