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. 

Doorperson of the month: Lavelle Barnett, 850 N. Lake Shore Drive

(Published on May 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Lavelle Barnett has been the doorperson since 1996 and at 850 N. Lake Shore Drive since 2013. He said he particularly likes 850 Lake Shore Drive because of its storied past. Once known as the Lake Shore Athletic Club, it was built in 1927 though by 2005 it sat empty and faced demolition until developers turned it into luxury apartments.

Barnett works first shift, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and he’s the head doorperson, overseeing five other staff members.

“It’s hard work, but we get it done; we’re a team,” Barnett said. “And everybody around here treats each other with respect.”

Barnett said the building has about 240 residents who make up a small community he is happy to be a part of. For most of his career, he’s worked in the Gold Coast and Streeterville areas and he said he’s learned a lot from watching residents.

“I can say this community raised me,” he said. “I learned a lot just watching the way the people I worked for, how they would raise their children. It taught me what makes a good school and how my child can take a test to see how far her academics can go. They taught me life lessons, to save money, be grateful and be good to people who are good to you and all of those little things.”

Barnett said it’s important for the doorperson—especially the first shift doorperson—to set the tone for residents in the morning by being cheerful and helpful. He said he likes that part of the job.

“It gives me pleasure,” Barnett said. “I think I was bred for service. I love providing service, I do.”

Barnett said the work isn’t for everyone, because being a doorman means not thinking about personal issues and not bringing frustration, anger or even pain into work. He recently lost a child, but when he was at work, he focused on the residents.

“You can’t bring it in here,” he said. “I’m speaking from experience. You can’t take it in. You got a lot of people depending on you and you have people who have already had a bad morning and when they come past, they have to see you in good spirits to let them know everything is going to be alright.”

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.

Bob Jackson is the Streeterville doorperson of the month for May

(Published April 29, 2019)

By Jesse Wright, staff writer

Bob Jackson is a doorperson unlike most in Streeterville because he works at The Clare, a senior independent living community. Jackson’s been at the job for 10-and-a-half years, since the building opened.

This isn’t his first building, but he said being a doorperson for a senior community is different than being the doorperson at a residential building. Jackson said the senior center is  better.

“The personality of the Clare is, I guess for me, it’s like having a building full of my mom’s friends or my grandparents and their friends with all their quirkiness and wisdom,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of very successful people here. I’ve learned a lot and grown from these residents. This is the greatest generation here.”

The energy at the Clare is different. Some condos and apartments bustle with energy every morning as residents stream out into the world while some days can be slow and downright dull. Not so at the Clare.

“The energy level is a little lower, but the expectation is higher,” Jackson said. “These people have travelled and they know what they want. They’ve lived long lives. My job is to make sure the level of service they’ve come to expect is still there for them. If you spend the kind of money to move into a place like this, you have expectations and that’s a challenge from my perspective.”

Besides helping with bags and packages, Jackson said he has helped residents repair walkers and change hearing aid batteries and sometimes even help with clothing buttons.

“This community is just that,” Jackson said. “People looking out for each other across the board. I lost my father since I started working here. But the response from the community was overwhelming. They stepped up in a way that let me know I was part of this place. It was moving. They stepped up and, in a way, helped me get through the process. You have to remember that everybody has been touched by some types of tragedy or loss and they helped me walk through that. That was the first parent I lost. That let me know too that part of this place is more involved than calling cabs and pushing carts. Family would be a good way to put it.”

Bob Jackson is the Streeterville doorperson of the month and he works at the Clare. Photo by Jesse Wright

Alfred Veal, Streeterville Doorperson of the Month

(Published April 1,2019)

By Jesse Wright

For the past 34 years, residents at 111 E. Chestnut St. have had a familiar face greet them every day: Alfred Veal.

Veal has watched families start and children grow into adults. And he loves it.

“I love people,” he said. “And you know loving people and meeting different people and just seeing different things, that’s what kept me here.

Veal said a lot has changed over the decades. A church across the street used to be a parking lot. His building has changed, too. When he started, it was an apartment rental building. Now, 111 E. Chestnut is a condominium complex. The change brought an influx of younger residents.

In his first days at the building, he wasn’t a doorperson. “I was working for security in the garage and I had a buddy of mine who was a doorman here and when he left, he recommended me for the job,” Veal said.


When he did get the job, he didn’t look back. “I worked midnights [shifts for] two nights and I’ve been on days ever since,” he said.

The building has 444 units. Veal said before he knew the residence and the people who lived there, he didn’t love the job. “I had to get to know the people,” he said. “You have to build the relationship for you and the people.”

Veal said the job consists of getting cabs for people, helping residents with their luggage and knowing children’s birthdays and the personalities of each resident.

Veal has learned to listen to people. “Be attentive to people,” he said. “Be attentive to their needs and wants and just pay attention. Pay attention and don’t speak as much. Speak when you need to speak and you go from there.”

When he’s not working, Veal said he enjoys reading, going to church and fishing, either near his home or at Starved Rock State Park. But don’t look to Veal for fishing tips. “Nah, I’m trying to learn tips from other people,” he laughed.

