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Need help? Call a concierge: Shelter Island business poised to be of service

Three days. That’s what it took to prepare for a private party of 20 on Memorial Day weekend.

It was just cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, but the concierge had to help select the menu, shop for food and liquor, pick up rental plates, glasses and chairs, redo flower planters so they were full and bursting with color, prepare six of the dishes to be served, hire the staff, set the patio with two long tables and added seating areas, set up the bar and make sure platters and glasses were always full.

“I loved every minute of it,” Ileana Rousseau said.

Fresh from a turn as hotel manager at the Ram’s Head Inn, she is now the proprietor of the Island’s Country House Concierge. It’s a natural step for a woman who has been visiting the Island for 30 years and has now put down roots here.

Describing the current status of her business as a “soft opening,” Ms. Rousseau is distributing business cards and doing simple jobs for residents who find themselves short on time, while anticipating handling a major event in September. Future work can be as a personal assistant, event planner, travel agent or personal shopper. She said she can prepare your home for your arrival, arrange transportation and deliveries, meet vendors or find vendors for your needs.

“If it is legal and appropriate, I will make it happen,” Ms. Rousseau said with a smile. “I hope that creating this service will help alleviate some of the stress that comes with travel and make arriving on Shelter Island the magical place it is meant to be.”

As for her time at the Ram’s Head Inn, it was the result of a chance encounter last summer with Aandrea Carter, the Ram’s Head Inn owner. Given Ms. Rousseau’s experience in sales and marketing in the hotel industry, the conversation led to a job managing the Inn. “It’s a place that held a special place in my heart,” Ms. Rousseau said.

She stayed with the job for six months, but returned to a company where she had worked earlier as a business development manager. It afforded her the chance to be involved in global meetings management for Fortune 500 companies. “It was just a better fit for me,” she said. It also allowed a flexible work schedule, allowing time to launch her own Island business.

That private party on the Island over the Memorial Day weekend was the first major undertaking for The Country House Concierge, but hardly the start of her career in the hospitality field.

Born in New York City to parents who immigrated from Italy and achieved their own American dream, Ms. Rousseau thought she would pursue a career in education. The graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in education and foreign languages found her career didn’t mesh with her husband’s as a hotelier. He encouraged her to apply for a hotel job when teaching jobs became scarce.

“I did and never looked back,” Ms. Rousseau said.

Work in the hospitality field became her true passion. She started in hotel operations and moved to sales and marketing. At one point she took a job in New York City with an event company that did product launches for companies like Cartier and Lancôme and also created opening events for many top Broadway shows.

Her first job as a concierge was at the Grand Hyatt and later the Ritz-Carlton in Manhattan. “I had so many amazing experiences, especially when I moved over to the Ritz-Carlton,” she said.

One guest left jewelry worth $2 million in a hotel safe in Europe and it was Ms. Rousseau’s responsibility to get the jewelry back without incident. In another case, a church wedding and reception had to be arranged in a single day. She made the contacts to get impossible-to-find show tickets or dinner reservations for guests and discovered doing the impossible made the job fun.

“Part of the life of a concierge is being extremely discreet and keeping your guests’ private lives private,” Ms. Rousseau said. “We are the security guards, the secretaries, the travel agent, the personal shopper, and always the friendly face to greet them when they come through the door. No matter who they are, they often just want to chat and feel that they have a home away from home at the hotel, even for the most famous.”

She has consistently pursued activities, she said, that would afford her the opportunity to use both her creativity and analytical abilities. “You need to be always problem solving, and you must be able to think on your feet,” Ms. Rousseau said. “My career has been very full, and I want to take all these incredible experiences and put them into The Country House Concierge. There is a lot of truth to being passionate about what you do, making for a happy self, and an even happier client.”

Ms. Rousseau can be reached at 631-431-2110 or by emailing [email protected].