No longer for the superrich: Personal assistants meld into mainstream

PA for a Day employee Jennie Wright picked up a package for a personal chef, delivering it to a Manhattan building. (Credit: Bess Adler)
PA for a Day employee Jennie Wright picked up a package for a personal chef, delivering it to a Williamsburg building. (Credit: Bess Adler)

Racing through Manhattan to deliver jewels for an evening gala? Accompanying a forgotten tie on the Jitney to rescue a boss’s wardrobe?

Not for the new era of personal assistants.

 

Now, say those who hire and help, regular New Yorkers are snapping up assistants when they are simply overwhelmed.

“I think there’s this misconception that having a personal assistant is for the really wealthy,” said Charell Star, who founded PA for a Day last year to dispel that myth. 

“We are not a luxury concierge,” she added. “We are really geared toward regular New Yorkers, regular people who are really busy and need an extra pair of hands.”

The business gets as many as 100 calls a week, for everything like a two-hour, $20-per-hour grocery shopping window to waiting at an apartment for Time Warner Cable to come by.

“I think the culture has changed,” Star said. “People are becoming a little more comfortable with that idea of asking for help.”

Dr. Jeannie Blaustein hired a personal assistant when tasks from filing to dropping off shoes for a repair ate up too much time. “I kept saying, ‘One day, I’m going to organize those 18,000 photographs.’ It reached a point where I felt like I needed help,” she said.

She hired Brooke Stone Lifestyle Management.

“Personal assistants are not just for the rich, famous and fancy anymore,” Stone told Metro. “They are really for everyone.”

Many of the requests they get right now are spring cleaning or summer moves, she said. Jim and Pam Allyn hired the company to help transition them from a spacious Westchester home to a comparatively cramped Manhattan apartment.

“The personal assistant business, you always think is someone helping a superrich person,” Jim said. “I always thought it was a personal shopper — if you were J.P. Morgan, you’d have something like that.”

Pam also uses Brooke for projects, as well as having her own personal assistant who coordinates her entire calendar, from speeches to dates with friends.

“She’s literally available 24 hours a day,” she said. “If I get to a hotel at 11 p.m. and the reservation is somehow lost, I can text her and she’ll be on the phone with them in a second.”

What makes a great personal assistant?

“The best personal assistants have the big picture in mind while paying very close attention to the small details,” Pam Allyn said.

An ideal assistant is not necessarily simply efficient at finishing tasks, she continued.

“I think it’s an intuitive person, someone who can anticipate people’s needs,” she said. “An excellent personal assistant is highly empathetic to that person’s experience. They’ll put themselves in your shoes over and over again.”

Cheri Mosley has been a P.A. for more than a decade. For Allyn, she schedules travel and fixes crises.

Once, Allyn arrived in Hawaii without her charger. Mosley frantically found a store in the vicinity and directed the cab to drop her off at a mall close to her hotel.

“Staying calm in a crisis, that’s always important,” Mosley said, adding, “Confidentiality is tremendous.”

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison.



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