The success of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island can be attributed to people who followed their vision and their heart, according to R.D. Musser, III, president of the Grand Hotel. Musser was the guest speaker for the Peter F. Secchia Breakfast Lecture February 12 at the L. William Seidman Center, sponsored by the Seidman College of Business.
During his speech, “Sustaining a Grand Vision Through Three Centuries,” Musser talked about how the hotel has remained successful from a time when visitors came by rail and steamer in the 1800s, to the 1950s when the Mackinac Bridge was being built, to now.
Musser described the business model for the Grand Hotel as unorthodox because of the island’s location and population, and because it is closed six months out of the year. “So what is our secret? How have we grown from a small number of wealthy families visiting us to more than 130,000 in a season?” Musser said. “Our success is the story of people who had a vision, followed what they loved, and were willing to adjust to the changes around them.”
Musser shared how his great uncle, who purchased the hotel in 1933, was one of the first to take in conventions when others thought it would scare away the loyal vacationers. His great uncle also helped make sure the Mackinac Bridge was built. “My great uncle was also a great promoter,” said Musser. “He would say the Grand Hotel has the largest porch in the world. I’m not sure that’s true.”
Musser said when his father became president of the hotel in 1960, 120 rooms shared a bathroom; that was corrected by 1970. His father also expanded the number of rooms and lengthened the season from three to six months. Musser said his own vision has included offering family friendly amenities for young children, opening of an ice cream shop featuring Hudsonville ice cream and building new suites with amazing views.
“Some things haven’t changed,” said Musser. “We still require a suit and tie for men and more formal dress for women after 6:30 p.m. It creates a nice atmosphere. And, like my predecessors, I go room to room and inspect each one before the season opens. I am in a detail-oriented business and every day something needs immediate attention. The Grand Hotel is a state treasure and I take pride in taking care of this unique jewel.”
Musser was named president of the historic, 385-room Grand Hotel in 1989. He represents the third generation of Musser family ownership and operation of the Grand Hotel.