All in the Family: 4 of Michigan’s Iconic Multi-Generational Businesses

Father’s Day serves as a time to be with family and share memories of the past. In Michigan, we have many distinctive family-run companies which not only maintain their roots as historic businesses, but they are paying attention to current trends and looking to the future to thrive for new generations. Read more as Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan shares the history behind four multi-generational businesses.

1. Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island—First opened in 1887, this National Historic Landmark has been operated by the current family for 83 years. In the midst of the Great Depression in 1933, W. Stewart Woodfill (who was hired as a desk clerk in 1919) was the sole bidder to take the hotel out of receivership and preserve its place in history.

His nephew, R. D. (Dan) Musser Jr., began working at the hotel as a college student in 1951. In 1979, Dan and his wife, Amelia, purchased the seasonal property on America’s most noted island and began the task of redesigning both the interior and exterior spaces, with the help of architect Richard Boss and decorator Carleton Varney.

Grand Hotel is as iconic as any other destination in Michigan

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan

Dan Musser III grew up in the family business—serving as kitchen assistant, bellman, bartender, bar manager, front desk clerk and manager, reservations manager and vice president, before being named President in 1989 and officially taking over the 390-room “Green Certified” hotel in 2011 (along with all the outlying properties: The Jewel Golf Course, The Gatehouse Restaurant, Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor, Jockey Club, Woods Restaurant, Cawthorne’s Village Inn and the new Grand Sushi which just opened this summer.

2. Schuler’s Restaurant, Marshall—In 1909, a young orphaned Albert Schuler (a name he acquired from a traveling butcher who took him in after his mother died and his father abandoned him) became an entrepreneur, building the foundation for what has become one of Michigan’s most noted restaurants in historic downtown Marshall.

Bert’s first business was a cigar shop, followed by a small café, hotel and restaurant. It was here that second-generation Winston “Win” Schuler and his brother, Albert Jr., brought national attention to the restaurant, with at one time nine locations around the state (and one in Indiana).

Shuler's Restaurant in Marshall is a local favorite

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan

“While it was expected that I would follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather, it was a path I was actually eager to take,” says third-generation owner Hans Schuler, who officially joined the business in 1959 and in 1970 became President of the company, purchasing it from his father upon his retirement in the 1980s.

Larry Schuler is the fourth-generation to work in the family business and serve as a leader in the state’s hospitality industry. He is currently the president of Schu’s Hospitality and is a consultant for The Henry Ford Museum & Institutions in Dearborn.

3. Stafford’s Hospitality, Petoskey Area—It could be said that Stafford Smith was born to be a hotelier in the Petoskey area. Although his family was from the downstate town of Albion, they were vacationing in Petoskey when he made his appearance into the world. Today, his name is synonymous with hospitality in this lakeshore region.

He was just 22 years old in April, 1961 when he purchased the Bay View Inn. Originally built in 1886, this charming vintage inn is Stafford’s flagship property nestled along the shores of Little Traverse Bay. The Pier Restaurant in downtown Harbor Springs became the next acquisition (1970), followed by the Earl Young-built Weathervane Restaurant in Charlevoix (1986), the Perry Hotel (pictured below) (1989), the Gallery (2007), the Crooked River Lodge in Alanson (2011) and the Draw Bridge Bistro in downtown Charlevoix (2014).

The Perry Hotel is one of Smith's many popular destinations

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan

Stafford R. “Reg” Smith is the eldest child of Stafford Smith, and his wife of 55-years, Janice. He grew up in the business, having worked in nearly every capacity at the Inn. During the 1990s, Reg and his wife, Lori, together served as innkeepers at the Bay View Inn. Today, Reg is the Vice President of Hotels for Stafford’s Hospitality’s seven regional properties.

4. Zehnder’s, Frankenmuth—The first restaurant meals served in Frankenmuth were at the Exchange Hotel in 1856, just 11 years after the town’s founding. In 1928, William and Emilie Zehnder sold their 80-acre farm and borrowed the balance of the funds necessary for the $8,000 down payment to purchase the hotel. They opened on Mother’s Day, 1929 and on that first day served 312 guests, for just one dollar each.

