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The evolution of valet parking

| September 16, 2013

What got off the ground as a luxury for only the richest of the rich, valet parking has become an unrestricted service accessible to many. These days, it’s common in many public places like airports, health clubs, hospitals, and even cinemas. So how did the humble valet make his (or her) way from the aristocratic settings of stately mansions to the parking lot of Burger King?

The practice dates back to the era when people used to ride horses as their main means of transportation. The word valet has its roots in the mid-14th century and means “personal man-servant.” Typically a valet or valet de chambre who served as personal attendant to their master. Taking guests’ horses or carriages to the stables were additional responsibilities. The tradition of parking continued in the beginning of the twentieth century, when the servants began to park guests’ cars.

The early days of valet parking

valet parking

Herb Citrin, Father of Valet Parking and founder of the company Valet Parking Service. Image by NPR.

The Lexus Guide to Valet Parking has excerpts from a conversation with Herb Citrin, popularly known as the “Father of Valet Parking” or “Mr. Valet.” Citrin, who died this year, started his valet parking company back in 1946 in Los Angeles and brought professionalism to a business that was once not valued much.

Citrin did not discover valet parking; but he certainly invented it. In the interview with Lexus, Critin says, “My father parked cars back in the ’30s. A month shy of my 16th birthday, I started helping him out.” Citrin’s father ran the parking concession at Lawry’s The Prime Rib on La Cienega Boulevard in LA. Citrin’s introduction of natty uniforms for valets in 1946 was noted, and most of the other 20 dining establishments on La Cienega Boulevard asked Citrin to manage their parking.

After restaurants, Citrin moved to office buildings and department stores. Later on, his company also began handling valet parking for airports, the Academy Awards, Emmys, Golden Globes and other major Hollywood events.

The valet parking industry is flourishing

From opening doors for the who’s who to saving customers’ time when parking is scarce — which can be nightmare in closely packed cities — the nature of valet parking has changed tremendously over time.  Once a mark of affluence, valet parking has now emerged as a well-organized and fairly common service.

The surge in valet parking jobs over the years is a proof of its successful journey. The National Parking Association records an estimated 200,000 people working as parking attendants in the United States. About 61 percent of Americans use valet parking, with Northeasterners relying on it the most. Just 27 percent said they never use a valet.

New options in valet parking

Recently, valet parking has evolved from just parking cars to other vehicles like bikes and boats. Bicycle valet parking has gained popularity in the last ten years with more and more people choosing to peddle to their destination. For those who love to cruise, a valet parking option is now at hand for boats too.

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Category: Miscellaneous

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