The iconic northwestern Lower Michigan Stafford’s Hospitality properties are being sold to downstate Michigan buyers.
Stafford’s announcement of the sale reports that founder Stafford Smith and equity partners/longtime employees Dudley Marvin, Brian Ewbank, Butch Paulsen, David Marvin, and Reginald Smith are selling to Jon and Lauren Cotton of Grosse Pointe. Smith and his wife, Janice, first purchased the Bay View Inn in 1961. They went on to expand their portfolio with the help of the equity partners over the years.
The newly announced Stafford’s Hospitality properties sale includes the historic Bay View Inn and The Perry Hotel in Petoskey including The Noggin Room Pub located in the hotel, The Crooked River Lodge in Alanson, The Pier Restaurant in Harbor Springs, and The Weathervane restaurant in Charlevoix. The Cottons also purchased Mackinac Island’s Hotel Iroquois in 2020.
Troy-based Hotel Investment Services (HIS), will oversee operations of the Stafford’s Hospitality properties. HIS already manages the Iroquois for the Cottons as well as multiple properties for other owners around Michigan and elsewhere including the Lake View Hotel and Harbour View Inn on Mackinac Island and Hotel Earl in Charlevoix. HIS CEO Ron Wilson says leadership was meeting with employees at the Stafford’s locations this week to share ideas and seek input.
“Is there a plan to do renovations? Absolutely,” Wilson says. “Is the plan defined yet? No, that may take a year to fully understand … these properties, the employees, the guests, the community. And to understand what do they like, what would they like to see different, what additions they would like.”
Wilson says the Cottons are “100 percent” behind providing the resources that may be needed to enhance the properties. “There’s clearly things that need to be done, but you have to look at in a holistic fashion,” he says. “You have to look at it to make sense for the brand.”
That brand will continue to be known as Stafford’s, which Wilson says is an important aspect of the sale. “We understand what that name means in those communities and the responsibility that we have and the legacy that has been given to us.”
Group business will also be a focus moving forward. “Our (HIS) up north portfolio is substantial,” Wilson says. “We have a substantial footprint … so being able to accommodate different groups and conferences at different properties—there’s a lot to choose from with one-stop shopping.”
The sale should be complete in January 2024. The announcement did not disclose what the Cottons are paying for the Stafford’s Hospitality properties.