New Eastside Doorperson of the Month: John Echevarria transforms a condo into a home

John Echevarria transforms a condo into a home. Courtesy photo

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer


John Echevarria, doorperson at the 340 E. Randolph St. Condos, is a people person.

He would have to be —  he’s been at the Randolph St. residence since April 2010, and has been a  doorman for more than a decade.

“The 340 condos are, by far, the best condos I’ve ever been in,” Echevarria said. “The staff, the residents and my boss in particular, she is such a great leader. I’ve learned quite a bit from her in the five or six years she’s been at the building. My growth has [been] multiplied in the powers of ten. My knowledge has exponentially gone up since she’s been here.”

Echevarria said the most important thing he’s learned is leadership skills. He hopes to continue in the service industry as a leader and he is learning how to do that on the job. His role there is nothing short of professional development.

“I’ve learned a lot of leadership qualities,” Echevarria said. “I’m the head doorman here and my boss, she’s showed me how to be a leader, how to train the staff to better themselves and how to provide better customer service for the residents. My ultimate goal is to go into management and she’s given me a lot of management tasks. All of that has helped me prepare to go into management.”

The job-training aside, Echevarria said he residents who motivate him to go to work each day – this love for human interaction is what got Echevarria nominated for Doorperson of the Month and why he excels at his job.

“You have to be customer-service oriented,” he said. “You need to love working with people. You want to be customer- and security-oriented. You want to feel, when you come to work, that it’s also your home.”

A good doorperson has to treat the resident families like part of his or her own family and the property as an extension of the doorperson’s own residence, Echevarria explained. A good doorperson can’t let in just anyone, but they can’t act like a bouncer, either.

“You want to screen people who come in, politely,” Echevarria said. “Your job is to know how to treat this like it’s your home.”

Residents, he said, notice this and it makes them feel more at home in the condo.

“When you have confidence in your door staff, that makes your living environment that much more enjoyable,” Echevarria said.

As Echevarria makes the condos more of a home and treats residents like family, they, too, get to know him and make him almost a part of their family.

As a doorperson, Echevarria watches children grow up and families get larger — and he loves it.

“A lot of these residents have watched me grow and become a father,” Echevarria said. He became a father in 2013 and now has two daughters.

Between being a service industry professional, a husband and the father of two girls, Echevarria said he’s got his hands full of families.

“I’ve got two girls now,” he said. “One’s going to be 5 and one’s going to be a year and I have a beautiful, wonderful wife who takes care of the kids when I am at work. I get a few date nights here and there, but it’s all about work and family right now.”


To nominate your favorite doorperson, email with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

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.”


Gotten great service lately? Let us know and nominate your door person at If they’re profiled, they could win a $25 gift card.


Doorperson of the Month: Adam Traore, Lake Point Tower

To commemorate our new Streeterville paper, this month our Doorperson of the Month hails from Streeterville.

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

Adam Traore has worked at the residential high-rise, Lake Point Tower, 505 N. Lakeshore Dr. for more than two years. The person who nominated Traore complimented his passion for his job, and said he is “energetic, friendly, enthusiastic, helpful and he always greets you with a smile.”

Traore said he appreciates and is thankful for the nomination.

“I like helping the people, when people come in and they need information to go to a restaurant. I am very happy to help them to find a restaurant or give them information about the beaches,” he said. “And the residents really take care of me and that helps me do my job.”

Traore said he previously worked as a hotel security guard, and then found his way to working the door.

Traore works the afternoon and evening shift, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. He said most of the job is helping people, whether they are residents or outsiders.

“Most of the day people come in and they ask to see their friends and family in the building, and so you make phone calls and they go up,” Traore said. “Or the residents come in from work and they have groceries and you help them take it upstairs.”

Traore said he would recommend the job to someone who is outgoing and a people person.

“I would tell them and go ahead and become a doorman,” Traore said. “There’s nothing difficult about it. It’s a great job in Chicago. You get to know a lot of people. You get to know different people and you get to know people with different back-grounds and it gives you a lot of experience in life.”

When he is not working, Traore said he has several hobbies, but mostly likes watching sports.

“In my spare time I mostly watch TV and a lot of sports,” he said. “I watch soccer and baseball and American football. And I go around, like a tourist, checking different places and places I’ve never been.”

Traore said he’s been in Chicago for 17 years, but that doesn’t mean he’s seen everything the city has to offer.

“There is always something new in Chicago,” he said. ‘There’s always some- thing to see. You’ll never know everything about Chicago.”

Doorperson of the month

Leslie Poston of Park Millennium

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

Leslie Poston began working at the Park Millennium, 222 N. Columbus Dr., in July 2017. Prior to being a doorperson, Poston worked at the W Hotel, but sought a different career when overnight shifts at the W Hotel began to take a toll on her.

Since moving onto greeting patrons at the Park Millennium, Poston is happy she made the switch. Her favorite part of her new job is the residents. She enjoys meeting and interacting with their families, friends and guests. “It’s a more personal thing, because it’s home for them,” Poston said.

