Customer Spotlight – South Lyon Hotel

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Date: November 2, 2022

South Lyon Hotel (South Lyon, MI)

Risen from the Ashes…

Since its inception, the South Lyon Hotel has been a pillar of its community. Built in 1867, ‘the hotel’ started as, just that, a hotel. Over the years, it became much more than just a hotel, though. It has become a place for people in the small town of South Lyon to be entertained, a place to have a great meal, and most importantly, a place to be happy. In the summer of 2016, a fire destroyed the building, but it did not break the spirit of the hotel. In fact, through this tragedy, owners Corry Bala and Chris Baker found out what this place has truly meant to both its customers and employees.

In 1988, Paul Baker purchased the establishment.  During this time, the business operated as a bar on the main floor and a hotel on the second floor. With Paul’s guidance, the hotel evolved into more of a dining establishment with banquet facilities on the second floor and a restaurant/bar on the main floor. After changing ownership a few times in the 1990s, the hotel found its way back to Paul in 2001. At this time, his son, Chris Baker, and his son’s friend, Corry Bala, took over operations of the hotel and two other restaurants, as well. At this time, Corry began to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of the hotel.  This continued until the summer of 2016 when everything changed. A fire destroyed the hotel. It was at this defining moment that the journey to establish a new identity for the hotel, while still maintaining the legacy that had been built over the last 150 years, would begin.  The building was torn down and ‘built back better’ on the original site. This allowed the owners to mold the business into what they needed to better serve their customers. Over the next year and a half of rebuilding the business from the ground up, the owners learned a lot about what the hotel meant to many people. Two things in particular stood out. One was the tremendous amount of community support and volunteering that took place to reopen the business. Many members of the community donated their time and effort to get the South Lyon Hotel back up and running.  The second was the dedication of many of their employees that stuck around and assisted in the construction.  Instead of going to work elsewhere, they were committed to the hotel, even working for a remedial wage.  Much of what can be seen inside, including the wood paneling, was put up by the employee crew of the hotel.  These two things meant the world to Chris and Corry.

These moments of rebuilding the hotel emphasized what this place has meant to so many patrons over the years. It’s a second home, it’s entertainment, it’s a friendly face, it’s a comforting meal, it’s family… The walls of the old hotel might be gone, but its soul shines brighter than ever before for those who weathered the storm. More than ever, this place now represents a sense of family, loyalty, and community.

One of the main reasons the hotel has not only survived but thrived is because its culinary leader, Chef Kamil Paplowski. Chef Kamil has led the back-of-the-house operations for the last 12 years.  His philosophy is simple – make people happy bycreating dishes that are comforting and enjoyable to eat. This can be seen in many of his specials, such as the once-a-month Polish menu that customers travel from near and far to enjoy. He takes pride in producing consistently good food and it shows through each dish that his team puts out. He has gained a level of trust from owners, Chris and Corry, which has allowed him to use his creativity with dinner specials, while still offering quality and consistent bar food on the daily menu. This balance has become even more important since Covid-19 because they have seen their food/drink ratio go from 50/50 to around 75/25. Patrons have found comfort and appeal in dining at the hotel since the shutdowns in early 2020. Much of this is owed to Chef Kamil and his staff that have formed a bond through the thick and thin of the past six years at the hotel. They stuck it out through the rebuild and then again during Covid-19. Owner Corry Bala feels fortunate to be able to have this foundation.

Much like what South Lyon Hotel has created, Superior Foods strives to be a trusting partner to its customers.  A case in point is the relationship that Superior sales representative, Joe Shortal, has established with both Corry and Chef Kamil.  Since coming on board with Superior roughly a year ago, Joe has strengthened this partnership between himself (and Superior Foods) and the South Lyon Hotel team.  The relationship has grown while being able to provide exclusive Superior Foods items like Black Pearl Seafoods Scottish Salmon (as seen in their featured dish item). The goals of Joe and Superior align with customers like South Lyon because they are both trying to provide the best quality and consistent products at a reasonable price to their customers, while maintaining a trusting relationship. For South Lyon Hotel, this foundation has helped guide them through the turbulent times of the last six years and they have come out on top because of it.

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