Confessions of a Miami Valet

Marcos R. Lopez

Two Bal Harbour Shop valets dish on what goes on behind the scenes.

A Lamborghini Aventador or Ferrari Enzo? Bentley or Rolls-Royce? Those who are in the market for a new car would do well to consult Danny Luna and Marcos Lopez, two of the valets at the Bal Harbour Shops. “We have people who come to us to see what car to buy,” Lopez says, “because they know we drive every single one.”

At $2,555 in sales per square foot, the shopping center is one of the most successful of its kind in the States. Luxury brands wait years for a spot to open next to the likes of Gucci and Chanel. But it’s the galleria’s valet stand and 96-space front parking lot, near Carpaccio restaurant, that has the best eye candy.

“The minute someone gets a car, they’re having lunch here,” Luna says. Sometimes a car has its own entourage, like the Bugatti that received an on-site visit from a technician flown in from France. Many from the shops’ broad base—Russians, Brazilians, Chinese—ship their cars from abroad. Russians, Luna says, drive the most ostentatious ones. “It’s got to be white,” he says. “Russians love white.”

Luna estimates that from 11:30 a.m. until well after midnight, he personally parks at least 100 cars, from supercars to the more mundane six-figure luxury sedans. “A Mercedes here is what a Honda would be to you and me,” he says. “Here the equivalent of a Mercedes would be a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce.” This means during the December-to-March high season, the status-conscious shouldn’t pull up in anything less than a Porsche 911 Turbo S. It takes a lot to impress these guys—for Lopez, one car that sticks out is an aluminum AC Cobra with racing tires.

Luna and Lopez have spotless records since they started in 2005. As a result, they have developed a deep bond with their regulars: basketball players, rappers, movie stars, politicians (both foreign and domestic) and even some they address as “Your Highness.” “You get inside the car, you see money on the floor, passports, watches,” Lopez says. He had one regular ask him to look after $40,000 in an envelope, while another had him hold $1.5 million worth of watches. The only thing the valets can’t do is take a car off the lot—even if a driver hands them a wad of hundreds to get his McLaren gassed up.

And are the tips good? Ever discreet, Lopez deflects that query: “The best tip is their trust.” Their clients are like family, he says. “We see the guy with the wife, the ex-wife, the girlfriend; with cars, no cars; with money again. The next ex-wife.”

By the way, what supercar should you buy, if money is no object? According to Lopez, the Ferrari 458 Italia: “To me, it’s the best car on the road.” He would know.