Geri Bell’s customers at Southport Antique Mall know that she represents the very best of Hoosier Hospitality; now the rest of Greater Indianapolis is hearing about it.
Bell was honored with a ROSE (Recognition of Service Excellence) Award on March 18 during Visit Indy’s 24th annual dinner program at the Indiana Ballroom. The ceremony, which was attended by 750 guests, shines a light on service associates, waiters, cab drivers and other non-managerial hospitality employees who make visitors feel special when in the Circle City.
“I knew that I was one of the 102 finalists, but I couldn’t believe it when they starting saying some of the things that the first winner had done,” said Bell, who attended the program with her daughter, Robin Buschner, and mall owners Jane Hagenmann and Alissa Thompson. “I soon realized that they were talking about me before they announced my name.
“I was a nervous wreck getting ready for the evening,” Bell said. “I didn’t know what to wear.
“It really was a Cinderella night. I had a real good time. It was a real treat to be with them on such a special evening. It was nice to go back to the Indiana Ballroom. It is such a lovely place, and Josh Kaufman (Season 6 winner of NBC’s singing reality show ‘The Voice’) performed, and the mayor was there. The people who got it ready for the evening did a wonderful job. I hadn’t been there since I used to go to dances there when I worked at Western Electric.”
The description of her read by RTV’s Rafael Sanchez and Beth Vaughn could not have described her better: “Geri epitomizes impeccable customer care, but not because it’s her job, it’s in her DNA. She has customers who are so passionate about her service that they schedule their visits around her hours. That level of care goes two ways: If a regular customer hasn’t been in the store for a while, she calls to check on them.
“With elegance and grace, she has become the person customers often share their personal joys and concerns with. She takes the time to ensure that standards of etiquette often ignored in today’s hectic world are observed, such as mailing get-well-soon and thank-you cards or sending flowers to honor lost loved ones.”
Bell, who was featured on RTV-6, agreed that the caring nature is in her DNA. “My mom always stressed to do the right thing. I like to learn about my customers and their families. There’s one guy who hasn’t been in for several months, but we have no way of getting in touch with him. I hope he’s OK.”
Bell was nominated by nine people, including fellow employees, friends, customers and her daughter, who wrote: “It doesn’t matter where we go, she always runs into people she knows. She has made an impression on countless people, and they light up when they see her. But she lights up too.
“I have learned so much from her through the years. I am honored to look to her for counsel as I move throughout my career in marketing (at Marian University). She is the perfect role model and a great person to follow in her footsteps. And those are a lot of footsteps to follow because she has been the compassionate floorwalker for Southport Antique Mall for 16 years.”
She can found at the 36,000-square-foot mall, 2028 E. Southport Road (786-8246) Wednesday through Sunday. Hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays.
Bell, whose career includes stints as the owner of a real estate company, a hairdresser and a U.S. Airways employee, loves what she does, “So I’m not sure I deserve an award. It’s amazing that I got this recognition for just doing my job. It’s very rewarding, to say the least. It’s nice to know that I have touched many lives in a pleasant way. The last three weeks have really been special.”
St. Elmo Steak House, Conner Prairie and Downtown hotels also boasted winners.
Bell started collecting antiques many years ago when she discovered that she could afford them but not new furniture. “I like antiques, the pretty things, like stemware and furniture.”