James Gruca, North Harbor Tower
By Elizabeth, Staff Writer
Published October 2, 2018
Enter North Harbor Tower at 175 N. Harbor Drive, and visitors probably encounter James Gruca, the doorman. Cheerful and dressed to the nines, he high-fives children and slips dogs treats as they pass in and out of the building.
Gruca said he refers to all of his residents as “friends” because he sees them so often. He’s been greeting them when they walk in the door for eight years, but he’s been in the service industry since he got his first job as a waiter after he finished eighth grade, he said.
Trained as a chef, Gruca said he worked in the Walnut Room kitchen and taught cooking classes at Sur La Table before making the switch to his current position. And with 600 units and about 2,000 residents in the Tower, his normal day is “hectic,” he said.
Going out of his way to help residents, he once walked one woman’s dog when she broke her ankle, and fed another resident’s parrot for three weeks when they went on vacation, he said.
Gruca’s hard work has paid off. He’s won the People’s Choice Award in his building twice; the residents choose the winner by naming their favorite employee, he said. “I was really flattered that they think that much of me,” he said.
“I do my best; I look my best every day because when you walk in the building, I am the face of North Harbor Tower and the first person you see, and I have to be on my game all the time,” Gruca said. “You only have one chance to make a first impression.”
Gruca recalled a time when a friend introduced him to an acquaintance with, “’This is James; he makes my life better.’”
“I was so flattered to hear that,” he said. “That’s what I always keep in mind: I’m here to make people’s lives better. And whether it be, you know, opening the door for them, getting groceries if they’re sick, or whatever I can do to make their stay here more enjoyable, that’s what I’m here for. No job too small.”
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