Manhattan taking tips from ‘Downton Abbey’

Butler Bertold Wiesner
Bertold Wiesner demonstrates how to set a table, with downtown Delmonico’s serving as the setting.
Credit: Miles Dixon/Metro

Must be able to fly to the Hamptons at a moment’s notice. Yachting skills a plus. And be willing to refill the refrigerator.

These are just a few of the challenges offered up by the super rich, and a new breed of domestic staffer is filling them.

Experts in the industry are chattering about the “Downton Abbey” effect – the hit British drama follows a manor’s family and their servants in World War I-era England.

And after watching stars like butler “Mr. Carson” open doors and smooth jacket shoulders, some New Yorkers want that for themselves.

Bertold Wiesner, managing director at Society Staffing, which provides British-style services, said calls increased after the show, now about four or five inquiries a week.

“There is a certain amount of glamour to the world they inhabit,” Wiesner said of the show’s allure.

Mary Jane Seymour at Chelsea-based The Butler Did It, Inc., which provides special events staffing, said New Yorkers want familiar faces, requesting the same people again and again, which resembles ‘Downton,’ where staffers live in and stay for years.

“In that sense, it is a little ‘Downton,’” she said.

Within Society Staffing’s job listings are phrases found in the show — one woman in Tribeca wants a lady’s maid to organize her seasonal wardrobe and prepare her for events.

In the show, personal maids help ladies drip in jewelry and dress lavishly for even a routine dinner at home.

And although butlers, ladies maids or valets will work in Manhattan apartments, not the sprawling English countryside, most demands remain the same, Wiesner said — unwavering loyalty and discretion.

Most clients are executives with families living on Park or Fifth Avenues, said Society Staffing CEO Robert Parry. New Yorkers are a different breed of boss.

“They know exactly what they want, so it’s always a challenge,” Parry said. “They want to have the best of everything.”

What does a Butler do?

Wiesner recently launched a “Butler for a Day” service, which lets clients try out a butler at the cost of up to $1,000, depending on services. The tasks themselves range daily, Wiesner said. Some are “mundane,” he said, like stocking the fridge or booking a car, but others may be more spontaneous or complex, like finding balloon rides for a party or specific embroidery for a garment. And getting the gig isn’t easy – New Yorkers want staffers to be college educated, fluent in at least one language – preferably French – and well traveled with a valid passport. “They must be able to travel privately, leave any time at the client’s discretion,” Parry said. Wiesner manages the company’s European offices, but he previously worked as a butler around the world for clients, including New York. One client in the Hamptons asked him to check electric dog fences surrounding the property.  “I was shocked like 38 times,” he said.

Listings on the Society Staffing site:

A Great Neck family would pay a butler/house manager more than $90,000, but a must is “providing excellent service to residents and guests alike.”

Much like the butler in Downton, they would be in charge of liaising with staff and overseeing daily meals.Another butler wanted on the Upper West Side would need to travel to the Hamptons and live in during the summer months. Pay is $80,000 plus.

A woman in Tribeca wants a lady’s maid to organize her closet and keep track of her seasonal wardrobe and prepare clothing for personal events for a salary upwards of $60,000.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter: @reporteralison

Follow Metro New York on Twitter: @MetroNewYork


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

New statue of Penn State's Paterno set for…

By David DeKokHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach"…

National

On newly released tape, 'Squeaky' Fromme says was…

Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme told a mental health examiner in newly released interview the "X" she carved in her forehead was meant to separate her from "the system."

Local

New York-based Century 21 store coming to The…

The former Strawbridge & Clothier building will once again host a department store. City officials on Thursday announced New York-based Century 21 Department Stores will…

National

Electric Zoo tickets on sale Tuesday as festival…

Electric Zoo tickets go on sale Tuesday. The festival announced plans to amp up security after two attendees died last year from apparent drug overdoses.

Music

Championship of Collegiate a Cappella: Students who are…

Tickets to this Saturday’s International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella reportedly sold out within 11 hours of going on sale.

Music

M.I.A. talks 'Matangi,' divinity, spontaneity and holograms

"There’s pressure for me to become a theatrical production like 'Glee,' or something" says M.I.A., "It’s like, 'the pressure’s on, bitches.'"

Movies

Tribeca: 'Goodbye to All That' star Paul Schneider…

Paul Schneider talks about his new film "Goodbye to All That," not acting too much and how he'd rather indulge in simple pleasures than play the scene.

The Word

Taylor Swift battles paparazzi daily at Tribeca penthouse

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

NBA

Jason Collins named to Time's 100 Most Influential…

Jason Collins was named to the list after coming out as the first openly gay player to appear in an NBA game.

MLB

The return of Cole Hamels brings optimism

Cole Hamels’ quality start Wednesday was a nice change of pace from his recent season debuts.

MLB

Tony Gwynn Jr. a nice surprise for Phillies

Tony Gwynn Jr. has been a plus in every way for the Phillies.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

Food

Hai Street Kitchen opening in Rittenhouse May 22

Japanese cuisine will get a Chipotle-style twist at Hai Street Kitchen & Co., a new casual, quick-food restaurant opening near Rittenhouse Square on May 22.…

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.