JoAnn Richey and her husband moved from Brussels, Belgium, back to her hometown of Houston last September. Unsure about how long they’d be staying here or where they’d like to live long-term, they chose One Park Place, the high-rise apartment complex above Phoenicia Specialty Foods downtown, because of all the amenities it offers, particularly access to a 24-hour concierge service.
“In Brussels, I got used to the services that you don’t typically have in U.S. culture, like house-sitting, maid service, dog walking,” she says.
Moving in, Richey had furniture and large items delivered from abroad. The concierge service helped to get the items to her apartment, whether or not she was home. She had extra boxes after unpacking, so she’d leave them outside her door and building workers would take them, break them down and recycle them. After bringing heavy mirrors up to her apartment while she was away, they hung them where she wanted them.
Now she’s on a first-name basis with the concierges and uses the service frequently, whether it’s for making dinner reservations or parking her car. They anticipate her needs and help her with her groceries without even asking. There’s a no-tip policy in place, she says, with concierges being compensated strictly through their salaries. “The staff is incredibly kind and friendly and genuine,” Richey said. “It makes it easy, it simplifies your life.”
As apartment complexes proliferate across the city, it’s never been a better time to be a Houston renter on the hunt for goods and services to make your life easier, more convenient and more luxurious, whether you want valet parking, dry-cleaning, car washing, dog walking, yoga lessons, tanning beds—and the list goes on.
Many of the luxury condos around town offer concierge services, too, as part of their maintenance fee. At the Four Seasons, which has about 100 condo units on 10 floors, residents get treated like VIP hotel guests around the clock.
“They never park their own car, they never bring anything up, we’ll put it away for them,” says Michelle Smith, director of residential and concierge services at Four Seasons Houston. “If they’re out of town and they want us to stock their fridge for them, we’ll do that.”
Smith says residents often use their private lobby as an extension of their home. And with at least one of a staff of 10 available around the clock, there’s a level of intimacy established Smith likens to an extended family. “We know everything about them,” she says. “We know all their likes, dislikes—from how they like their coffee to how they like their mail sorted.”
Smith’s staff, which includes several members of the Les Clefs d’Or, a worldwide organization of top concierges, prides itself on going above and beyond. Last December, one of the residents who wasn’t feeling much in the way of Christmas spirit came home to a fully decorated tree. “Oh my gosh, she came down and had tears in her eyes. She loved it,” Smith says.
At One Park Place, Richey says her husband still hasn’t gotten used to all the help offered by the concierge service at their new residence—he’ll sometimes go down to let in guests, for example, even though the concierge will send them up and even help them carry heavy items. But she herself appreciates the extra time these services afford her for doing things she wants to do, and now she doesn’t want to go without them.
“One of the hardest things for people to say is ‘Help me,’” she says. “I had a few years of getting out of that habit—and once you do, it’s very difficult to go back. When you make yourself that vulnerable, you realize it’s not bad to have help.”