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.

Alfred Veal is the doorperson at 111 East Chestnut and he is the April doorperson of the month. Photo by Jesse Wright

Tom Bohlen is the Streeterville doorperson of the month

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

Tom Bohlen has been a doorman at 201 E. Chestnut St. since 2007. Previously, he worked in construction, but after he was laid off, a friend of a friend suggested he apply to the building. He’s been there ever since.

Morning is madness, a scramble to get residents out the door and on their way, into cabs and off to work, Bohlen said. After that, it settles down and he accepts packages and greets visitors.

Bohlen said he’s always been a people person, and his favorite part of his job is interacting with residents.

“I enjoy my job [and] watching people go by,” he said.

His most memorable experience as a doorman has been seeing the kids in the building grow up, Bohlen said.

Aspiring doorpeople should be attentive and polite, he said. Anyone who wants to work in the field must be a people person, ready to learn the ways and the routines of residents.

“Keep your eyes and ears open. Get to know people, what their habits are,” he said.

Bohlen said when he’s not working, he likes to golf and he enjoys spending time with his rescue dog, a red nose pitbull named Bear, whom he calls “Cookie.”

Bohlen was nominated for Streeterville Doorperson of the Month by Gayle Hargrove, a resident and board secretary of the building. She praised Bohlen’s dedication to his job and the building.

“In all my years as a resident, I have not known him to ‘call in’ an absence unexpectedly—including during the recent polar vortex when his train broke down on his way to work,” she wrote in an email. “Tom has an uncanny way of learning our (resident’s) habits…and always has a kind word to offer.”

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: Oladayo Taiwu

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

Being a doorman comes naturally to Oladayo Taiwo.

“I no longer see it as a job. I just see it like part of me already,” he said. “I think that’s why I put in my best doing what I do.”

Taiwo, originally from Nigeria, has worked at 600 N. Lake Shore Drive for eight years. He works the morning shift, from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. The security and customer service aspects of what he does are the most important, he said. That includes taking care of and assisting residents “the best way we can.”

Janice Avery, onsite property manager for the building, nominated Taiwo for Doorperson of the Month.

According to Avery, Taiwo, “is personally responsible for overseeing the inner workings of the building with over 1,000 residents. Increased resident traffic in the building, especially during the Air and Water Show, Fourth of July and our building parties, demands Taiwo is present and that our property stays orderly,” Avery wrote. “It is Taiwo who will go the extra mile in keeping confidentiality surrounding such events, while still responding to owner inquiries about the event, all done with class.”

Taiwo spends his free time cooking delicious meals. “I love to get myself a bottle of wine, cook, watch movies…I cook everything I can cook, a lot of African delicacies,” he said. “I like spicy food.” He spends a lot of time finding new recipes on YouTube.

Taiwo said he got the job because he wanted to do something good for himself. People getting into his line of work have to think about what their motivations are, he said. “Discover for yourself if it is something you really want to go into, or if you just want to do it temporarily, or just do it for financial purposes or whatever,” he said.

“Whatever you do, you just have to make sure it’s part of you,” Taiwo said. “I would say the best thing, is to enjoy it.”

To nominate a doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com

[Oladayo Taiwo loves his job as a doorperson at the North Lake Shore Drive residency and when he’s not at work, he loves to cook. Photo courtesy Oladayo Taiwo]

Streeterville Doorperson of the month Dwight Jones

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

Dwight Jones, doorman at 400 E. Ohio St., said he has mastered the art of being a doorman. He better have—he’s been at it for 36 years.

Jones started out at the Whitehall Hotel at 105 E. Delaware Place, where he had to wear a top hat and white gloves. His colleagues there were the best of the best and taught him everything he needed to know to succeed, he said. The most important piece of advice he got was to always be prompt and well-groomed.

Guests on The Phil Donahue Show would stay at the Whitehall, and Jones said he met many famous people, including Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Pearl Bailey and Elizabeth Taylor. The most memorable, he said, was Paul Newman, who showed up with a U-Haul full of clothes and shoes. Jones and a maintenance man unloaded the whole thing and were tipped generously.

“[Newman] wore a lot of velvet,” Jones said.

After the Whitehall, Jones worked at the InterContinental training employees to be doormen. He, then he worked at a few different buildings before settling at 400 E. Ohio St., where he has been for 25 years.

A typical busy day involves “a lot of packages, a lot of greetings, a lot of smiles,” Jones said. Many of the building’s residents have lived there as long or longer than he’s been there. “It’s just like home,” he said.

Jones said  he’s watched the neighborhood change a lot over the years. “I’m so proud of Streeterville, the way it came up,” he said. “Streeterville is the new big thing in Chicago.”

As a doorperson, Jones said he has to be ready for anything—and anyone. “You have to be in shape. You have to have a presence about yourself. This is not an easy task job. You have to be physically ready.”

In his free time, Jones likes horse racing—he’s been to the Kentucky Derby twice, he said. He also calls himself a “football addict,” adding that he’s played sports his entire life and loves the Patriots and the Cubs.

