Recipes of Success: Stafford Smith marks 40 years with cookbook

PETOSKEY – In the 40 years that Stafford and Janice Smith have been innkeepers at The Bay View Inn in Petoskey, they’ve collected a lot of recipes. About 10 years ago, the couple printed a pamphlet with some of the more oft-requested–like tomato pudding and bread pudding. “Maybe some day we’ll do a cookbook,” Stafford recalls saying to Janice.

On the anniversary of the couple’s 40th year as innkeepers of the resort, “40 Years of Recipes from The Bay View Inn” has come to fruition. Some 1,000 copies of the 4,000-book printing have already been sold through the Bay View Inn and Staffords’ other properties–The Perry Hotel in Petoskey, The Pier in Harbor Springs, The Weathervane in Charlevoix and One Water Street in Boyne City–as well as at Grandpa Shorter’s gift shop and Petoskey area booksellers, Horizon Books and McLean & Eakin.

Smith was just 22 when he bought the Inn from the previous owner, Dr. Roy Heath. When asked about his vision for the hotel at the time, he admits, “When you’re that young, you don’t have a whole lot of vision, but I liked the hotel. I’d worked there for four years, and I knew the customer base. I had confidence that we could operate it.”

Smith was right. Since then, he’s renovated and restored– for example, the Bay View Inn today has half its original 63 rooms to make way for private baths. And he’s acquired. Between 1970 and the mid-1980s, Smith purchased his three restaurants and, in 1989, The Perry Hotel.

Trends in tourism have changed in the past 40 years too, he notes. When he first took over, guests from Ohio and Indiana predominantly came to the Inn by rail and stayed at least two weeks.

“They made a pilgrimage the same time every summer, at the same time their friends did, and requested the same rooms.”

Today the average stay is 2.5 days, and guests travel around the area by car. The season is longer these days too, says Smith. “The fall season is gaining momentum each year. September is getting to be bigger than June, and October is a great month because of the colors,” he says.

In the past, it was only guests suffering from hay fever that stayed into October, waiting for the first frost back home before returning, he explains.

Smith credits his staff as the key ingredient of 40 good years. Of the approximately 260 year-round employees, nearly 100 have been with him for more than a decade. “We’re quite a family,” he says. “That’s our success right there.”

The cookbook can be purchased for $34.95 by calling the Inn at 800-258-1886. In typical Stafford’s fashion, there’s a nice touch: the book is bound so that it will lay flat when opened to your favorite recipe. BN