The traditional running-of-the-shoppers that takes place each December continues, but in Portland's retail arenas, the atmosphere is quieter than, say, downtown Seattle. One might assume this is due to the smaller retail core of the Rose City, but I have another theory: Cameron Concierge.
Cameron, a Portland native whose last name is really Kiest, not Concierge, is a preternaturally organized 20-something with an MBA who earns her keep by making order of other people's chaos. This time of year that translates into marathon sessions of shopping for (and returning) gifts; getting the trees and decorations up, then down; cards mailed out and thank-you's written. I encountered the engaging Kiest some months back in a neighborhood coffee shop, where we fell into chatting about her year-old business, and marked my calendar to call her post-Christmas to see if she was still so chipper.
Yes, she is. And from the recent two-day period she described, I concluded that not only is Kiest (somehow) retaining her cheery outlook, she is easily keeping at least 20 people off the street and out of the mall at any given time by doing their scurrying for them. She told me:Right before Christmas, I was picking up cakes, pastries, meat and drink for two parties–one in Salem, one in Portland--helping decorate, set up and host both eventsÃ¢'ê¬Â¦At the same time I was printing holiday cards for another client, running home in between errands to work on them. Oh, and I also met with a new client, who needed artwork moved, some holiday decorating done...
There was more, but I didn't quite catch it because I had to quietly set the phone down and stretch out for a little rest. When I returned, Kiest was still chatting away, while swiftly un-decorating someone's Christmas tree, then excusing herself briefly to coordinate a very complicated car-drop and babysitter pick-upÃ¢'ê¬Â¦or perhaps it was the other way around.
Most of Kiest's clients are, no surprise, well-heeled professionals. (Her rates vary depending on a client's needs, but generally begin at $35/hour.) However, she also does a fair number of move-ins for working stiffs. This package deal involves the thankless job of hanging out waiting for the utility techs to show up. Anyone who has spent seven hours in an empty, unheated house without toilet paper waiting for the electric guy will grasp the appeal of this service. Ditto for anyone who's tried–and failed–to sort out the 19 cables needed to hook up that new computer or HD-TV, another set-up service Kiest offers.
I would have liked to chat longer with Kiest, but she had stores to visit and tasks to tick off her list. Still, by the time I'd hung up, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I'd reflexively arranged the two dozen Post-It pads on my desk into neat little stacks, sorted by color and size.