Jason Hawkins, The Townsend Hotel’s director of front office operations since January 2012, would encourage any recent graduate following in his career footsteps to never fear trying new things. A Michigan State University graduate with a degree in hospitality business, Hawkins owes his variety of professional experiences to his willingness to step outside of his comfort zone. “You have to keep an open mind,” says Hawkins. That open mind has led Hawkins to job experiences in limited service, extended stay, full-service and luxury hotels; and everything from housekeeping to operations to group arrival/departures to VIP management.
In his current role, Hawkins is responsible for management of all aspects of guest services, including front desk, reservations, bellmen, concierge and valet staff. He also is the lead point of contact for all in-house guests. Prior to joining The Townsend, Hawkins served as task force general manager for American Hospitality Management Inc., traveling the Midwest region on several assignments.
A resident of Grosse Pointe Woods, Hawkins also serves as his MSU’s graduating class liaison for the Evans Scholars.
Nick Bassil, manager of the Rugby Grille, The Townsend Hotel’s award-winning fine-dining restaurant, is what many might label a jack-of-all-trades…whether you need a suggested wine pairing for your entrée, tips on customer satisfaction or even your bicycle repaired, Mr. Bassil is your man!
As Rugby Grille manager, Bassil is responsible for recruitment, training and management of the restaurant’s front-of-house staff, as well as ensuring exemplary levels of guest service and customer satisfaction. He was promoted to the Rugby Grille position in October 2014, after joining The Townsend as concierge in 2011, then being promoted to front office supervisor in 2013.
Prior to joining The Townsend team, Bassil honed his sales and customer service skills with Verizon Wireless, which followed his first job as a sales and service technician with Macomb Bike and Fitness.
A lifelong Michigander and current resident of Clinton Twp., Mich., Bassil earned his bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management from Madonna University in Livonia, Mich. and an associate’s degree of culinary arts from Macomb Culinary Institute in Clinton Twp.
Outside of the restaurant, Bassil is an avid snowboarder and enjoys cycling, hunting and motorsports, as well as cooking and entertaining, of course. A singer and former DJ, Bassil also counts music among his many passions.
Whether planning an intimate event for five, or a massive celebration for 5,000, Lizz Smith, one of two social catering sales managers at The Townsend Hotel, will ensure that every single last detail is attended to meticulously. “My attention to detail is above average,” notes Smith, humbly.
The 5,000-guest event is no exaggeration either, as Smith and her team spent months planning for that size crowd in conjunction with the Red Bull Race Events. On a slightly smaller scale, Smith, who joined The Townsend team in 2010, regularly works with clients to implement unforgettable weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, showers and non-profit fundraisers…all of which are infused with a bit of her creative celebration “magic.”
Prior to joining The Townsend, Smith, who boasts more than 25 years of industry experience, most recently honed her expertise as the director of catering for the Matt Prentice Restaurant Group.
In addition to lots of practical experience (“Be ready for what you don’t expect,” cautions Smith), and loads of attention to detail, Smith credits doing what she loves as the critical ingredient in her years of successful events. “If you try to fake it, it won’t work,” says Smith.
Smith, who attended Oakland County Community College, looks forward to making your next celebration at The Townsend Hotel an affair to remember…
To any students or new professionals just starting out in the hospitality industry, Stephanie Ripple would send along this dose of reality as her best career advice… “It’s not as easy as it may appear. Be ready to buckle down and work hard.” She makes sure to add, however, “Along the way, remember to have fun!”
Ripple certainly knows a thing or two about working hard. Early in her career at just age 23, while working as the convention services manager for the Embassy Suites Chicago-Downtown, Ripple managed the execution of World Wines Meeting America, a huge, international event, which required her to navigate time differences, language and cultural barriers and ever-changing event details. Although a real trial by fire, Ripple says the experience solidified for her that she had chosen the right career path.
And that path lead Ripple to The Townsend Hotel in 2010. As conference service manager, she works with all corporate clients on servicing their banquet and meeting functions and ensuring that every client enjoys the famous “Townsend Experience.”
Ripple graduated from Central Michigan University with a bachelor of applied arts degree in Recreation, Park and Leisure Services. In her junior year, she served as president of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority.
The fans that regularly crowd the stanchions outside The Townsend Hotel lobby, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite all-star or celebrity, likely have Kelly Clement to thank for the opportunity.
As a senior sales manager at The Townsend Hotel, Clement manages all aspects of travel and lodging for the property’s sports industry and entertainment clientele, among others. From the Ryder Cup teams in 2004, to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA finals in 2005, to the San Francisco Giants during the 2012 World Series, Clement facilitated the visits of some of the world’s most renowned athletes, musicians and entertainers. More recently, Clement is credited with securing The Townsend Hotel’s first-ever NHL team business.
So how does she do it? Clement offers these two “go-getter” pieces of advice: “You should always set your expectations as high as possible, and then work to make them a reality.” Clement also says, “Bring a positive attitude to the workplace every single day.” The Townsend Hotel has been Clement’s workplace since 2004, when she joined the property as executive assistant and social rooms coordinator.
Clement, a graduate of Michigan State University, is a member of the Detroit Economic Club, and actively volunteers for Habitat for Humanity of Detroit, New Horizons and Big Brothers Big Sister of Metropolitan Detroit.