'Concierge America' business thrives in hectic area
October 4, 1995
by Myra Mensh Patner
When Suzanne Stutman needed to find a tenant for her
Chevy Chase home while she and her husband left the United States to live in
Europe. She didn't place ads in the paper.
Rather she turned to Ellen Epstein of Concierge America.
Epstein placed ads, interviewed prospective renters, checked references and
credit and made sure all went well until stuntman returned. Stuntman has
also hired Epstein to do grocery shopping, get pictures framed and locate a
calligrapher. "I'll give Ellen a call for the little details of my life to the big details she is wonderful
if you need a plumber in the middle of the night, she'll figure out who,
where, when and how. She's a source of all knowledge," said Stutman, a
mother of three who runs a mental-health foundation.
Epstein, 48, and her partner, Jane Lewit, 54, in
January launched Concierge America, Inc., which handles the large headaches
and small details of life for dozens of clients here and abroad. The two
have been called on to book caterers, help organize closets, pay bills, get
jewelry appraised, figure out what kind of computer to purchase and fill out
insurance forms. They've been hired to locate a wheelchair taxi, make all
the arrangements for a wedding, pick up a mortgage payment and deliver it to
a bank, settle a client's mother into a new home and help a woman in the
midst of a divorce move twice.
The two say they are part of a growing group of
professional organizers around the country who help those who have
all-encompassing jobs or who can't face the welter of information and
demands of the world.
"People get so overwhelmed, they avoid the
problems. Are they calling their psychiatrists? No they are calling their
professional organizers," said Lewit.
"Some people let their mail pile up for weeks",
Epstein said, "while others lose track of their bills and their bank
accounts". One client had unwittingly subscribed to more than $2000 worth of
magazines, a fact that only came to light when Epstein sought to organize
the woman's billing system. "Hiring us is like hiring a wife the way wives
used to be," said Lewit. "We help people de-junk their lives."
"We are calm, efficient; we don't get
overwhelmed," said Epstein. The two met more than two decades ago through
their husbands, who went to college together. Before starting Concierge
America, they wrote several books together, including "The Bar/Bat Mitzvah
Planbook," now in its fourth edition.
Both delight in being hyper-organized in their
own lives. Lewit has been on top of things since she discovered, at age six,
that she had missed kindergarten because her mother hadn't known when it
began. Under Lewit's high school yearbook photo are the words, "Efficiency
The two file everything away in their own homes,
including all receipts. "Everything is systematic and everything is in its
place," said Lewit.
The two are not bonded by any company and do not
sign contracts with clients. "We are trusted," said Epstein, who lives in
Rollingwood. Teh two say they like the work because it can be done from
their homes and they like solving problems every day.
Occasionally, the two turn down a request, like
one from a Potomac woman who wanted the two to be called if her alarm system
went off while she was away. "She wanted us to go there and find out if a
criminal was at her house," Lewit said.