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NEW YORK — With his confident manner, high-luster accent and dressed in a perfectly tailored suit, Ben Elliot seems like just the kind of Brit who can sort it all out. But though he’s the cofounder of Quintessentially, the splashy London-based concierge service, Elliot is much more like one of the club’s members than a concierge himself. “I’m notoriously disorganized,” he says, shuffling a messy bunch of Post-It notes piled next to his plate of pasta at DB Bistro.
That’s what makes him so good. Elliot, 27, has the ability to anticipate the needs of the 3,000 cosmopolitan clients who subscribe to his service, including celebs like Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and P. Diddy, and has a 24-hour staff on-call to take care of all their needs from pedicure appointments to restaurant reservations to landing seats at a fashion show.
This story first appeared in the February 3, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
And now the quintessential Brit is prepared to take on Manhattan. The company’s New York operation, which opens this week, will mirror the London branch founded two-and-a-half years ago by Aaron Simpson and Elliot, whose mother, Anabel, is Camilla Parker Bowles’ sister. “At first, I was intimidated by the size of of New York,” Elliot admits. Not anymore. Elliot and his crew have spent the last four months sorting it all out, tracking down the best gospel choir in Harlem and the best Russian restaurant in Coney Island. “When you speak to New Yorkers, they’re completely self-confident,” he says. “They think they’re sorted, but when you get specific, they still have problems getting into clubs and getting reservations just like everyone else. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, everybody has those problems.” American members traveling to London will also be able to get into the best night clubs and restaurants. “They will be totally sorted now,” Elliot concludes.
Of course, conquering New York offers unique challenges. While Elliot and Co. managed to find a member front-row tickets to a Rolling Stones concert three hours before the band played Madison Square Garden, “I’m not sure we can do everything,” he says. “Rao’s tomorrow? I don’t think so.”
Yearly membership runs $1,000 a person, though Quintessentially’s strategic partnerships with hotels and travel companies, theaters, spas, gyms and a host of luxury brands provide discounts all along the way. And Elliot is busy expanding Quintessentially’s corporate reach. The company does consulting work with Vertu, Cartier, Tiffany, Sony, Bentley and Volkswagen, and the list is sure to grow. “I feel at home here,” says Elliot. “People in England think I’m too aggressive and up-front. Here everybody is up for everything. They give you a chance.”
One thing even the most pampered New Yorkers won’t be offered, however, is a free ride. “I’ve never given a membership away,” says Elliot. “Everyone pays — famous business people, celebrities. Everyone, including my mother.”