Doorperson of the month: Roosevelt Shrivers at The Streeter

By Mat Cohen

 

This night owl has been building strong relationships and having some fun along the way.

Roosevelt Shrivers

Roosevelt Shivers, who has won the Streeterville News Doorperson of the Month, has been stationed on the late shift at the Streeter, 345 E. Ohio St., for 10 years.

“I love helping the residents feel at home when they come in,” he said. “When they see you smile, they smile, and it makes them feel better. That’s the joy.”

Before working at the Streeter, Shivers spent about a year helping at different residential buildings when needed. But the Streeter was something special.

“It’s a real down to earth, friendly building,” he said. “The leasing office treats us like family, and I’ve never been a part of a building that does, who let us use the facilities. We have rooms that they let us rent out to family, if we need it.”

“That’s the biggest thing for me, it feels like a family and it makes me want to come to work,” he added. “I love it.”

Roosevelt grew up on the west side of Chicago and loves the Cubs. When he’s working, he cherishes the full conversations with residents about the team. He’s also a self-proclaimed night person, which helps him with overnight shifts. Even if he wasn’t working, he said he’d still be up at 3 a.m.

“We’re the first thing they see in the morning and at night we’re the last person they see,” he said. “We’re there just to make the residents feel welcome, have a good day, good morning, or have a good night. We’re just the front line.”

Throughout his shift, he holds space for any resident to talk, vent or joke around, which comes naturally to him.

“I’m being just a shoulder they can lean on,” he said. “They’ll come talk and it’ll calm them down and get them in a better mood. That’s the easiest part of the job.”

Even on some late weekend nights when residents are arriving home after having some fun, he’s there for them.

“They’ll come the next day and thank me for everything,” he said. “My joke is, at least you made it back in one piece.

“As long as you make it in the door, I got you.”

Doorperson of the Month: Sheri Campbell at Elm Street Plaza

by Mat Cohen

Sheri Campbell is an integral part of the community she loves.

She’s been a doorperson at Elm Street Plaza, 1130 N. Dearborn St., for four years and has won Streeterville News Doorperson of the Month.

“It’s all just a lot of customer service and interacting with people,” she said. “It’s helping people, communication and meeting new people. I enjoy it, I’m a people-person, you kind of have to be.”

Campbell grew up in Cicero and worked in security for 25 years, including stints for retail buildings, other apartment buildings and the Chicago Public Libraries. 

She works the morning shift at Elm Street Plaza, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and enjoys sending people off to work with a smile and quick conversation.

“I love being kind and courteous, anything to help people,” she said. The meaning in her job comes from smiling and speaking to people.

She also enjoys watching kids get older and enter high school. She said events the building puts on bring the whole community together. She remembers a pool party last summer when a maintenance worker in the building danced the hula to win a prize. The event was a highlight of her year.

“He put his hula skirt on and really danced his heart out because there were tickets for a trip,” she said. “So he wanted to win the tickets, it was so hilarious. It’s good when all the tenants and staff come together and we do events for both.”

When she’s not at the building, Campbell likes to bowl with friends or catch a movie at the theater. She’s been bowling since she was a teenager and was familiar with the neighborhood because of the shows and theaters.

“I used to do that a lot maybe ten years ago, so I’m familiar with the area,” she said. “It’s a nice area and it’s a really nice building with really nice people.”

Team leader Arte Brinson accepts Doorperson of the Month Award

by Mat Cohen

Arte Brinson is accepting the Doorperson of the Month Award on behalf of the whole team at 540 N. Lake Shore Drive. “They could’ve made this phone call to the paper for any one of us,” he said. “I’m not the only one that deserves the recognition.”

But February is Brinson’s month to shine. He entered the army at 17, was honorably discharged at the age of 19, and began working at the postal service in 1984 when he was 24 years old. Thirty-six years later he retired. 