The 1950s were a pivotal decade as the Zehnder family purchased the competition, the Fischer’s Hotel (where the community’s family-style chicken dinner originated), and named Tiny Zehnder as manager. Within a few years, Tiny suggested to the family that they remodel the building, adding character through Bavarian architecture. The entire family agreed and by 1959 the newly named Bavarian Inn opened with a grand celebration—the foundation to Frankenmuth’s Bavarian Festival, which is still celebrated to this day.

Zehnder's Restaurant is a must-visit when exploring Frankenmuth

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan

Despite financial setbacks, the Zehnder family continued to invest in its businesses and community, helping to create an unquestionable pride in its German heritage. The successful transformation of Fischer’s Hotel to the Bavarian Inn helped to encourage other Frankenmuth property owners to develop what is now “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.”

Bavarian Inn continues to be a staple in Frankenmuth

Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan

Today, the third generation of the Zehnder family are still currently involved in the day-to-day operations of their expanded businsses. The Bavarian Inn branch of the family (under the guidance of their 95-year-old matriarch, Dorothy Zehnder) oversees the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, the Bavarian Inn Lodge and the River Place Shops. The Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth branch operates the flagship Zehnder’s restaurant (America’s largest family restaurant), as well as The Fortress championship golf club, Zehnder’s Splash Village and a retail facility Zehnder’s Marketplace.

Michigan is home to many other generational family businesses, what are your favorites?

Dianna Stampfler is the president of Promote Michigan. She’s been an active supporter of the tourism industry since her first family vacation to Leelanau County at the age of three. Today, she is living her dream and resides in the Lake Michigan shoreline community of Petoskey. 

7 Pure Michigan Pizzerias That Will Make Your Mouth Water

Today is National Pizza Day! Who doesn’t love a cheesy, saucy piece of pizza? No matter how you’re celebrating, either with a slice or a whole pie to yourself, we’ve scouted seven of the best pizzerias in Pure Michigan that you can visit today to celebrate or whenever you’re craving this delicious dish. 

Supino Pizzeria
2457 Russell St, Detroit

Our first stop is Supino Pizzeria. This much-loved pizza joint, located in Eastern Market, uses the freshest ingredients and bakes their pizzas in an Italian wood-burning oven. They have a wide variety of thin-crust pizzas sure to make your mouth water. If you’re feeling cheesy, get the Quattro Formaggio: a red pizza with mozzarella, smoked Gouda, chevre and feta cheese.

Photo Courtesy of Buddy’s Pizza

Buddy’s Pizza
17125 Conant St, Hamtramck

Of course, we had to include Buddy’s Pizza on this list. This iconic pizzeria started out in Hamtramck on Conant St in the 1930s. However, it wasn’t until 1946 that their famous square pizza was introduced. Buddy’s has now grown to 11 different locations in Michigan, so you’re likely to find one near you! Try a pizza from the Great Lakes Pizza Collection like the Lake Superior and you won’t be disappointed. It incorporates a cheese blend, basil, pine nuts, pepperoni, tomato basil sauce and Buddy’s Sicilian spice blend all into one great pie.

Mani Osteria & Bar
341 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor

Mani Osteria & Bar is an independently owned restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor that specializes in artisanal pizzas and other creative Italian dishes prepared in a wood-burning oven. They often use locally sourced ingredients for their dishes. Check out the bar for regional craft beers, old world wines and much more. Indulge in the Shrimp Scampi pizza equipped with fontina cheese, scallion cream and bacon.

Ambassador Restaurant
126 Shelden Ave., Houghton

One of the best U.P. restaurants to get your pizza fix is the Ambassador. It has been around since 1965 when the Rossi family transformed the previous tap bar into a restaurant that specialized in pizza and sandwiches. One of the most interesting pizzas here is the Tostada, a pizza with spiced ground beef, white Colby cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, topped with hot sauce. If you’re looking for a more traditional dinner, try the BLT pizza made with thin crust, salad dressing, Colby cheese, smoked bacon, lettuce and tomatoes.