Poston appreciates the warmth her residents exude, and how they can inspire her. One resident who was diagnosed with a terminal illness seventeen years ago helps Poston stay positive by always coming downstairs with a smile.

“He helps me put things into perspective,” Poston said. “He’s pushing for life and he can still smile.”

Poston also gets a good laugh out of some of her residents, recalling a time one man had a skeleton painted on his face. “A guy got off the elevators going to the parking garage. I thought I saw a ghost face,” she said. “And he waved. I just started cracking up.”

Born and raised in Chicago, Poston enjoys many things about her city. She keeps up with sports, especially baseball, because her mother was a big fan. Recently, she began following the Blackhawks and wants to attend a hockey game soon. Poston loves the restaurant Carnivale and visiting the city’s many landmarks. When asked what her favorites were, Poston said she enjoys “Buckingham fountain or Navy Pier after hours. Or early morning before everyone gets up.”

“We really do have the best city,” she said.

Published May 5

Doorperson of the month

Bessie Stirgus, The Heritage, 130 N. Garland Ct.

By Reemaa Konkimalla| Community Contributor

Bessie Stirgus greets each resident at the Heritage with her hallmark warm smile and a hearty hello. Stirgus, who works the nightshift, has been employed at the Heritage as door-staff for 11 years.

Bessie Stirgus. Photo by
Reemaa Konkimalla.

Often, a resident will see her in the morning as they head out for the day, and come home
from work to be greeted again by Stirgus. Night duty is different from the day shift, Stirgus explains. “Peace and quiet envelopes you. But one has to be very vigilant of the surroundings and who enters the building,” she said.

Recalling a memorable night on the job, Stirgus tells of when she summoned the fire department for an emergency. An alarm sounded signaling smoke in the building and
Stirgus quickly and calmly notified management staff and the fire department in the middle of the night.Everything was resolved without major incident.

“I value the residents and love what I do,” Stirgus said. “That keeps me going.
I am also responsible for the security and the safety of the building’s residents.”

Stirgus has seen many Heritage families grow and sometimes move out. She said it
has been a fascinating experience for her to watch families evolve, and is part of why
she loves her job.

Doorperson of the Month – James Hatter 400 E. South Water St.


By Taylor Hartz, Staff Writer

November 2, 2017

As residents file into The Shoreham in Lakeshore East, they all stop to say hello to James Hatter. They fist bump, exchange nicknames and even deliver boxes of homemade baked goods to their trusted doorman.


“They feed me too much around here,” jokes Hatter, accepting a box of donuts and cupcakes from one resident on a sunny Friday morning. According to Hatter, the people who live in The Shoreham are the best part of the job. “The residents kind of grow into your family,” said Hatter. “You see them and their families every day, sometimes more than you see your own family.”


Of course, the location doesn’t hurt either. Hatter said he loves spending time in the Lake Shore East Park, and is grateful he got to watch the park be built up into a beautiful community center. “I would say this is probably the best neighborhood in Chicago,” said Hatter. “Working here I’ve got one of the greatest seats in all the buildings.”


Hatter, who has been at the Shoreham “since the doors opened,” has been working as a doorman for more than 17 years. He started his career greeting guests at the AC Hotel by Marriott Chicago Downtown, but prefers working in an apartment building where he sees the same people every day and really gets to know them. “It’s great working here with so many different people,” said Hatter. “It’s made me a better person, and a better family person.”


Hatter, a Chicago native, lives on the South Side but was raised in Chicago’s western suburb of Austin. He has worked downtown since he was a teenager, and his mother, siblings and two daughters live in greater Chicago.


While he loves the opportunity to get to know the Lakeshore East community, Hatter said his position has also allowed him to learn a great deal about countries and cultures outside of Chicago. Hatter said he loves learning about the backgrounds of Shoreham residents, and all the different places they come from. “If I’m not able to travel everywhere, I get to at least hear the stories,” said Hatter. “It feels like I’ve been all over the world.”


Doorperson of the Month – Tony Vergara

 ParkShore Condominiums, 195 N. Harbor Dr.

By Daniel Patton | Staff Writer

When Tony Vergara transferred from the maintenance department of the ParkShore Condominium in 2006 to the door staff, he discovered his professional calling. “I’ve been at the front desk for ten and a half years,” Vergara says. “I love it. It’s part of me. It’s what I was made for.” 

Born in Cuba, Vergara came to the United States with his mother. They landed in Florida, stayed a few weeks, and traveled north to join their extended family in Upper Manhattan.