However, it wouldn’t be for long. Brinson’s brother-in-law, who was working at 540 N. Lake Shore Drive, urged him to take an open position at the building. Brinson started a part-time job there 13 years ago, but eventually picked up more hours and has been the head doorperson for seven years.

“Customer satisfaction is number one,” he said. “There will be times when a person is expecting a piece of mail and they don’t get it or a person is expecting to get on the elevator and it’s not working. It’s all kinds of ways we have to make sure they get what they’re asking for.”

Brinson is a problem-solver who enjoys playing chess. In his free time, he and his wife check out new restaurants. He also enjoys a challenge.

“Sometimes people come and they are irritated,” he said. “I challenge myself to change that state a little bit so the person feels better about it. Sometimes you can’t fix the issue, but you can make the person feel that you’re trying to fix it and it’ll make them feel better.”

He loves his job because of the people he deals with and the relationships he’s built. “They have to go past me,” he said. “I want to think they enjoy the interactions that we have, how little they may be.”

Brinson said watching newborns grow to teenagers has been meaningful for him. The families in the building, mixed with the fact it was an old motor factory, gives a different flavor to the place than the usual high-rise in Chicago, Brinson said.

But without a doubt, Brinson adds a little bit of his own flavor on top. “It’s good to have some fresh people, see some fresh faces. But overall It’s a good flow,” he said. “It’s a good job to have, a very underrated job to have.”

Doorperson of the Month: Justine Kotlarz

by Jacqueline Covey

For 17 years, January Doorperson of the Month Justine Kotlarz has worked at 247 E. Chestnut St. greeting residents, tending to their needs and handing out cookies—to those with two and four feet.

About two months ago, Kotlarz lost her brother Nick Bolhak.

“My brother got me in his place to train,” Kotlarz said, her voice straining the way one’s does when holding back tears. “And then a spot here opened.”

When Kotlarz was 50 years old, she hadn’t planned on losing her  job at a printing company—no one plans for  their long-time career to abruptly stop. But her brother, who she had raised her since he was 15, was there to return the helping hand. He brought her into his building at 2626 Lakeview, his place of employment for about 20 years, and she fell into a new career.

“I hope I can stay here for a long time,” she said. “I don’t want to retire. I just love this job.”

Kotlarz comes to work in the early hours, from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. most days of the week.

In the middle of her interview, a resident came  down to put in a last minute-request for overnight  parking. Kotlarz was happy to oblige, apparent by the  smile on her face throughout the task of filling out a  time slot.

“The people here are so nice and friendly,” she said. “They let me decorate and put flowers out.” 

One former board member at the complex, Kotlarz  remembers fondly, would garden with her outside and plant  owners on the sun deck. She looks back at her years in the garden as a time split between two homes.

This is generally her outlook when she thinks  about her job, the residents and the people she  works for. She is a giving person, trying to provide the best service to her tenants—and the job has given back.

A few years ago, Kotlarz was unable to work for  a year due to a medical condition. Regina Gubic, her manager at the time and one still within Sudler Property Management, was immensely understanding of her hardship.

“She called me one day (while I was on leave),” she said, “and told me she was saving my job for me. “She’s just…,” Kotlarz tried to finish that sentence  three times. Finally  finishing with glassy eyes, “She’s just a treasure.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@ neweastsidecommunity.com with the doorperson’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.  

Doorperson of the Month Chris Britton at 100 East Walton

by Mat Cohen

There’s a tremendous amount of pride and loyalty that comes with being a Chicago sports fan.

Fans of the Bulls, who  haven’t reached the conference semifinals since 2011,  need loyalty now more than ever. Chris Britton is strongly loyal and has thick  Chicago pride, so the rollercoaster of the post-Jordan  era hasn’t phased him.

“Those Jordan years were the best years,” he said. 

“ They’ve been disappointing a lot lately, but I’m still  ride or die a Bulls fan.”  

This dedication and love shows in Britton’s work, which is why he’s been named the Streeterville News Doorperson of the Month.

