When Annie Farrell, director of sales at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, is asked about the island’s weather by prospective clients, she quickly responds with the most positive of replies, explaining that if the weather’s not perfect, “there’s no better place to be than Grand Hotel.”
And once they’re at the legendary hotel, whether there’s sun, clouds, rain or wind, meeting and conference attendees find Farrell’s insights to be spot on.
The Michigan State University grad previously worked part-time performing secretarial duties as a college student in MSU’s department of hotel and restaurant management.
“A couple of professors suggested that I consider hospitality as a career,” Farrell recalls. “The first professional hospitality job was moving from waitressing at the Hospitality Inn (which became the Harley Hotel and then the Clarion Hotel) to convention manager at that same hotel when I graduated,” she says. She also worked for former Gov. John Engler as manager of the governor’s residence in Lansing and the summer home on Mackinac Island.
Today, Farrell, who lives with her husband and beloved dog, Nevada, in Williamston, continues to cherish her 22 years at the Grand Hotel, sharing that one of her favorite parts of her position is, naturally, closing a deal.
“When you like being a salesperson, and you make a sale, you get a charge. It’s satisfying,” she says. “But I also love the full process of bringing someone here and showing them around and helping them understand how this destination can enhance their event and satisfy their needs. It’s wonderful to see someone’s light go on when they think and say, ‘Oh, this would be perfect in the tea garden for an event or for lunch, or the ballroom or porch is magnificent for this part of the program,’ that kind of thing.”
Her nonprofit endeavors include a partnership with Capital Area Michigan Works! She and others launched a program that provides a resource for women in need of gently used business clothes.
Farrell has been a member of the MSAE board of directors, has received a 2010 MSAE Diamond Award and was the 2010 Governor’s Conference on Tourism Sales and Marketing Employee of the Year.
Based from her office in Okemos, she visits regularly at the 132 -year-old hotel throughout the season. Farrell acknowledges that as much as she loves the hustle-bustle of her position, she also embraces its quiet times, too.
“The hotel staff gets together every year on a day just before the hotel opens. I remember one year at that time, I was walking down the Grand’s main staircase in the center, looking into the parlor and out to the front porch. It was a beautiful, peaceful morning—a classic moment—and I thought, ‘How did I get so lucky?’”