Anyone even remotely familiar with this blog knows the story of how Ted and I came to the Island in 2000 and stayed at the Chippewa Hotel for two weeks while we explored the Les Cheneaux Islands (where Ted spent his summers as a little boy). But, instead of falling for the “Snows”, which are incredibly beautiful, I fell hook, line, and sinker for the magic of Mackinac. Thereafter, we returned to the Chippewa Hotel for two weeks every summer until we fulfilled our dream of buying a place on the Island in 2008.
When you spend as much time as we have at the Chip – both then (in their beautiful suites and the ever-hopping Pink Pony Bar) and now (in the restaurant and the still ever-hopping Pink Pony Bar), you get to know a lot of people involved in the running of the hotel – including the general manager, Brian Bailey, and the Benser and Nephew family, who own the Chippewa, and who – individually or collectively – own three other hotels, some fudge shops, a couple of clothing stores, and a variety of other businesses downtown.
Last week we were invited to join the majority of the employees from the Benser/Nephew family-owned businesses on a special dinner cruise under the Mackinac Bridge. The cruise is an “end of the season” perk for this hard-working group, most of whom come aboard in April and stay until the season ends in October. At that time, they return to their “other lives” – some as college students, some as resort workers in other states or countries. Others are full-time employees and stay throughout the winter on the Island or work out of offices downstate.
The Benser/Nephew connection began with Frank Nephew and Bob Benser’s friendship in high school. Together, they bought a restaurant called the Chatterbox on Mac Island in 1966, and the rest, as they say, is history.
From day one, the emphasis was on customer service and quality rooms, food, entertainment and clothing. That emphasis has not changed today as Frank and Bob’s children have stepped into management positions in the businesses. As much as they appreciate their customers, they appreciate their workers just as much – rewarding good work ethics and loyalty to the companies. Employees return season after season to work for these families on the Island, and as we’ve gotten to know them, it’s easy to see why they would.
Almost 200 employees gathered at the dock Thursday evening and boarded the big Arnold “Straits of Mackinac” ferry for the dinner trip out to the Mackinac Bridge. Below there was a buffet of food that ran almost the length of the boat, and a bar was available for the cruisers. The dress code was “whatever”, and it ranged from the most casual of casual to a group who arrived with the young men in suits and ties and the young ladies in their best party dresses. It was fun to watch this large group of “mostly” young people enjoy themselves on the trip out to the bridge and back.
Ted and I were excited to be included, and my main goal was to have fun AND get some hopefully good shots of the bridge – up close and dressed in her party lights. Although neither of our cameras did very well in the low light situation, Ted’s photos turned out much better than mine. I tried shooting mine with the setting on “nighttime”, and with the wave action of the boat, I just couldn’t hold my camera still enough – lots of blurry shots. Ted’s did much better in “auto” mode.
On the trip back to the Island, we sampled all the food on the buffet line and enjoyed the good company. What a treat! Thanks again to the Benser and the Nephew families for including us!
Ted and I have been busy, busy for the last few days, and we have a busy week coming up. All that “busy-ness” means two things – new stories and lots of new pics. Here’s what we have going on:
- Ted and a friend (along with his two boys) went “caving” Friday, and I’ve got the story and his pics to prove my hubbie is in pretty darn good shape. He loved exploring places he’d never been on the island – even if he did have to climb cliffs and risk broken bones and avalanches to get there!
- On Saturday, Frankie and I went over to St. Ignace to attend the Rendezvous at the Straits Powwow, a gathering of over 100 Native Americans. The costumes and dances were unbelievable, and I can’t wait to share the event with you.
- On Tuesday afternoon this week, Ted and I are driving up to Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks. One of my blog readers has invited us to meet her there for a “behind-the scenes” tour of how the locks operate. So excited!
So, settle back and be prepared for lots of goodies – it’s going to be a great week!
Note: I’ll be working at the Stuart House on Monday, Aug. 29 from 10-2. If you’re a blog reader and on the island, I’d love to meet/see you! Come on by!