Renovation Puts Hotel Back On The Map

June 13, 2002
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SPRING LAKE — With a $3 million renovation complete, and a new affiliation agreement with a national hotel chain secured, Laurie Cameron can now focus on rebuilding a clientele.

The first markets she’ll pursue for the revamped Spring Lake Holiday Inn is the corporate traveler and conferences, a side of the business that has been lacking since the hotel went downhill during the 1990s and became known as the place not to hold a meeting or stay while in town on business.

“Frankly, the business people wouldn’t stay here, it was in such terrible condition,” said Cameron, the hotel’s general manager who’s out to win back the business traveler following the extensive, year-long renovation.

Built in 1968, the hotel is somewhat of a landmark in the Village of Spring Lake. Cameron hopes to rebuild the business to its former stature.

“No question about it, this hotel was very successful literally from its inception,” Cameron said as she led a tour of the hotel and the recently completed renovation. “I think we’ve infused capital into this hotel that, in my opinion, puts it at the top of the Holiday Inn food chain.”

Those improvements — which touched every room and virtually every area of the 120-room hotel — enabled the owners, Jack and Pam Verdi, the former owners of Porto Bello restaurant in downtown Grand Haven, to earn back a coveted Holiday Inn franchise that had been lost in 1997 under the previous ownership. That affiliation helps to put the Spring Lake Holiday Inn, known until late last month as the Grand Harbor Resort and Yacht Club, back on the map for vacationers and business travelers, Cameron said.

“In this day and age, you really need an affiliation because you have no other resources of letting people know you’re here. You can’t completely depend on your local market,” Cameron said.

The Verdis bought the hotel at auction in March 2000 for $4 million and quickly went to work to upgrade the facility and rebuild the business.

Prior to the auction, Cameron, a friend of Pam Verdi’s who has a background in investment analysis of hotel properties, agreed to look at the Spring Lake hotel at Jack Verdi’s request. While the hotel was clearly deteriorating, Cameron saw plenty of potential in the property, particularly given its location along M-104, where the Grand River and Spring Lake meet, and just east of U.S. 31 leading into Grand Haven.

“There was no question the hotel needed a lot of attention, but it does have a fabulous location,” she said.

Cameron didn’t hear from Verdi for weeks until he called to say he had bought the hotel and asked if she would move from Chicago to Spring Lake to run it. Once the title of the property transferred in May 2000, the Verdis launched the renovation project that involved upgrading every room, the swimming pool area, the ballroom, the restaurant and outdoor deck and the building’s mechanical and plumbing systems.

“We did everything,” Cameron said. “It was pretty extensive.”

Bolstering the Holiday Inn’s strong appeal to the leisure traveler with new business from the corporate traveler is essential to the success of the hotel.

“That is the key to our success. You can’t sustain yourself on just three months of leisure business,” Cameron said.

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