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Restaurant

D’Angelo’s Pizza
1305 Columbus Ave., Bay City

D’Angelo’s Pizza in Bay City is a local joint that has several rave reviews of their pizza and has won many awards. The restaurant is often included in the best of Michigan lists. Be sure to try their Voodoo pizza that includes grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, garlic, spinach, sun dried tomatoes and fresh mushrooms. (Closed Tuesdays)

Fricano’s Pizza Tavern
1400 Fulton Street, Grand Haven

Fricano’s is claimed by many customers to be the best pizza they’ve ever had. The restaurant started as an old boarding house in the late 1800s, but was transformed in 1949 by the late Cosimo (Gus) Fricano and is thought to be the first pizzeria in Michigan. Try their Sausage and Mushroom Fricano’s Pizza pie!

sausage pizza

Photo Courtesy of Fricano’s Pizza

DeLuca’s Restaurant
2006 W Willow Street, Lansing

DeLuca’s is a family-owned business since 1960, specializing in pizza, so you know they have great pies to try. The family jokes that pizza sauce, not blood, runs through their veins. The restaurant has been voted best pizza in Lansing 10 years in a row by View Magazine. Satisfy your cravings with a Bruschetta pizza made on thin crust with olive oil, bruschetta, tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella and Romano cheese.

What other Pure Michigan pizza spots do you love? Comment below!

Seven Buzzworthy Spots to Grab a Bite in Detroit

Whether you’re planning a visit to the North American International Auto Show or have a day downtown on your radar later this year, Detroit is brimming with culinary hot spots to help you refuel.

Detroit Skyline at night

Photo by Instagram user @joshtallyphotos

So, after you’ve worked up an appetite exploring the Cobo Center or any other attraction unique to the Motor City, make a pit stop at one of these seven spots that are putting the restaurant scene in the 313 on the map.  Antietam – 1428 Gratiot Ave., Detroit, MI 48207 For a feast fit to remember, look no further than Antietam. An experience at this downtown restaurant offers you French cuisine and other mouthwatering entrées. From market greens to whitefish and leg of rabbit, you won’t go home hungry, or unsatisfied, after enjoying a meal at Antietam. Bobcat Bonnies -  1800 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216 Bobcat Bonnies, a gastropub which opened last August in Corktown, looks to “provide high-quality, inviting service within a fun and welcoming atmosphere, while serving upscale food at a friendly price”.  The fun atmosphere exists in part due to the arcade games in the back of the restaurant. From Captain Crunch french toast to bruschetta burgers, you’re sure to find something you’ll love. Dime Store – 719 Griswold St. #180, Detroit, MI 48226 Dime Store is an American Brunch Bar in downtown Detroit that earned its claim to fame specializing in breakfast, lunch and booze. From hot omelets, to savory sandwiches and salads, the Dime Store menu is a unique blend of scratch-made traditional favorites and creative combinations.

Beer Taps at HopCat Detroit

HopCat Detroit

Gold Cash Gold – 2100 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48216 Gold Cash Gold considers themselves “farmstead fine food with a nod to the South, rooted in old world tradition.” – but don’t think that GCG isn’t still uniquely Detroit! Visit the restaurant for lunch or dinner, or even to enjoy a few drinks with friends. Between the southern cooking and hospitality, you may never want to leave. HopCat Detroit – 4265 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48201 This Grand Rapids hot spot has made its way to Detroit. The HopCat staff prides themselves on serving great food, and even better beer. From pilsners to IPAs, HopCat is already a popular destination among Detroiters and those traveling to the city. Rated one of the “Best Beer Bars on Planet Earth” by BeerAdvocate, you’ll want to check out what’s on tap when you venture to this new bar that opened its doors in late 2014.

Bowling Lanes at Punch Bowl Social Detroit

Photo via punchbowlsocial.com

Punch Bowl Social –1331 Broadway St., Detroit, MI 48226 Punch Bowl Social opens its doors to those who seek an establishment with an old-school feel. Besides the delectable menu options and craft beer offerings, Punch Bowl includes karaoke rooms, darts, shuffleboard, ping pong tables, and to its namesake – bowling lanes. Punch Bowl is great for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or just a night out on the town. Selden Standard – 3921 Second Ave., Detroit, MI 48201 Selden Standard aims to bring friends together to share a meal born through local flavors. Selden Standard’s atmosphere and dining room are rustic and casual and invite you to come as you are. If you’re looking for great food, great company and a good time, don’t miss Selden Standard. Did we miss one of your newest favorites? Let us know!