It's a natural that spread in this country from hotels to
office buildings and, now, condominiums:
To some Americans, the concierge once was looked upon as a glorified "gofer" for hotel guests. Last year, the concept became popular in office towers. Now it has taken root at a luxury condo project in the desert.
Where would a concierge be more logical than in a fancy resort whose homeowners are used to being pampered?
That's what developer Ted Lennon (cousin of the singing Lennon Sisters) figured when he hired two concierges for The Terraces at The Vintage Club, a $45-million, two-tower condo project in Indian Wells. And so far, Lennon's logic has paid off.
He attributes many of the 18 sales in the 26-unit first tower to the presence of the concierges, and he's hoping it will appeal to buyers of the 27 units opening today in the second tower, at prices from $675,000 to $1,895,000.
Well, who wouldn't appreciate having someone around to answer nearly every beck and call? That's what the concierges at The Terraces do.
Consider Frank Pati. Since coming to work at The Terraces last April 1, the 52-year-old former sporting-goods store owner and hotel concierge even helped a famous scientist. "He decided to wash his dishes but put too much detergent in, and it spilled over," Pati recalled.
Not many condo owners can call on a concierge to help in such a mess.
There are concierges at some high-rise condo buildings along the Golden Mile of Wilshire Boulevard. "But they are more like doormen. They don't do much of anything else," said Bob Lowe, president and chief executive officer of Lowe Enterprises, owner/developer of The Terraces. Lennon is a principal.
Lowe and Lennon say that The Terraces "may well be the first residential resort complex in the nation to offer the benefits of a full-service concierge."
"Full-service" means "we do the usual things that hotel concierges do. You know, like getting the laundry done," Pati explained.
Mickey Elliott, who became a concierge at The Terraces last September, said that most of their requests involve restaurants or other entertainment but conceded, "With the number of hats we wear, we'd put Imelda Marcos' closet to shame."
Pati has walked a poodle, planned a surprise party and played a bridge hand, but Elliott says he and Pati are "more like property managers than bellhops."
They made sure all the screws for the light switches in their buildings were facing the same direction "to demonstrate quality," he said, and they saw to it that a 700-pound butcher block table that wouldn't fit into an elevator was lifted into a penthouse by a crane.
"Yet, we'll park cars, and we'll fish through the lake because a pump is down and look nice while we're fixing it."
Elliott, a 33-year-old former minister who is working on his doctorate at Harvard Divinity School, is a marriage counselor in his spare time.
"But I would never proselytize on my job as a concierge," he said. "If I did, people here would be afraid that Jim Bakker was right around the corner."
Like Pati, Elliott spends much of his day taking care of such details as putting a bottle of wine or food in the refrigerator of a condo whose owners are about to return.
Moved a Homeowner
Then there are those unusual requests--like the time Elliott was asked to handle the move of a new homeowner. "I saw to everything, from the dog to the mail to the furniture to the clothes."
He directed her belongings to three places: a rental where she planned to stay while her new home was being decorated, her new home and her second home in Arizona.
"Nobody lives at the Vintage Club year 'round," Lennon explained. "Maybe half have their main homes here, but many have three or four homes in various locations."
The 712-acre, $500-million Vintage Club, which publicists call "CEO Heaven," has attracted what Harold Charles Waite, owner of a local limo company, describes as "the princes and kings of industry" ever since the golf-oriented community began in 1979. Now nearly completed, it has a variety of residences besides The Terraces, with some single-family homes worth as much as $7 million to $8 million.
"With folks who live here," Elliott said, "money is often the last thing they think of." Time, saved through the concierges, is apparently more important.