And Make That Bath 103 Degrees Exactly

And Make That Bath 103 Degrees Exactly
Bruce Goldfarb, Edited by Ken Iglehart, Baltimore Magazine

February 1996 - For Christina Urquhart, few requests are too strange. One client asked to have a bottle of Dom Perignon delivered to a British lord in Hong Kong. Another likes having coffee and a blueberry muffin waiting for him when he arrives at the office. Before Christmas, one of Urquhart’s elves waited in line for an hour for a client to buy a box of chocolates at Rhebs. Urquhart will even arrange an entire romantic evening, complete with flowers, dinner reservations, and tickets to the show. “And the husband gets all the credit,” chirps Urquhart.

Charm City Concierge is her trade name, and playing genie for business folk is her game. It’s an entrepreneurial page lifted from the hospitality industry that in two years has landed her nearly $500,000 in contracts.

From the perspective of commercial office landlords, with whom the concierge contracts directly, it’s an extra edge in a fiercely competitive and over supplied office space market. “It’s a first-class, white gloves service for the tenants in the building,” says Urquhart, who operates the concierge out of offices in Federal Hill along with partner Nancy Green. Their clients include 250 W. Pratt, the B&O Building, the Blaustein Building, WR Grace and Dulaney Valley Centers I and II in Towson.

In her line of work, there are lots of tall tales: One office tenant faced a career crisis when she arrived at work without her dress shoes less than an hour before an important business meeting. All she had were her ratty track shoes, and downtown stores don’t open until 10. Within minutes, a concierge staffer tracked down a show store owner having coffee at the Cross Street Market. “We dragged him away from the counter and had him open the store for us,” recalls Urquhart. Three pairs of navy blue pumps arrived discreetly at the client’s office in time for the meeting.

Pulling rabbits out of hats on a daily basis requires support staff to run the actual errands (the concierge never leaves the premises). There are half a dozen full-time staffers and a handful of special request fairies Urquhart can call for extra miracles.
She and her partner rely on a computerized database of flourists, caterers, limousine companies, and other vendors, as well as another database of clients’ interests – which one enjoys country music, who like the Orioles and so on.

“Our ticket connections are great,” says Urquhart, 30, who lives with her husband in Baltimore and left a career in insurance sales to join 28-year-old-Green, a former social worker who commutes form Northern Virginia.

Their combined sensitivities of sales and sociology have been a winner for the firm, which schmoozes its clients with a quarterly newsletter, as well as inter-building events like fashion shows, pumpkin carving contests, and “ice-cream socials” in the lobby. On the list of more predictable services is running to the dry cleaners, getting flowers, arranging for limousines, planning company picnics, and organizing business meetings – nearly anything a frenzied executive type would need to beat the rat race with a flourish. “We can get center-orchestra seats at a sold out show for face value,” boasts Urquhart.

The services generally are at no charge to individual clients – the landlords pay to retain the firm – except for expenses passed along. “We’ll do pretty much anything, so long as it’s legal and within reason."

So we know what you’re wondering: What requests has she had to decline? The one that comes to mind is the pranksters at the straight-laced downtown law firm who wanted to play a little joke on a senior officer by sending in a lady of the evening for a bogus job interview. We’re not talking here about one of those tame, make-believe strippers who sings happy birthday or something; we’re talking real, live, accredited call girl.

“We typically don’t make moral judgments, but it was on the site, in the [client] building, and the building’s reputation was at stake as well. It was not something we wanted to get directly involved in, but we offered contacts so they could make their own arrangements.” No word on whether the candidate got the job.

Reprinted with the permission of Baltimore Magazine.