The Great America is Salt Lake City’s flagship hotel. As in, it’s literally a landmark. Its gray granite facade is visible from all over the valley. For 19 years, Bruce Fery has run The Grand and also, since 2011, the Holding family’s portfolio of independent properties, including Little Americas in Arizona, Wyoming and Utah; The Westgate Hotel in San Diego; and two emblematic ski resorts, valley of the sun and Snow basin.
Not bad for a kid who started working at his dad’s hotel in Idaho.
Fery grew up in Boise, where her father was in the lumber business but also owned two modest hotels. As a young man, Fery began working on estates. He honestly comes from his passion for hospitality. “I worked everything from housekeeping to reception and loved being with guests,” he says. “I fell in love with this work.”
Fery has only worked for three companies throughout his career and all of them were family businesses. He started with the Holding family (owners of Sinclair Oil) in 2003 and says he never had the displeasure of working in the corporate world.
“Working for a family business is a unique situation,” he says. “We are able to be agile and fast. We enjoy a great deal of autonomy. We use this freedom to focus on our customers.
This ability to pivot quickly has been essential over the past two years. “Who would have guessed that we would experience a global pandemic? he asks. “This has brought about challenges and hardships that were previously unimaginable for our business and our employees.”
In the interests of public health, Fery had to close both ski resorts in the depths of winter and end the season early in what was then a record year for Sun Valley and Snowbasin. “How do you do that? I grew up going to Sun Valley and it was one of the hardest things to finish the season early,” he said. “I’m proud of our employees who had the courage and loyalty to help us close quickly to protect our staff and guests It was such a difficult time.
Then, like everyone else, especially hoteliers, they had to completely reinvent the business at every level. “We had to establish a new normal.”
To help employees who were furloughed or on limited hours during the height of the lockdown, the company set up a foundation, called Serve, which has helped by distributing more than 400 grants to help pay medical bills, the rent and other needs. And through it all, he’s proud to say that the Grand, the flagship, never closed and also underwent major renovations. “Our approach was to create a safe environment and wait for the day when people were comfortable traveling again,” says Fery. And a funny thing happened; while business travelers dropped in for a while, locals showed up.
“We started to see this high rate of stays,” he says. “Our guests weren’t flying in, they were families working remotely with kids who were still in school, learning online and just wanted to come in and out of their homes. I am always amazed.
Locals (and non-hotel guests) can enjoy Grand America’s spa and pool areas with the purchase of a $100 spa treatment or service. Learn more about The Grand Spa website. (PS Want to get the most out of your spa vacation? Click here for some tips.)
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