L.A. Archetype: Grove Concierge

Stephen Whitney and his team offer a warm reception for tourists and locals

“Everyone on staff goes through the same training, which lasts several weeks. It’s a very involved hospitality course on how to talk to people, body language, grooming standards, carrying yourself, and what words to use so that we don’t give the wrong impression.”

Whitney, 28, started as a part-time concierge at the Grove around Christmas 2011, working in the shopping mall’s Santa House. He later became a full-time employee and has since been promoted to concierge manager. He oversees 15 concierges during the off-season and as many as 55 for the holidays. The concierge services desk is located at the central valet parking entrance.

The word concierge is derived from the French “comte des cierges,” or “keeper of the candles.” It referred to royal guards who protected the gold keys to a castle and executed the requests of the royal court. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that concierges became mainstays in the hotel industry and organized Les Clefs d’Or, an international association of professional hotel concierges.

“The most magical event I ever created was a birthday party for a 14-year-old girl who came in from London. She got out of the town car and stepped straight onto a red carpet, where she had her name on a Hollywood star. Her father said, ‘What will we do to top this?’ ”

The Grove’s concierge service—named best in the country by The Wall Street Journal in 2002—does more than validate parking tickets. Whitney assists visitors with everything from in-home massage reservations to personal shopping.

“We see ourselves as the concierge for Los Angeles. In one instance we FedEx-ed a phone to a guest who had lost it, so that when he arrived at his destination, it would be there waiting for him.”

According to Whitney, the Grove’s concierge service is a word-of-mouth sensation among travelers. “I get calls from guests at LAX with any range of questions, from ‘Where’s the Grove? I’m headed there now’ to ‘Hi, where should I go for the next five days while I’m here?’ ”

“Travelers check their luggage with us when they have only a few hours before their flight. We’ll get their bags into their taxi so they can enjoy those last few moments having an ice cream cone.”