Hotel Online
News for the Hospitality Executive


Part of the Success of  the Historic Grand Hotel Is Having a
Family Ownership Paying Meticulous Attention to Detail
The Mussers Are Known as Hosts Who "Always Do it Right"


MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich., April 22, 2008 -  Grand Hotel marks a milestone when it opens its doors for the 2008 season May 2nd, celebrating 75 consecutive years of stewardship by the family that has made the hotel the icon that it is today.

In March 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression at a time when all the nation's banks had been closed, W. Stewart Woodfill was the sole bidder in an auction to take the hotel out of receivership. His nephew, R. D. (Dan) Musser II, became president in 1960 and purchased the hotel from Woodfill in 1979.

President R. D. (Dan) Musser III and Vice President Mimi Musser Cunningham became the third generation of their family to take the helm of the hotel in 1989. Dan is responsible for all day-to-day operations of Grand Hotel, while Mimi is responsible for the management and buying for all nine Grand Hotel shops.

"The family sense of stewardship and dedication to the unique nature of the hotel is a key part of Grand Hotel's success," said Thierry Roch, Executive Director of Historic Hotels of America. "They are true innkeepers determined to make each guest's stay a memorable experience. They are legendary in our industry for their dedication and commitment to maintaining the highest level of hospitality at Grand Hotel."

Roch said a key part of the success of any historic hotel is having an individual owner who pays meticulous attention to detail.

"Grand Hotel would never work under corporate ownership," he said. "An accountant would start to figure out ways to cut corners and pretty soon the very nature of what makes it so unique would be compromised."

Pennie Beach, co-owner of the Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes, Vermont, said the Mussers are known within the historic hospitality industry as hosts who "always do it right. They run it in way that is not about today and not about this quarter's balance sheet. It's about tomorrow. They want their guests' kids to come back. Their repeat business is the envy of the industry."

R. D. (Dan) Musser II started at the hotel as a college student in 1951, working for his uncle in a variety of assignments as he got to know every detail of the operation. He has worked at the hotel fulltime since leaving the U.S. Army in 1957.

He remembers his uncle as "very single minded. When he got something in his teeth he didn't let loose. I think that is how he survived some very hard economic times. He would figure out how to make a go of it, one way or another. I can't imagine how he survived through the 30s and through the war."

In a 1969 speech, Woodfill said his family and friends were not enthusiastic about his decision to purchase the hotel.

"They suggested a bucket be secured, a sterling silver bucket if need be to please my expensive tastes, and that my money be put into it and poured down the sink," he said. "This would shorten the ordeal of losing my money and make it much easier!"

In that same speech he reflected on his success in not only keeping the hotel in operation but in assuring its continued success as an icon.

"It fell to my lot to nurse Grand Hotel and keep it alive through many precarious seasons," he said. "It has become a great landmark that will long serve, entrance and educate the tourist public. As such an achievement, one can say it has been eminently worthwhile."

Woodfill, who was from Greensburg, Indiana, had started as a desk clerk at the hotel in 1919 out of a desire to spend the summer in northern Michigan to seek relief from allergies. He became manager of the hotel in 1923, became a part owner in 1925, sold his percentage of the hotel in 1927 and then purchased it for good in 1933.

His nephew said the continuity of ownership has been "very important" to the continuing vitality of the hotel.

"My uncle, myself and now Dan all have been dedicated to making it work in different ways," he said. "We all were effective in our time. Dan will do things that I never dreamed of. You have to do that. You can't just stand still. It's always been a plus that one of us was in charge and here every day. A lot of properties around the country have been hurt because they don't have the day-to-day presence of the owner."

President R. D. (Dan) Musser III said the hotel will be fully staffed for the season in spite of Congressional action last fall that has sharply reduced the number of foreign national workers who can enter the U.S. under the program through which roughly half of the hotel's employees have entered the country in past years.

"We have, of course, continued the intensive efforts we launch every year to identify U.S. citizens who want to work at Grand Hotel," he said. "In addition, by working with other resorts in Arizona and Florida whose season falls off in the summer, we have successfully recruited enough experienced hospitality industry workers to fully staff Grand Hotel for the 2008 season. We also have instituted a new, more intense training program for new employees to assure that the quality of our hospitality remains unmatched."

The 2008 season also will see the 100th running of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, which will set sail from Chicago on Saturday, July 19.

Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island Pursue 'Green' Agenda

Grand Hotel is in the approval phase of being designated a "green" hotel by Green Lodging Michigan. The process was started in the fall of 2007 and should be complete by the end of our 2008 season.

