The “Gatekeepers”

Spotlight on Chicago’s Residential Door Staff




By Jill Lowe



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When seeking to live in a Condominium or Co-operative residential building in Chicago, one may or may not include door staff as a crucial or essential element. In buildings with the highest level of security, the door staff is tasked with the responsibility to ensure that only permissible people enter the premises. This is achieved most securely by not permitting residents to have a key or fob entry. Knowing that strangers are not wandering in public areas is vital for this level of security. Thus it is the door staff acting as the actual gatekeeper.

In new buildings as developers look for streamlined and lower cost services, the inclusion of virtual door staff is becoming more prevalent.

But it is not only new buildings contemplating a move to virtual door staff, and at this moment in time, when new labor agreements are being negotiated, it is especially important to value the door staff, in residential buildings.

Images Shutterstock license

Images Shutterstock license

Defining the jobs of door staff may vary in each building but providing security, determining who and who is not to be let in, receiving packages, greeting residents, scanning security monitors and elevator positions, opening doors is de riguer. The highest discretion standard is expected, as villains are very experienced in extracting information from those without such high standards. You see whilst most door staff know a lot about residents and their comings and goings, it is vital that their lips are sealed to anyone else. Utmost discretion is their hallmark.

The value of attendant door staff is of course apparent for senior residents. Many family members of seniors who live in a “doorman building” feel some peace of mind that their relative is “watched over,” as it were.

But more and more young families with children enjoy the security and benefits of such attendants. Children can learn courteous behavior and learn respect for door staff. Trusted door staff provide much more than elegance to a building. Assistance is offered, and a feeling of home and stability is imparted to residents, whether seniors, young families, or singles.

One may think the value of door staff is confined to residents. But how many friends of residents leave packages and collect packages from door staff?

Too, realtors VERY much appreciate the facilities offered by door staff in showing clients available units.

Here are comments from 2 seasoned realtors in Chicago concerning door staff in buildings:-

Stacey Grossman-Broker Associate: Jameson Sothebys International Realty says:-

“Door staff are an invaluable amenity especially in luxury condo buildings! During a real estate showing, they are the first and last impression of a building, speaking to the level of courtesy, professionalism, convenience and security the building offers its residents. Door staff should be extremely attentive, pleasant, friendly and discreet.

I have had showings where the buyers did not want to have anything to do with purchasing in a particular condo building due to the poor treatment given by the door person! Impressive door staff make a building stand out in a positive light. It’s quite the opposite if the door staff are not cut out for the job!”

Karen Peterson – Broker with Baird & Warner Residential Brokerage says:-

“The often-underestimated position of door attendant happens to be an integral part of any building’s reputation. For it is the manner in which they carry out the multitude of their duties (guarding the lobby, screening visitors and workmen, handling deliveries, directing parking, knowing the building’s policies and procedures, responding to a building or resident emergency, being reliable and cooperative with their peers and other staff members…to name a few) that establishes the tone and character of a building.

They must be consummate professionals and team players, supporting the building’s management and culture. They enhance the overall experience of the residents and guests, always lending a sympathetic ear, yet never engaging in or discussing sensitive issues of a building or its occupants.

They are deserving of mutual respect, and it is always rewarding to see the smile on their faces when we inquire about their day, their family, and their overall well-being.

As one who lives in and works in many Chicago buildings, I’m reminded daily of just how important that first impression is to me and my clients. It is reassuring to know you are in good hands and will be greeted by a smile to start and end each day!”

It is in the areas more difficult to measure that the benefits of attendant door staff becomes apparent. Sometimes called “soft skills” an overarching attribute is attitude.I think we perhaps do not know all that is done for residents. Many door staff have had to monitor street happenings, and disturbances. Most door staff are hired for attitude, because the specific skills of a job such as tracking packages, providing security, opening doors, scanning security monitors can also be taught.

The discretion, warmth, greeting residents by name, memory for names and faces, (including pet’s names and non-resident family members,) excellent communication skills, personal warmth toward others cannot be taught.

In Chicago, we have a very high standard indeed of door staff. Many lead door staff have been with a particular building for many, many years, and considered part of its fabric. It is true that most doorstaff are men but there are also long-term women door staff. Staff in different buildings often know each other and there is a high level of respect for the position. Residents in any given building declare that their door staff are superior, kinder and more valued than others. They deserve the accolades. Here below are a few of the very respected door staff in Chicago.

LaBarron Williams

Harold Percy

Pat Haynes

Will Foster

Ellis Robinson

Rick Roach

It is true that most doorstaff are men but there are also long-term, well respected women door staff, such as Michelle Judkins.

Michelle Judkins

So why have door staff when technology can replace them?

Oh yes… this perspective is often voiced!

On paper this may all sound equivalent, but often door staff are replaced by SECURITY personnel and this is a quite different job description from door staff.

Some of these electronic services use words like remote, digital, virtual, and truly these services do have their place, for certain buildings.

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Image: kind courtesy: Izhar Cohen

All the new technologies indeed make virtual door staff efficient, but no comparison to those who are human.


Image of Jill : Joe Mazza Bravelux inc.

Photos not attributed- copyright © 2022 Jill Lowe. All rights reserved