- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Jim Spiro is a treasure, “the kind of man other men would let date their sisters,” says Armon Harris, a client of Mr. Spiro’s two-year-old personal service firm called Platinum Lifestyle Management.

Mr. Harris and others can’t say enough good things about the man they pay to take care of the pesky domestic details that clutter up their lives. Apparently, there is little he won’t do, as long as it’s legal.

Case in point: Mr. Spiro didn’t flinch the time he was called upon to get rid of a dead rat that had breathed its last beside a client’s car. A tall, hearty fellow, he emits a booming laugh about the incident and tells how he went straightaway with broom, shovel, trash bag and gloves to do the deed.

“I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people,” he says, modestly enough. “I enjoy personal relationships.”

Rodent disposal was easily his least appetizing request to date, but it endeared him to the woman who now is considering becoming a full-time client. She had “won” his service for a month at one of the charity auctions to which he contributes as a way of publicizing his firm.

Any entrepreneurial soul starting up a novel business has to roll with the punches. Mr. Spiro’s is new for the District and is, he admits, limited to mostly “high-net-worth individuals” — ideally those with incomes of “$200,000 or more” — whose professional lives trump their private time.

People such as David Mercer, president of Mercer & Associates Inc., a political consulting firm, who has been out of town with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign. He recently needed Mr. Spiro to pick up a bicycle stored at the Four Seasons Hotel and transfer it to Mr. Mercer’s home on Capitol Hill.

Another day found Mr. Spiro in the Palm Restaurant at Tysons Corner meeting with client Tony Massenburg, a former NBA player with the San Antonio Spurs. They were arranging menus that Palm executive chef Frank Dalton would prepare for Mr. Massenburg’s use at home. The chef who had done this for him previously was Rahman “Rock” Harper of B. Smith’s restaurant — but then Mr. Harper won a competition on television’s “Hell’s Kitchen” and moved to Las Vegas to become an executive chef with a six-figure salary.

“It was a bittersweet thing that he won and moved away,” says Mr. Massenburg, who wanted someone to make him containers of “a little Southern cooking, some Italian and some fish” that he could warm up in an oven or microwave.

Mr. Massenburg, a single man of 40, calls Mr. Spiro “my personal concierge.” Both men had gone to the University of Maryland where Mr. Spiro once was a manager for the basketball team.

“I wasn’t good enough to play,” he explains.

“He works well with athletes because he understands the lifestyle,” Mr. Massenburg says. “I don’t know all his connections, I just know he gets results. He does it for everybody.”

Mr. Spiro prides himself on his being able to get hard-to-find tickets to prime sports and entertainment events. He’ll do it for love, for money and even sometimes for charity. Whenever possible, he tries to get clients discounts on such services as limousine rentals and car washes.

The one challenge he admits he couldn’t meet was from a client who wanted a room at the last minute at a top-rated Atlantic City hotel the weekend a major basketball tournament was taking place there.

“Not even the hotel’s VIP host could get one,” he says.

Not long after Hurricane Katrina, he arranged a free dinner in Manhattan for the Tulane University basketball team following their game against Seton Hall at the New Jersey Meadowlands arena. His “best friend” is Tulane’s head coach, he says.

“I wanted to see Tiger Woods play the final day at Congressional [Country Club] and Jim worked his magic,” relates Mr. Harris, CEO of Megadata Technology LLC, a security computer company in Maryland who says he met Mr. Spiro through a friend.

“My wife and I had a 2½-month-old baby and Jim had a basket made up that looks like a huge wedding cake containing everything inside needed for a baby,” he says.

Mr. Spiro’s basic Platinum package is $1,000 a month; a longer list of services, called the Platinum Plus package, costs $2,000. The more expensive plan includes, among other items, international travel assistance, passport and visa assistance, event planning and personal security, although what these mean in practice depends entirely upon circumstances, he says.

He charges $50 extra per hour beyond the first hour when asked to wait at home for a service call, for instance. Clients — he has just under a dozen to date — are asked to fill out a comprehensive information sheet outlining consumer preferences and personal habits to be kept on file.

His base is his Silver Spring home and, more frequently, his car, a Jeep Cherokee. He does most of the work himself, calling upon a part-time assistant when necessary. His only vacation out of town was a long weekend in Las Vegas, but he says he stayed connected to home.

“Everybody needs a second self and that is exactly what Jim does,” says lawyer Geovette Washington, a partner in the firm of Baach Robinson and Lewis who knew Mr. Spiro when he worked for a business providing commercial services to law firms.

“When I signed up last year, I wondered if I could keep him busy,” she volunteers. “Within a month I wondered how I ever lived without him. He took care of everything — like having heating checked, arranging to fix a running toilet, cleaning out storage and taking stuff to Goodwill. Even picking up dry-cleaning and prescriptions from CVS.”

He doesn’t do chauffeuring or baby-sitting, but prides himself on being able to rapidly find someone who can. Challenges “get the adrenalin going,” Mr. Spiro says.

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