When you enter the dining room at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, odds are you will be greeted by Ken Salmon, the hotel’s vice president for hospitality and maitre d.
Salmon, who first came to the island as a teenager, is in his 43rd year at the island’s iconic institution. And if you are a previous guest at the hotel, he will recognize you and say, “Welcome home.”
“I feel so good seeing the past guests coming back,” he says. “To all my past guests, I always say, ‘Welcome home,’ and this makes the guest feel real good.”
When Salmon first went to Grand Hotel he was one of only nine Jamaican workers who were working that summer. In the intervening years, the number has grown into the hundreds, many of whom come back year after year. Salmon, who has become an American citizen, is the chief recruiter for the Jamaican workers at Grand Hotel, among his many duties.
When the hotel celebrated its 125th anniversary last year, it recognized 125 workers who had been at the hotel at least 10 years. Salmon, one of the longest serving workers, was singled out for special recognition.
The late R.D. (Dan) Musser, Jr., the owner of Grand Hotel who passed away in April, once said that Salmon was “one of our key employees at Grand Hotel.
“The dining room is key to our continued success and Ken runs it very effectively,” Musser said. “People expect a certain level of service at Grand Hotel and Ken makes sure that they receive that service. We couldn’t do it without him.”
Salmon returns the respect to the Musser family.
“As long as the Musser family needs my service, I will be here,” he said. I look at young Dan (the hotel president) as my brother and I looked at his father as my father because they are that close to me.”
Salmon said the staff at the hotel misses the elder Musser, who had been a part of the hotel since 1951, but that they are continuing on in his memory.
“I’ve always been grateful for the opportunity Mr. Musser gave me to work here and the confidence he showed in me as I received promotions and eventually became the vice president for hospitality,” Salmon said. “At Grand Hotel, we specialize in world class hospitality, and the fact that he believed in me and entrusted me with that level of responsibility means everything. Now that he is gone, all of us who knew him and shared his vision for Grand Hotel are determined to carry on in a way that would make him proud.”