Jones also loves his job. To be a good doorperson, you have to “like what you’re doing, know what you’re doing, and be a professional,” he said. “If you don’t like what you do, you ain’t gonna survive at it, cause you’re gonna always think of problems to hate the job.”

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: Tom Alaraj of the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

 

Tom Alaraj, doorman at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, has been working there since May of 1972, when he walked into the hotel and asked if they were hiring. Alaraj is Palestinian and was born in Lebanon. He arrived in the United States on a student visa on Nov. 6, 1967, when he was 19. He started out at YMCA College, then transferred to Loyola, then to UIC, where he studied economics.

In 1972, when he asked at the Knickerbocker about job openings, they sent him to the personnel office, where he filled out an application. Then he was sent to housekeeping, where he was fitted for a uniform. Alaraj was hired.

Alaraj, 70, comes to work at 3:30 in the afternoon and spends his shift greeting guests, assisting them with their luggage, parking their cars and giving them suggestions about things to do in the neighborhood, he said.

“I like my job because it gives me an opportunity to really do good to people and to help people,” Alaraj said. “I know the city; I know the neighborhood, and I think I’m good at it.”

Alaraj said he’s met many famous faces over the years, including Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey and Hugh Hefner. He said Princess Diana shook his hand, and Andy Williams took him to his show, A Christmas Carol, at The Chicago Theatre.

Alaraj described himself as “very home-oriented.” He likes to stay at home and take “lots of long walks.”

As for people who want to get into his line of work, Alaraj said it’s necessary to like people and be tolerant of the weather, which can sometimes be “cruel.”

Overall, he said he likes his job and he called it “very rewarding.”

“I take pride in my job. I love my job. I like to do good to people, I like to assist people, I like people,” he said.

 

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: For Mark Cornelius, his job is a family tradition

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

 

For Mark Cornelius, doorperson at 850 DeWitt Place, the service industry is in his blood.

“My dad was a doorman for 30 years at 260 Chestnut [St.],” Cornelius said.

Cornelius is being modest about his father’s legacy. In 1987 the Chicago Tribune, wanting to know more about the profession, profiled Cornelius’ father, Lawrence.  Lawrence was quoted in the paper calling the job “a love affair” and extolled the virtues of the profession.

“Some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered in my life reside in this building,” Lawrence told the Tribune.

The younger Cornelius has been a doorman for 20 years now. He’s been at 850 DeWitt Place for the last three years, and, like his father, he said he’s fascinated by the residents.

“I like meeting the different people from all walks of life,” Cornelius said. “It was very interesting to me…when I first became a doorman.”

Cornelius said a key to success with residents is proximity. Be friendly, he said, but don’t go too far.

“I get to get close to some people,” he said, “but I keep it professional and I don’t get too close to people and be in their business.”

For Cornelius, being a doorperson is more than working with families. Working in the downtown area, Cornelius said he knows regular professional folks, but he’s also seen his share of famous faces.

“I’ve met a lot of celebrities doing this,” he said. “It’s been a great ride for me, to say the least.”

Cornelius said it’s a great job for anyone who considers themselves a people person. The key is leaving personal problems at home, he said, and being a friendly face at the beginning and end of the day for residents.

“I would say just be happy,” he said. “Just have fun doing it. If you can’t have fun doing it, it’s going to be a bore.”

Of course, not everyone he meets is friendly, and sometimes even the warmest smile from a doorperson is enough to melt the ice of someone who is having a bad day, and that’s just part of the job.

“Sometimes you get some people that are hard to deal with,” Cornelius said. “But you just have to take the bitter with the sweet.”

Cornelius called himself a “homebody.” To unwind, he said he likes to hang out at home with his girlfriend and watch movies.

The Equalizer franchise is his favorite.

“I liked The Equalizer, one and two. I guess that was about my favorite movie,” he said. “[More recently] I saw Hotel Artemis; that was OK.”

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.

Streeterville Doorperson of the Month: Novan Williams

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

 

Novan Williams has been a doorman since 1984.After six years at his first building, Williams found an opportunity he couldn’t pass up at 474 N. Lakeshore Dr., where he still works today.

 

For 25 years, a typical day for Williams has involved greeting people coming in and out of the building, dealing with packages, making sure people get what they need and always having a smile on his face, he said.

 

His smile is especially important to him—he said it’s his secret to success. Williams keeps his positive energy going by leaving any problems at home and coming to work happy.

 

His favorite part of work is “meeting new people, and the people I work with, and the people in the building,” he said. “I just love my job.”

 

In his free time, Williams likes to watch sports, especially football and basketball. His most memorable work experience is also sports-related. Williams met former Chicago Cubs player Sammy Sosa, who always took time to talk to him, when the baseball player lived in the building for a couple years, Williams said.

 

A veteran in the doorperson profession, Williams has advice for those thinking of getting into his line of work – “Just be honest and love what you do, and keep a smile on your face and a positive attitude.”

 

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com. All doorpersons of the month receive a $25 gift certificate to Mariano’s.

 

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