There's power in good matchmaking

MARLBORO — Ask Sandra Silberstein and she'll tell you: there's power in good matchmaking.

She should know. It's been nearly 50 years since her present-day sister-in-law had a hunch that a brother, Michael, and Silberstein would hit it off.

Four months after their introduction, the Silbersteins were engaged. Now grandparents of three, the couple has lived in Marlboro for four decades, married 47 years.

Today, Sandra Silberstein is the one dishing out the old-fashioned matchmaking services and happily-ever-afters. She started her home-based business, Right Choice Dating Inc., about 16 years ago with $3,000 in advertising costs, no overhead and fewer than 50 clients.

Through word-of-mouth and personal referrals, she's since grown the business to a database of about 4,000 area residents looking for love.

Silberstein's among about 1,500 traditional matchmakers operating in the United States, according to the Matchmaking Institute, a New York-based matchmakers' training academy. The matchmaking industry reports $250 million in sales in 2008. Even with the last decade's online dating boom, traditional matchmaking hasn't suffered much, according to the institute.

Silberstein says her service is part personal touch, part objective instinct — and a little of the blunt honesty and selectiveness you might not find in an Internet profile.

"It's interesting — I might not know the time of day or what I had for lunch, but I remember every member, maybe because I talk to them so much," Silberstein said.

She requires identification. She'll refuse an applicant if they don't meet with her personally or are overly concerned with dates' wallets. She's sent clients for counseling when they can't get over a lost spouse, and sent them home if a divorce isn't pending.

It's why clients like Anna DiFria of Jackson, a 49-year-old divorcee, say they trust her over big online dating companies and niche matchmaking sites.

"With dating on the Internet, you just don't know the people," DiFria said. "Sandy is very concerned and very honest. She knows all the local people, and before you go out to meet somebody, she makes sure it's the right one for you."

In her Marlboro office, Silberstein is Right Choice's sole employee, on-call from early morning to late evening Monday through Saturday. Her clients, largely from Monmouth, Middlesex and Somerset counties, pay $400 to $800 for six to 12 months of service, beginning with a one-hour free consultation.

Right Choice customers are asked to fill out forms with data on their preferences and lifestyle — information like whether they want children or have them already, whether they smoke or don't.

"And when I'm sitting during a consultation, I'm thinking, "Gee, I have this person in mind.' Afterward I pull the file and look for every little thing" that might make or break a match, she added. "I don't believe that opposites attract."

Most of Silberstein's clients, largely in their 30s through 50s, some in their 60s, come to her because they're recently divorced or widowed. Some don't have the time to socialize much because of busy professional and family lives, Silberstein said.

And with about 75 percent of her clients finding long-term relationships and 25 client marriages under her belt, Silberstein says her business has remained steady, and even grown a bit through the tough economy of the past few years.

The matchmaker says that, in any given year, Right Choice brings in just about $50,000 in revenue. The business's smaller size fosters more personal attention, and it's not all about money for her, Silberstein says.

"I just enjoy when someone meets someone and they're going to spend the rest of their life with that person because of me," Silberstein said. "I can't always predict chemistry or "Yes, there's going to be a marriage,' but I try my best to do what I can. A lot of times, it works."

Sandy is waiting to help you, lets get started now!

Alesha Williams Boyd: 732-308-7756;

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