In big cities, it’s commonplace to see doormen manning the lobbies of high-rise buildings, greeting residents as they come in and out.
In Newport News, doormen are not part of the landscape. Unless one goes to Port Warwick, that is.
There, behind the door of Styron Square Apartments is James Bielmann, doorman extraordinaire. He’s not decked out in the typical doorman uniform, but he possesses all the personality and charm one would expect.
Three years ago, Bielmann, 57, was hired by Port Warwick developer Bobby Freeman to bring a touch of New York to the area. He is the first doorman on the Virginia Peninsula.
“I take pride in the fact that people like me here,” Bielmann says. “I treat people the way I want to be treated.”
Bielmann is enthusiastic about what he does. He enjoys helping people and bringing smiles to their faces with a joke or friendly banter. He has developed the position into something special: part friend, part helper, part joke teller, part handyman and part pet whisperer. Bielmann goes out of his way to make sure that residents are well taken care of, secure and happy.
Residents rave about him. He does whatever they need him to do.
“He’s perfectly amiable. He’s charming and he is so helpful,” says Margaret Dixon Sheild, who moved into the building in 2016.
When Sheild fell and injured herself, Bielmann came to her aid, running errands and walking her dog. He even hung her Christmas swag on her chandelier.
“I never would have survived without James,” Sheild says. “It’s amazing what he can do. He’s witty and very funny. He’s delightful.”
Sheild says that having Bielmann in the building means she can live in Styron Square for many years to come.
“I can live here almost like in assisted living,” she says. “It’s just wonderful. Everyone raves about him. We can never have another James.”
Bielmann grew up in Norfolk. He was a flight attendant for more than 20 years, a job he said helped hone his customer service skills. After airlines merged and he lost his job, he moved to Suffolk and focused on starting a photography business. When he saw the listing for the doorman job, he was sure it was right for him.
“I knew I loved helping people and this was an avenue I hadn’t tried before,” he says. It turned out to be the perfect fit.
“I wear lots of hats. I do minor maintenance and bring in groceries for people,” he says. “People can tell I’m sincere and down to earth. I’m on their side. If they have a problem, I take it on as though it’s my problem.”
Bielmann lives onsite and knows the “ins and outs of the building.” Residents have knocked on his door in the middle of the night if they are locked out. He doesn’t mind.
“I really love helping people,” he says.
Bielmann adores animals and has a pet-walking business on the side. He knows all of the animals in the building, and residents sometimes call him if they need someone to take their dogs out on short notice.
When resident Sandy Fisher had to take her cat to the vet and couldn’t get it into the carrier, she called Bielmann, who was able to corral the cat. That’s one of many things Bielmann has done to help Fisher, and she is most grateful for him.
“He does anything he can for us, even if it’s not in his job description,” she says. “He’s very trustworthy. He goes above and beyond. I feel very good about him. He makes us feel safe.
“He’s a very good presence here,” Fisher says. “He keeps us all happy.”
TO THE POINT:
James Bielmann, doorman, Styron Square Apartments
Address: 3100 William Styron Square North, Newport News, VA 23606