Britton, a family man, loves working with the 100 East Walton community he’s grown with over the past 11 years.

“You meet a lot of different people and they treat you very nice,” he said.  “I love to help out when- ever I can.” 

A few residents have been in the building for the full Britton Era.  They’ve earned his top-notch respect.

“I go above and beyond for them,” he said. “If they need anything, if they’re sick and I’m off work, I run to Walgreens. Whatever they need I go out  (of) my way.”

He also works at 100 East Huron. When not behind the desk, Britton enjoys time with family. He plays board games with his wife, 13-year-old son, 26-year-old daughter and four-year-old grandson. He travels with his family, who have all learned to love fishing, a sport Britton got from his dad.

“I travel a lot with the family,” he said. “I take the kids, I take my grandkid to different places. I use up all my vacation all the time.

“I’m more of a family person. We do a lot of things together.”

Britton has the same  pride for the city. He grew up in Hyde Park, which explains his preference for the White Sox. Eventually, he wants to work for the  city and is currently studying to earn his commercial  driver’s license.

“I know I’m up in age, but I want to get on with the city, that’s my thing,” he said.

Until then, he loves the  building, working with residents and helping wherever it’s needed.

“My favorite part is just how nice and friendly the people are,” he said. “I like introducing myself to them, talking about sports with them and getting to know them. “I love this building.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the doorperson’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 giftcard to Mariano’s.  

Doorperson of the Month: Johnson has stories to tell

by Mat Cohen

Johnson, who has worked at 200 E. Delaware Place for 37 years, is the Streeterville Doorperson of the Month.

If there are similarities between tending to 60 aquariums of freshwater tropical fish and being a doorman in a high-rise apartment building, Ralph Johnson would know.

For 27 years, Johnson successfully bred tropical fish and at his peak sold to 30 pet stores in the Chicago area. He’s also been at the door during the reconstruction of three lobbies, while generations grew old with their families.

“It’s nice, you see the people through the years,” he said. “Everyone is really friendly, I’ve seen people with little kids when they came here, and now their kids are having kids.

“And I’ve seen those children come to live here.”

Johnson’s favorite part of the job is building connections with residents. Some of which he’s had over to his house for barbecues.

“Helping people is a big thing,” he said. “I’m more personable, but there are some people that seem more attached to certain people.

“It’s personable when you’re a condo doorman rather than a hotel doorman. You get to know the people.”

Johnson has many stories to tell about love, friends and family. But his greatest story is of meeting his wife.

About 10 years ago, his future wife moved into the building to work as a cleaning lady. They met and ended up getting married on a cliff in Lake Tahoe with just the two of them and a minister. A dream come true for Johnson.

He also built a great relationship with a Jewish Hungarian couple who showed him the definition of true love each day.

“They would always walk hand in hand when they went out,” he said. “You could see a real love between them.

“When she couldn’t get out and was getting into her 80s, he would walk from underneath this canopy out front and look up to his wife in the window and wave. He would shuffle another 10 or 15 feet and look up and wave. Before he got to the end of the block he would do that three or four times. Their love was really strong.”

Johnson looks forward to his birthday in June and retiring around that time as well. He’ll be happy to have more time without the commute from Des Plaines.

Doorperson of the month: Jose Rivera, 530 N. Lake Shore Drive

By Jesse Wright

Jose Rivera knows how to keep his eye on the ball and stay in the game. Whether it’s playing centerfield in the softball field at Horner Park, or in the lobby of 530 N. Lake Shore Drive, where he is the doorperson, Rivera likes staying on his toes.

Rivera has worked at the Streeterville building for nearly seven years and he said it’s his first doorperson job. But he loves it. 

As the head doorperson he trains staff and manages guests and residents. Rivera said he likes the energy of the job.

“Normal days here are a rollercoaster,” he said. “It’ll get super busy for a little bit and then nothing. And then it’ll get super busy again and then nothing. And it’s like that most days.”

