(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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.