On any given day, Scottsdale Fashion Square’s roving concierge Peter Harden strolls through the gleaming marble corridors of the mall greeting everyone from babies to professional athletes. In the mid-‘90s, Harden began his career in mall security at Fashion Square after a stint as a music marketing representative. In 1995, top brass created a position to showcase his warm and welcoming personality. The impeccably dressed Chandler resident has earned the title “Mayor of the Mall” because of his unsurpassed knowledge of the upscale shopping center and the people who work and shop there. During his 22-year tenure, the native Texan has shopped with Muhammad Ali, Selena Gomez, Rihanna, Reba McEntire, Richard Branson and Robin Williams, who treated Harden and his wife to first-class airline tickets to see the late actor’s charity comedy show Comic Relief in New York City. At 75, Harden has no intention of retiring. “We all have callings in our life, and I think we wait until we’re older to open our heart up and open our mind up to receive them.”
Why do you say that being the concierge at Scottsdale Fashion Square is your calling?
My mother was like a saint to me. She told me three days before she passed away, “This is your calling. This is what you should be doing.” I’m going: “Mama, you’ve never seen me work in Arizona.” And she said, “Baby, I can see it in your eyes. I can feel it.” So when I got back, I had this new thing in my mind and I went out of my way to do whatever I could to keep people happy, to keep people coming back.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I can’t wait to get here sometimes. I’ve been sick as a dog. I’ve been dizzy, my legs hurting, and I come to this mall and there’s always somebody who’s worse than me. I can’t move my legs, and then I see a man with one leg walking around in the mall. I have a headache and see a lady who is 95 who comes up and wants to dance with me.
Any stories of lavish shopping trips?
I run across people from Dubai that will come in here and spend $2-$3 million in a pop. A dignitary from Dubai came in with his people and said he didn’t want any women helping him. So I had to go to all the stores and ask the people at the stores – how much do those women make per hour? I went back to the king and said, “This is how much money they make per hour.” He said, “Go take it to them.” [To reimburse them for the time they couldn’t work while he was shopping.] … Then his wife came in and went to Victoria’s Secret and she wanted every color of underwear they had. She wanted one pair of each. She said, “I only wear them once and then I give them away to my servants.”
What about unusual requests?
I had a lady who walked up and said, “I need to get one of your mobile wheelchairs.” We walked maybe 15 feet to the concierge desk. She said, “My husband is going to be so disappointed in me. I’m trying to get a gift for him and I’ll be riding in a mobile wheelchair.” I asked, “Why would he be disappointed in you?” And she said, “I told him I was walking as much as I can.” She stepped away from the desk and twisted her (prosthetic) leg off, and gave me her leg. I couldn’t even talk. She said, “Can you keep this here somewhere until I get back?”
Do you have any celebrity stories?
Harrison Ford. We sat down in the food court and talked. I teased him and said, “I’m a big fan and I’ve got all your movies. I’m just curious. How come all the black men in your movies get killed?” He laughed. I asked, “What’s the possibility of me getting in a movie with you?” … [Ford said] “What would happen if we use your name, Peter Harden, in a movie? My next movie, I’ll do that.” [According to Harden, in the first 10 minutes of Clear and Present Danger, the name Peter Harden is mentioned.]
What’s the most common question you get asked?
“Where’s the bathroom?”