Al Hodzic, Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel
Al Hodzic would be happy to keep his job at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel at 221 N. Columbus Dr. for the rest of his life.
“Someday, I’d like to be the GM of this place,” he explains. “But if not, I don’t mind remaining as a door attendant.”
He joined the staff when he learned about a bell attendant position last year from his father, who works in the housekeeping department. When the gentleman who was door attendant at the time moved to another position in May, Hodzic was next in line. No doubt, the position fits him well.
“I love that it’s a job that is all interaction,” he continues. “I’m always dealing with guests.”
As the only person with the title of door attendant at the hotel, he is the first representative to greet guests and residents when they arrive and the last one to bid them farewell when they leave. For the duration of their stay, he handles a number of chores that are typical of such a position.
“We do everything from hailing cabs to picking up peoples’ laundry,” he says.
He also keeps a record of every person he enounters in a leatherbound, pocket-sized notebook.
Among the residents he serves are a number of artists, athletes and celebrities who have upped the location’s reputation as one of the city’s premiere properties. According to Hodzic, the’re just as friendly as the rest.
When New Eastside News caught up with him on the job, Hodzic was saying hello to one of his favorite residents, Ms. Jeannie Klauberg.
“Hey, Miss Jeannie, how are you!” he exclaimed. “I’m going to be in the newspaper.”
“Oh, good!” she responded.
“He’s wonderful,” she continued. “He takes wonderful care of me. He immediately gets the cab for me. Helps me into the cab. Yesterday, when I was upset because my mother was sick, he was so kind and so giving.”
Hodzic also handles the occasional — and often unique — one-off task.
“I had a lady ask me to get her pants sewn back together,” he remembers. “She’s a resident here. She’s really nice. I don’t mind doing anything for her.”
For many of the hotel guests, he’s the go-to source for tourist information.
“If they’re going shopping, I always tell them to go north,” he says. “If they’re going to museums, go south.”
“I also get, ‘what’s a good restaurant?’ I always recommend, for breakfast, Wildberry. That’s my favorite place for breakfast. For lunch, I would have to say Tavern at the Park. I’ve been to all of them. They treat me well because they know me so it’s a good thing.”
For the early birds willing to brave the Chicago winter, Hodzic recommends the ice rink in Maggie Daley Park. “That’s always a good thing to do to start the day off,” he says.
For those looking to explore the city’s bar scene, he recommends starting the night at Sweetwater Tavern & Grill on Michigan Ave. and finishing it off at Underground on Illinois St.
When he’s not on duty, Hodzic hangs out at the same places that he suggests for guests and residents. He also prefers spending time with friends and family near his home in Edgewater, especially when his mother cooks her homemade Bosnian specialties.
“I was born in Bosnia,” he says. “I came here when I was four years old, right after the war. My mom makes the best Bosnian food. No other woman can compete. Meat, lamb. She makes pita. You can put whatever you want in it. My favorite is the one with spinach.”
Like most Bosnians, he’s also very fond of Rakia, the frequently home-brewed fruit brandy of the Balkans that is known by many, including Hodzic, as “a cure for everything.”
“You can buy it at Mariano’s,” he says. “It’s good, but nothing can compete with the stuff from home.”
— Daniel Patton