But Rivera keeps up with the pace. “You ride the wave,” he said.

The building includes 188 units, and over the past six years, Rivera said he’s gotten to know all the faces in the place. Everyone, he said, is pleasant. Rivera said he has never had much of an issue as a doorperson.

“You get the occasional tourist who walks in because they’re lost or they need to use the bathroom but no real problems with anybody,” he said. Rivera thinks of himself as a positive person and said that that is a quality he looks for in new doorstaff.

“They got to have a good personality, patience, and they’ve got to be positive. If you’re not positive you’re not going to succeed,” he said.

Away from the desk, Rivera likes to spend time with his family. His three boys and a girl keep him busy and he also plays sports. In the winter he’s on the basketball court and during the rest of the month he’s in centerfield as part of his softball league.

Why centerfield? “There’s lots of action,” Rivera said. “I like to keep in the action.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

Doorperson of the month: Harry Harris at Lake Point Tower

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Harry Harris has spent most of his life serving the federal government.

First, he served in the Marine Corps. He spent nine years in the service, and he enjoyed his time.

“I loved serving the country,” Harris said. “It was a different experience and I like to try new things. It had its hectic moments in there, but it was worth it. You get a different outlook.”

His work took him to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, to Hawaii and even to Cuba, to Guantanamo.

“I was there about six months,” he said of his time in Cuba. “It’s different now. You only could be on the base at that time, but it was beautiful. Well, what we could see. We couldn’t see outside the base.”

After that, Harris worked for decades walking the streets of Chicago delivering letters for the postal service. Harris said he likes to stay busy, so as he pounded the pavement during the day, he managed to squeeze in extra hours as a doorman at Lake Shore Tower, until he had to change shifts at the post office. After 25 years as a letter carrier, he retired.

“Management told me one of the doormen was retiring, and did I want to come back,” Harris recalled. “And I wanted to come back.”

That was in 2011, and he hasn’t looked back. Harris said he loves Lake Point Tower for the reasons many doorpeople love their buildings—the residents are great and he’s made friends at the job—but he added that the building itself is an attraction.

This year the building is 51 years old, and Harris said it still attracts tourists and visitors, people curious to see one of the more significant residential properties downtown. Architects John Heinrich and George Schipporeit designed Lake Point Tower. Both were proteges of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and the curving, Y-shaped design continues to attract students and fans of architecture—most of whom get turned away except during the Chicago Architecture Center’s annual open house in October.

“This is one of the buildings that people always want to get in to,” Harris said. “Every day, we have people come in off the street and say, ‘can we go upstairs?’ and we say, ‘no sorry. It’s a private building.’”

When workers completed the building in 1968, it was the tallest residential tower in the world and while that distinction no longer stands, it does remain the only major residential structure on the lakefront side of Lake Shore Drive. Given the city’s prohibition on future development, the building will likely maintain that distinction.

All of these things make the building popular among residents and wannabe residents.

“What building do you know has a three-acre park on the third floor?” Harris asked. “It’s got a park, an outdoor pool an outdoor pond and BBQ area a waterfall, it’s a whole park. You have restaurants here with a beautiful view. You don’t gotta leave unless you want to.”

And few do. Harris said the building has about 875 units and they’re generally all full or if they’re not, they’re in the process of being bought. Units don’t stay empty too long. 

“I love the people here,” he said. “It’s like a family. They make me feel like I’m part of the family you got all these different families but they make you feel like you’re part of their family. It’s a beautiful atmosphere. I’ve been offered other jobs but I say no, I’m not going to leave Lake Point.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

Streeterville Doorperson of the Month: Kahari “KJ” Jones at North Water Apartments

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Kahari Jones has been working at the North Water Apartments for nearly two years and he’s already made an impression. He was nominated by two separate residents.

This isn’t his first building as a door person though. Years ago, he started at 510 W. Erie on the Lake and he was there for four years, until his mother died. It was a hard time and he said it about wrecked him.

