Demands made of the city’s leading concierge services
By Linda O’Flanagan
For a woman who runs the biggest concierge service in New York City, Abbie Newman has surprisingly few demands.
“My building doesn’t have a concierge,” said the co-founder of Abigail Michaels Concierge. “At times, I feel like the cobbler whose kids don’t have shoes.
“I’m so busy helping other people, mentoring our team of 46 employees, plus meeting new clients, that sometimes I could use my own personal concierge.”
Since the concept of hotel-style concierge services burst onto the apartment scene some 15 years ago, New Yorkers in particular have quickly become accustomed to having their cake — in this case a multi-million dollar apartment — and eating it.
Abigail Michaels’ business — which Newman co-founded with fellow concierge Michael Fazio in 2002 — has grown from a handful of personal clients, to over 50,000 in the hotel, commercial and apartment sectors. The company caters to the whims of owners and renters in buildings like Mercedes House, 15 Union Square West, Silver Towers and William Beaver House.
“It was a moment where everybody already had the gym, the pool, all the requisite amenities, but no-one was talking about service,” recalled Newman of her company’s fledgling years. “We brought our high-touch concierge service to the residential market when there was a tremendous amount of competition among developers and building owners trying to differentiate their product.
“In particular, we offer a private-label service — seamlessly integrated into the building operations — which is a brand asset that really makes their product stand out.”
The term “concierge” evolved from the French “Comte Des Cierges,” the Keeper of the Candles, who tended to visiting nobles in castles during medieval times.
Today, the role has become a multi-million dollar business that aspires to anticipate your every need before you even know you need it.
At The Edge in Williamsburg, American Leisure services — another major player in the concierge scene — arranges on-site consultations with medical doctors, nutrition counseling, acupuncture and chiropractic treatment as part of a “Your Well-Being Program” for residents.
Just last week, residents of the buildings in the Gotham Organization portfolio enjoyed a spa day organized by Concierge Service International. Michael Morris, president of CSI, said, “There’s nothing we won’t do to get a client what they need. We’ve had to get white clothes delivered to some residents who were out in the Hamptons so that they could attend Diddy’s White Party.
“We’ve hired little people for residents a few times, including one to act as a mascot for a resident’s softball team, one dressed as a breakdancing Oompa Loompa, and once as little Three Amigos, complete with sombreros that doubled as chip and dip bowls.”
It seems there is nothing New Yorkers won’t ask of their concierge, according to Newman, who admits there is very little that surprises her these days. But she believes New Yorkers deserve no less.
“Our clientele living in luxury apartment buildings in New York City is very aware of five-star services,” said Newman.
“Whether they have stayed in Milan, Miami or Hong Kong, they have tasted this personal service in some shape or form. They have asked the concierge to arrange a spa treatment or to get tickets for a sold-out concert. This has created a very tangible feeling of service, of being a VIP, and it makes all the difference on a trip. So why not feel that way at home, too?”
Some of the most common Abigail Michaels requests these days are moving services, dinner reservations, and housekeeping, which Newman said transform her clients’ lives from stressful to stress-free.
“In 2012, we helped more than 5,000 residents by setting up their mover, setting up their utilities, and making the move-in process a seamless transition into their new home,” said Newman.
“Last week, we completed the move-in process for a foreign owner’s pied-a-tierre, even though he’s never even been to New York.”
Abigail Michaels also prides itself on developing relationships around the city with restaurant owners, theaters and the most sought-after service providers. “When you’re making upwards of 15,000 dinner reservations every year — sometimes for really hard-to-get and last-minute reservations—it’s our relationships that make the difference,” she said.
Since launching Abigail Michaels Concierge, Newman has seen an ebb and flow in the type of services most often requested.
Pet services have grown exponentially, she said, and they’re not always routine.
“Recently, we resourced a private chef to prepare a special diet for a client’s newly-acquired shelter dog that was suffering from digestive problems.
“And of course we get requests for the impossible-to-get tickets, like the Met Costume Gala or a Taylor Swift concert. As long as the budget is flexible, we can absolutely get it done.”
To those who believe it’s all too over the top, Newman has this to say: “New Yorkers should be spoiled. Look where we live. We work harder than any other population in the world, and time is a very valuable commodity.”
And she said her team of highly-trained associates is always ahead of the curve on the next big thing. “We are never surprised by what people want because the best concierges always think and plan in a strategic way— we’re never caught off guard by an out-of-the-box thing that someone must have right now.
“And making magic happen for people is what we live for.”