October 21, 2014

I’ll Jump Over the Desk to Help

Handle a 4 a.m. starbucks fix for a former first lady? Sure thing. Create an extra-extra-long bed for a former NBA superstar? No problem. All in a day’s work for a resourceful concierge.

Paul TeCroney, chef concierge at the Naples Grande Beach Resort, has a slew of professional secrets. Yes, he has the typical tricks of the trade—a computer system that makes remembering guest requests seem like a supernatural skill; racks of brochures about every imaginable Southwest Florida tourist destination; and a roster of more than 40 vetted local restaurants that becomes his lifeline during the swell of season.

But there’s another secret that reveals TeCroney to be a true hospitality pro. After two decades in the business, he is still passionate about his work. He hates to see anyone wait in line at the front desk, doesn’t flinch at finding lost luggage and gives directions to the Naples Grande restrooms for the hundredth time in a day without a hint of weariness.

Even difficult guests are no problem. He sees soothing them as a challenge.

TeCroney confesses to only one encounter where he was stumped for a perfectly polite turn of phrase, when a former U.S. president stopped by the concierge’s desk to ask for a jogging map. TeCroney pretends to hold out a map and peer meekly upward at an invisible commander in chief. He even relives his nervous laughter. “That’s the only time in my career I’ve been like a little girl,” he says.

His concierge desk is a neatly organized system of cubbyholes, drawers and shelves, all stuffed with information, a kind of miniature chamber of commerce. In a cabinet, he stores menus to countless restaurants, spare toiletry kits and even a shoehorn, although no one has ever actually asked to use it. “The way the concierge desk is set up is to know the answer before they come to us,” TeCroney explains. Of course, that’s not always possible. Curveballs are the norm for a concierge. He compares the craze of high season to the crunch of a rock concert, and when the hotel is at its busiest, it’s not unusual for all eight lines on his desk phone to light up in unison.

Once, the phone rang so much, it shorted out, TeCroney recalls. “It’s like a mosh pit,” he says of season.

There are other times that cause an energy uptick, too. TeCroney relates one Naples Grande episode where he had to find a 4 a.m. cup of Starbucks for a first lady of the United States. In such a situation, when there’s no computer system or glossy brochure that can be of help, he gamely turns to that old standby: pleading for friendly favors.

In the case of the first lady’s java, TeCroney enlisted the help of the manager of Albertson’s, who kindly opened up his supermarket’s North Naples doors and fired up one of the machines at the in-store Starbucks.

“I thanked him profusely,” TeCroney says. “Plus, I told him who it was for.” That’s definitely something he doesn’t usually do. Discretion is essential to his job, since it’s not unusual for the Naples Grande to host celebrities, politicians—or even foreign aristocrats.

After helping a german baron and baroness plan and book a Naples fishing excursion, TeCroney counseled them on what to wear on the boat. The couple agreed they simply couldn’t wear anything as gauche as T-shirts and shorts, so TeCroney helped them find a local shop that could outfit them according to their tastes. The couple returned to the hotel looking as though they had strolled out of a Norman Rockwell painting in elegant, old-fashioned fishing gear, TeCroney says. They were thrilled with their new look.

Other times, guests don’t need advice; they need solutions. While working at his first concierge job at the now-defunct Radisson on Marco Island, TeCroney had to accommodate basketball great Wilt Chamberlain. At 7 feet 1 inch tall, the former L.A. Lakers center was too big for any of the property’s beds. TeCroney ordered another bed for the room and sandwiched the mattresses together.

Chamberlain was a very important guest, but TeCroney says he would do the same for anyone. “They’re guests. They need to be loved. They need to be nurtured,” he says.

After three years at the Radisson, TeCroney took a concierge spot at the upscale Registry hotel, now the Naples Grande. For three-and-a-half years, he honed his craft there alongside a concierge who belonged to Les Clefs d’Or, an international concierge organization. TeCroney joined the Southwest Florida Concierge and Guest Services Association in 1995 and the U.S. branch of Les Clefs d’Or in 1997.

He left the Naples Grande to open the GreenLinks Golf Resort in Lely Golf Resort, the Marco Beach Ocean Resort on Marco Island and his own private concierge company. Those business plans didn’t pan out, but TeCroney wasn’t discouraged. He returned to the Naples Grande as the hotel’s head concierge. His wife of 14 years, Sheila, also works at the property and is a hospitality veteran.

For TeCroney, coming back to the Naples Grande has given him an opportunity to do what he loves best: help people have an exceptional hotel stay. If a couple is celebrating a romantic anniversary, he makes sure there’s something special waiting in their room, whether it be champagne, strawberries or a red velvet cake.

Sometimes spreading cheer requires more effort, such as one Christmastime when a woman lost her luggage. She broke down into tears at his desk. TeCroney swore to her that he would locate it, and after making phone calls to every airport she passed through en route to Naples, he discovered her bags in Miami.

Those are the moments he clearly enjoys the most. He grins broadly when remembering fixing guests’ difficulties and calls himself “a sucker” for someone in distress. He admits to having a soft spot for anyone who touches his heart: children, families, grandparents, anyone who reminds him of a loved one. Stand next to TeCroney for a few minutes at the concierge desk, and you realize that’s almost all of the hotel’s visitors. “I’ll jump over the desk to help,” he says.

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