“If you’d have saw me when it happened, you’d have said he’s not going to make it,” Jones said. “But time is the cure for most things. But by the time I was whole again they had another person who was pretty good and they brought me over here.”

Jones said he enjoys the building, and its mix of young and older residents.

“If you’re leaning too much to one side or another, it takes away from the balance of the building, “Jones explained. “I’ve had people who have come here from some other buildings who have said it was just too young over there, it was a college atmosphere. We’ve got people return here who have come back because of that.”

The building is about 427 units and while it is at the end of a cul-de-sac with very little traffic, Jones said it can get busy at times. On the day of the interview, the garage elevator was down, which was frustrating for residents and Jones.

“That can really cripple the building,” he explained.

Jones went to college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and while there, he fell in love with New Orleans, a one-hour-and-20-minute drive east.

“I love the state of Louisiana,” he said. “I always say this about Louisiana and New Orleans specifically, that the eating is comparable to here in Chicago.”

Like the rest of America, Jones watched in horror after the levees breeched following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Jones went down to New Orleans following the storm and volunteered to clean out houses and do what he could for the city he loved.

“It was very humbling because what you saw on TV, it did nothing. That was nothing,” Jones said. “When I touched down and then drove into the city, for miles and miles the trees were mangled at their tops and they were always pointed in the same direction, hanging, facing the same direction. Then, when we came into the city, hundreds of cars were flipped over. The stuff I saw on TV versus the stuff I saw when I got there, it was drastically different.”

Jones volunteered with a couple of cleanup crews. He worked long summer days, tearing out drywall and mucking out houses for residents who were very much depending on the kindness of strangers. It was hard, hot work, but Jones said it changed him for the better.

“It was one of the best things for me,” he said. “It reinvented my disposition. What I can say is, I feel as though I will never really work again after that.” 
To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

Doorperson of the Month: Melvin Hunt

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Melvin Hunt, has a long history as a Streeterville doorperson. 

He’s spent the last 26 years at 201 E. Chestnut St., and before that, 11 years at a building across the street. In that time, he’s made quite an impression with residents and management.

As he walks through the lobby, Tom Mahar, Hunt’s boss, stops to praise his employee.

“He’s the best doorman in the city of Chicago,” Mahar said. “And all of the suburbs.”

Hunt said the trick to being a good doorperson is kindness and courtesy.

“You have to be nice,” he said. “And you have to get along with people. You have to learn names. You have to be good at learning names.”

Hunt said 201 E. Chestnut was built about 56 years ago, 10 years before Hunt got to the city, following a move from Memphis.

“I had aunts and relatives up here and I used to go visit them over the summers, and when I become 21 I decided to move up here,” Hunt said. There seemed to be better opportunities in Chicago than down in Tennessee, he said.

Over the decades, Hunt made a home for himself in the city. He’s got a wife, five grown children, grandchildren and even some great-grandchildren. 

And he discovered a passion for working the door.

“I like to meet new people,” he said. “It’s a great job.”

He estimates there are about 300 residents in the building, and he’s worked hard to memorize names and personalities of all.

“If I see someone two or three times, I’ll know their names and stuff like that,” he said. “If  you see them every day it becomes easy.”

Other than helping with the door, packages and hailing cabs, Hunt said his job is fairly low-key. This year roving groups of youth have harassed and in some cases attacked pedestrians in Streeterville, but Hunt said those problems don’t make it down Chestnut.

“It’s a very quiet neighborhood,” he said.

When not working, Hunt said he spends time at home and running errands.

“Well, there’s nothing much I do,” he said. “There are a lot of doctors’ appointments. And I go shopping with my wife. She loves to shop. To her it’s relaxing. I hate it.”

Hunt may get a lot more free time soon. He will turn 70 within three years, and expects to retire by then. Hunt said he already knows what will fill his days.

“That’ll probably be it,” he sighed. “Shopping with the wife.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s. 

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