Lunch #7: Good Service Has No Price

Pictured above: Rachel Phillips, Laura Rodrigo and Megan Lawson Holmes. Photo #2: N.B., Megan Holmes, and Exec. Chef Frank Lee- Charleston, S.C.

Rich people will pay almost anything for good service. They can buy virtually anything; but their time, and how they use it, is their most precious possession. So, if someone else can be handling a task for them, while they do something more productive or pleasurable, they will pay for it. For instance, some years back, I met a gentleman at the Hampton Classic Horse Show. When I tactfully got around to asking what he did, his reply was, “I buy and sell cars for wealthy clients here and in Palm Beach.” I asked him to explain further how this works; “A Client calls and says that he wants a low mileage Bentley convertible for his Hampton’s house. I do the search, find the car, check it out, have it shipped to his house, and it’s waiting for him in his driveway. All he has to do is wire me the funds, I take my fee, and pay the seller. Then, we find another car for his Palm Beach house. And when he gets tired of any of the cars, I sell them, collect my fee, and find him a new one.” So, the wealthy client doesn’t spend his time on Autotrader.com (like you or I), and can be doing something else. I learned this gentleman has a home in the Hamptons, another near Palm Beach, and spends his time hanging-out with his clients.

Which brings me to my lovely and talented lunch partner, Megan Lawson Holmes, Founder of Charleston Concierge Company , who lunched with me recently at SNOB. Megan identified a real estate and hospitality niche in Charleston, that I was unaware of. Apparently homes in Elliotborough and Cannonborough are in an “Accommodations Overlay” district that permits nightly rentals. The city approved this zoning relaxation as a way to encourage a more rapid rate of investment in these two neighborhoods. Well, it has worked. Wealthy outside investors can get a foothold into the downtown Charleston real estate market, and hopefully not have their asset sit idle.

Here’s where Megan’s company comes in. She manages the property for the owners. She handles the rentals (some upwards of $1,000 per night); and for anyone staying in one of her client’s properties, she handles reservations to make their stay in Charleston more enjoyable. Investors love the concept, because their short-term rental income can be upwards of three times what long-term rental might be. “Brilliant” as the Brits say. While Charleston Concierge Company has become a leading luxury property rental management company in the “Accommodations Overlay” district, it has also attracted  competitors. The other real estate firms also offer concierge services with their rentals. Nevertheless, Megan is sanguine, “I can play with the big boys, because its me, the owner of the company, providing the personal service.”

Megan is profiled in our forthcoming book, Charleston, A Good Life, along with two of her friends (Rachel Phillips and Laura Rodrigo)- three interesting people, doing interesting things, in a unique place.

A final comment about SNOB for the owners: How much would it hurt financially to return the Lunch Express from $12.95 back to the $10.95 it was six months ago? I know “two bucks is two bucks”, but you get a large, loyal, local luncheon crowd everyday. It would be a reciprocal gesture of loyalty to your patrons. Please reconsider

Charleston, A Good Life, co-authored by photographer, Ben Gately Williams, and writer/editor, Ned Brown, is a book profiling “interesting Charlestonians (old and newer), doing interesting things in a wonderful place.” The book will be released in latter 2016. Charleston, A Good Life,  will tell the story of why Charleston is a special place through over 50 environmental portraits of individuals; the first book about Charleston of its kind. What we are doing with the Charleston, A Good Life blog is telling you a bit about the people we are profiling, and other Charleston topics of interest.

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