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.
As chief concierge of The Townsend Hotel since 2006, Lynette Zebrowski serves as the property’s point person and “go to” contact for celebrities, dignitaries and other VIP guests requiring additional security and special considerations in advance of and during their stay. Additionally, Zebrowski’s resourcefulness, experience, connections and “get-it-done-no-matter-what” attitude make her the property’s unofficial top resource for getting the impossible accomplished. Officially, she also supervises the concierge and bell staffs, and leads vendor relations on behalf of hotel guests.
Prior to joining The Townsend team, Zebrowski, a graduate of Michigan State University, served as Front Desk Agent at The Omni Riverfront Hotel in Detroit. To date, she says that meeting former President Bill Clinton during one of his stays at The Townsend Hotel has been the highlight of career. “Getting to shake the hand of United States President is pretty exciting!” says Zebrowski.
In addition to her “there is no no” philosophy, Zebrowski attributes her professional success to attention to detail and respect of confidentialities. “A must,” she says, in her line of work.
When not tending to the needs of Townsend guests, Zebrowski, an avid sports fan, also serves as an Associate Director for The National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. In her spare time, she can be found cheering on the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park or The Spartans of MSU in East Lansing.
A proper daily Afternoon Tea service is a rare find these days, so of course The Townsend Hotel chose only the most qualified and dedicated leader to orchestrate its gem of an amenity. Laura Klein, tea director, joined The Townsend Hotel in 1999 (as an assistant manager for the award-winning Rugby Grille) and has served in her current role since 2006.
As tea director, Klein is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the Afternoon Tea service – from managing reservations to selecting the menu of finger sandwiches and pastries to supervising guest service – and ensuring nothing less than a remarkable experience for every guest, every time.
Klein knows more than a few secrets to success in her line of work: Keep the tea hot, the tea cups full and smile, smile, smile!
Prior to joining The Townsend Hotel team, Klein worked for a number of area hotels, most notably the Novi Hilton, where she served as restaurant, bar and room service manager, as well as director of outlets. At The Townsend, Klein has served numerous roles prior to tea director, including restaurant manager of the Rugby Grille and catering division banquet captain.
Klein is a graduate of the University of Michigan. And she is never late for tea!