Thanks to a little help from Mother Nature, he will never forget his initial glimpse of the Big Apple. “There was a big snow storm,” he explains. “First time I ever saw snow. It was crazy.” After a few months in New York, they relocated to Chicago, where he has remained ever

Nearly two decades ago, a friend told Vergara about a job opening in the maintenance department of the ParkShore. At the time, the ParkShore was one of only three properties on the elevated portion of North Harbor Dr. between Randolph St. and Wacker Dr. The area that is now Lake Shore East Park then contained a three-par golf course. “It used to be this private thing,” he remembers. “Now it’s a whole new neighborhood.”

Besides a switch from maintenance to door staff, a lot has changed in Vergara’s life over the years as well. “I have three boys,” he says. “My oldest is [in] engineering school in New Jersey. My second is a sophomore in high school, taking classes at the Illinois Institute of Technology.”

Vergara is married to a “wonderful person” who he says has made him a better person. “I met her, believe it or not, at a gas station,” he explains. “She was pumping. I was pumping. We started talking. She gave me her phone number. I was just being myself.”

Eric Gates, The Lancaster

Throughout the week, Eric Gates maintains a calm and professional demeanor while doing his job as doorperson at The Lancaster, where he has been employed since 2010. But on Sundays, it’s a different story.

“I sing gospel,” he says. “I’ve been singing my whole life.”

The inspiration started when he was barely able to walk.

“My first church I ever belonged to was Wesley Chapel,” he says. “It was a small church. My mom used to take me there. I was in the choir when I started, probably about three or four years old.”

His devotion has held strong ever since.

“I stuck with the choir because it was a passion,” he explains. “I love singing.”

Eric is a member of Ricky Dillard and the New Generation Chorale, a nationally recognized ensemble that travels and records around the country. The group’s performances have generated close to a million views on YouTube.

On regular Sundays for the past sixteen years, he has been singing at Resurrected Life Church International, a place of worship on West Fullerton Boulevard. with an immense dedication to the surrounding community and seperate ministries for children, youth, young professionals, seniors, women and more.

When he’s not singing or working, Eric occasionally visits friends in New Eastside, especially to watch the fireworks during holidays.

But he mostly prefers to spend time with his wife and children.

“I’ve been married for seven years to a wonderful woman,” he says.

“I love my kids. They’re funny, man. They keep you young. They do all the goofy stuff that you did. They’re in the children’s choir.”

To nominate your doorperson, email

— Daniel Patton | Staff Writer

Maicheal Estepaniance, The Chandler

Maicheal Estepaniance’s commitment to his trade goes beyond the typical list of requirements on a job description.

Maicheal Estepaniance

Ever since earning a degree in hospitality and business management from Triton Community College, The Chandler Lead Doorman has invested hours of his personal time developing the skills to provide more than a superior level of service.

“I’m insured and trained in CPR and AED,” says the native Chicagoan.

He learned how to assist people who are suffocating (CPR) and use a device that helps prevent heart attacks (AED) through “a five-week course for customer service, fire, CPR and security issues“ offered by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The SEIU represents workers in the property services industry — essentially, the people who keep a high rise condominium running smoothly — as well as hospital, home care, and nursing home employees. The organization also helped Maicheal earn advanced firearms certification, but he is grateful that he’s never had to use it.

“Thank God, no,” he says.

This kind of discipline and follow through has been part of his character since he was a teenager. As a student at Mather High School on Chicago’s Northwest Side, he earned a spot on both the wrestling and the football team all four years. Then he spent a year and a half playing semi-pro football for the Oak Park Sharks.

“I played defensive end, right guard, and left tackle on the C team,” he says. “If you’re on the A team, there’s scouts looking for the NFL.”

These days, Estepaniance is content to help the daily needs of tenants in what he believes is one of New Eastside’s best properties.

“Not only the people, but the location,” he says. “We have the best sunrises.”

His favorite viewing time is when he assists children boarding the school bus on weekday mornings.

To nominate your doorperson, email

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Andre Johnson, Harbor Point Condominium

Harbor Point doorperson Andre Johnson has shown the skills to succeed in several occupations over the course of his career, and he says that attitude got him where he is today.

“I consider myself a people person, which is how I ended up doing the job I do now,” he explains. “I try to give the service, the performance and respect that I would like to receive.”

“The residents make my job easy,” he adds. “They are great.”

Johnson has been a lobby contact at Harbor Point for 23 years. He learned about the position from “another doorman who was working at the property.”

At the time, he was selling women’s shoes for Chernin’s in Downers Grove. Prior to that, he spent more than a decade as a restaurant manager in Montgomery, Alabama.

The town is home to Alabama State University, where Johnson earned a BS in Business Management and employed his 91-mph fastball pitching for the Division 1 Hornets baseball team.

Although he enjoyed the South for “its hospitality and people,” the native Chicagoan returned north to be closer to his family. But not before trying out for the Cincinnati Reds.

“It was an open call,” he says. “Your turn comes around, you show what you got.”

He did not make the team, but that’s okay. Besides working the Harbor Point lobby, he keeps busy running an interior design business and spending time with his wife and three children.

To nominate your doorpereson email

Daniel Patton — Staff Writer

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