Behind the scenes of Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island's ageless "Somewhere in Time" ambiance are aggressive programs to seek out and implement the latest technology to protect the island's pristine environment.

These efforts include:

  • The water-based air conditioning system Grand Hotel designed and installed in its most classic rooms,
  • An island program that composts all biodegradable waste on the island,
  • State of the art water and wastewater treatment systems used on the island,
  • Changing over to energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the hotel,
  • Offering guests an option with regards to the frequency of linen exchange,
  • Limiting the amount of paper waste by centralizing some information instead of delivering to all guest rooms and
  • A specially designed composting system that produces all the compost Grand Hotel uses for its signature flowerbeds.
"Anything you see on the grounds is dirt that we made ourselves," said Grand Hotel's Superintendent of Grounds Mary Stancik. "None of it is from anywhere else. Every single grass clipping, every weed, every flower that is taken from the ground when the growing season is over goes into the compost pile."

The only other ingredient added to the pile, she said, is coffee grounds collected from the hotel. "It adds a lot of acid to the soil that we otherwise would lack," she said.

Stancik said it takes about a year and a half to use a compost pile and the hotel has three piles going at any one time. Work on the piles and on the hotel's gardens starts in the middle of April each year and goes through the middle of November. Each fall the hotel plants a ton of bulbs, including 25,000 tulips and 15,000 daffodils.

The hotel's composting program is but one example of the attention to detail that goes into protecting the environment on Mackinac Island.

"Being on an island that attracts more than a million visitors a year presents unique challenges when it comes to handling the refuse those visitors produce while maintaining the ambiance that brings people here in the first place," says Grand Hotel Chairman R. D. Musser II. "Fortunately, the community here has been committed to taking the steps that need to be taken to achieve that."

As a result, half of the waste material generated at the hotel and on the island is processed through very aggressive programs to compost the biodegradable waste - including the horse manure produced by the island's main form of transportation - and to recycle paper, plastics, glass and other recyclable materials. The attention to detail is such that all scrap wood from the hotel's maintenance department with no paint on it is ground up and used as part of the island's composting operation, rather than going to a landfill.

"The recycling program actually pays its own way," said Mackinac Island Public Works Director Bruce Zimmerman. "In comparison to what it would cost to landfill those materials it is a tremendous winner. We compost anything that will break down organically and use every bit of it on the island."

The island closed and capped its landfill in 1991 and all non-recyclable waste is hauled to a state-approved landfill on the mainland.

Musser has been a long-time advocate of protecting the island's unique environment, including serving more than 30 years as chair of the island's Public Works Commission. Under his guidance, the island has built a state of the art water supply system that uses a cutting edge microfiltration process and an equally modern wastewater treatment plant that meets or exceeds all federal guidelines.

The positive environmental impact even extends to the electricity used on the island, which is generated by hydroelectric stations operated by Edison Sault Electric Co.

For Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island, all of these initiatives are part of a continuing effort to provide modern conveniences to visitors while protecting the environment and maintaining the 19th Century charm for which both are known around the world.

Grand Hotel is continually recognized for the quality of its hospitality. The April 2008 issue of National Geographic Traveler listed the hotel as one of "150 hotels you'll love," describing its ambiance as "Lilly Pulitzer meets the Brooks Brothers."

Grand Hotel is listed as one of Travel & Leisure magazine's Top 500 hotels in the world, received Successful Meetings Magazine's Pinnacle Award as one of the top 25 hotels in the Midwest and for the 14th consecutive year has been named a winner of the AAA Four Diamond Award. The T+L 500 is a guide to the best hotels and includes overall descriptions and expert insight about each of the 500 hotels in three categories: Competitive Edge, Best Rooms to Book, and What Not to Miss.

Grand Hotel, the world's largest summer hotel, has been one of America's premier summer vacation spots since it opened on July 10, 1887 to receive summer vacationers who arrived by lake steamer or by rail.

Throughout its history, Grand Hotel has hosted dignitaries from around the country and the world, including five U.S. Presidents (Harry S Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald R. Ford, George Bush, and Bill Clinton).


Grand Hotel
286 Grand Avenue
Mackinac Island, MI 49757
(906) 847-3331



To search Hotel Online data base of News and Trends Go to Hotel.OnlineSearch
Home | Welcome| Hospitality News | Classifieds| One-on-One |
Viewpoint Forum | Industry Resources | Press Releases
Please contact Hotel.Onlinewith your comments and suggestions.