History of SNHCA
By Jacqueline Hallstead
In June 1978, Jacqueline Hallstead was hired by the President of the Desert Inn Hotel, Burton Cohen, to establish a concierge department and became the first concierge in Las Vegas, NV. At this time, the concierge profession was flourishing in Europe, but just starting in the United States. Not only was the concierge a new concept in the United States, but most of the hotel cliental, unless worldly travelers had never heard the term ‘concierge’. Amazingly today, the term concierge is used in many ways and most individuals are well aware of the term; as well as, how helpful a concierge can be.
After working as a concierge at the Desert Inn Hotel for ten years, Jacqueline heard about the prestigious professional organization of concierge called Les Clefs d’Or, (The Keys of Gold). European guests who came yearly to the hotel asked Jacqueline why she did not have the Keys of Gold on her lapels. They said, “You are our favorite concierge,” and “Only the best concierge in the world possess the keys,” and “You should definitely have them.” Due to this conversation, she began to research and found out what would be necessary to become a member of this prestigious organization.
Jacqueline gathered up information from her desk used in the service of duties, photographs of the desk area, letters of accommodation from guests and management and made an appointment to go to San Francisco, California to meet members of Les Clefs d’Or, USA. The purpose of this trip was to become acquainted with members and eventually have them sponsor her for membership to Les Clefs d’Or. In 1989, Jacqueline became a member of Les Clefs d’Or, USA. Jacqueline attended her first congress in 1990 and began to serve on their West Coast Membership Committee, but most importantly, she met the then current President of Les Clefs d’Or, USA, Marjorie Silverman. Marjorie explained how to insure the growth of the concierge profession in Las Vegas; as well as, how to promote concierge ethics, principles, and education. Marjorie discussed the need of Jacqueline to establish a local Las Vegas Concierge Association. Through the local concierge organization’s formation, Jacqueline could prepare concierge for membership to Les Clefs d’Or. At this time, there were few individuals in Las Vegas working as a concierge and even fewer who possessed the title.
Immediately upon returning from the Les Clefs d’Or Congress, Jacqueline contacted all the individuals working in the Concierge field. In April 1990, the first informal gathering of what was to become the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association took place in a suite at the Desert Inn Hotel. Monthly meetings continued mainly at the Desert Inn over the next few months. After receiving copies of bylaws from various cities, Jacqueline, with the help of Michelle Bell, of the Rio Suites Hotel, drafted the original SNHCA bylaws.
The “Southern Nevada” title portion was selected to enable the inclusion of concierge from any additional cities of southern Nevada for membership such as Mesquite, Laughlin, Primm, etc. Jacqueline was looking at the bigger picture with the hopes of expansion of the concierge field outside of Las Vegas. The “Hotel” title portion was selected to be in keeping with the bylaws of Les Clefs d’Or and thus prepare SNHCA members for membership to Les Clefs d’Or, USA.
Jacqueline had many discussions with officers from Les Clefs d’Or; as well as, officers of local organizations in other cities who advised her not to hold office in SNHCA, rather instead continue to get everyone else involved by mentoring them to hold and fulfill board positions. Jacqueline appointed Michelle to be the interim first President of SNHCA until June when the first election would take place. Michelle’s appointment was to enable the SNHCA meetings to be conducted in a more organized manner.
In June 1991, the first official SNHCA election was held. The first officers elected were Michelle Bell, President, Jaci Zweig, Vice President/Public Relations Director, and Jeanne Mills, Secretary/Treasurer. SNHCA was now official with elections to continue to take place each June thereafter.
Michelle Bell served as the first President of SNHCA for two and a half years. Jaci Zweig remains an active member of the concierge community and was a cofounder of the National Concierge Association in Nevada.
Jacqueline and Jaci also are regular speakers at “The Art of the Concierge Class” taught through The International School of Hospitality to educate and prepare individuals for the concierge or hospitality profession.
Jeanne Mills went from being the first elected Secretary/Treasurer to Vice President/Public Relations Director and on to President for four years. Jeanne Mills served a total of six years as an officer for SNHCA and continues to be fundamental in the concierge profession. In later years, the SNHCA bylaws were rewritten that the officers shall serve no more than two years in the same position. Jeanne was Jacqueline’s protégé at the Desert Inn for many years and now serves as the Chef Concierge at the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. In addition, Jeanne served 9 years as an officer on the Les Clefs d’Or, USA Board of Directors to include two years as its President. Currently Jeanne Mills is the Zone Director of the Americas serving on the Executive Committee of Les Clefs d’Or International. This position represents the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America.
Kathleen Smith, an artist who worked as a Concierge at the Desert Inn for a few years, designed the original SNHCA logo and pin, which with minor color changes we continue to use to this day. Blanca Kaufman is a Concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. The remaining founders of SNHCA have since retired, or they have pursued other professions and have disbursed across the country.
The original eleven founding members of the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association hold the status of Honorary Lifetime Membership to SNHCA and are: Jacqueline Hallstead, Michelle Bell, Jaci Zweig, Jeanne Mills, Margaret Thurston, Ethie Asmerom, Virginia Gasta (Deceased), Blanca Kaufman, Kathleen Smith, Georgia Blagovich, and Catherine Love.