The Grand America is Salt Lake City’s landmark hotel. As in, it is literally a landmark. Its grey-granite facade is visible from all over the valley. For 19 years, Bruce Fery has been running The Grand and also, since 2011, the Holding family’s portfolio of independently owned properties including Little Americas in Arizona, Wyoming and Utah; The Westgate Hotel in San Diego; and two iconic ski resorts, Sun Valley and Snowbasin.
Not bad for a kid who started working at his dad’s hotel in Idaho.
Fery grew up in Boise, where his father was in the timber business but also owned two modest hotels. As a young man, Fery started working at the properties. He comes by his passion for the hospitality business honestly. “I worked everything from housekeeping to the front desk and I loved being around the guests,” he says. “I fell in love with this work.”
Fery has only worked for three companies his entire career and all have been family-run businesses. He started with the Holding family (the owners of Sinclair Oil) in 2003 and says he’s never had the displeasure of working in the corporate world.
“Working for a family business is a unique situation,” he says. “We’re able to be nimble and quick. We enjoy a lot of autonomy. We use that freedom to focus on our guests.”
That ability to pivot quickly was essential over these last two years. “Who would have guessed that we’d experience a worldwide pandemic?” he asks. “It brought on challenges and hardship that were previously unimaginable for both our company and our employees.”
In the interest of public health, Fery had to shutter the two ski resorts at the height of winter and end the season early in what was at that point 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 end the season early,” he says. “I’m proud of our employees who had the courage and loyalty to help us quickly close down to safeguard our staff and guests. It was such a tough time.”
Then, like everyone, especially hoteliers they had to entirely reimagine business across the board. “We had to establish a new normal.”
To help employees who were either furloughed or on limited hours during the height of the lockdown, the company set up a foundation, called Serve, that has helped by doling out more than 400 grants to help with medical bills, rent and other needs. And through it all, he’s proud to say The Grand, the flagship, never shut its doors and also completed some major renovations. “Our approach was to create a safe environment and hold on for the day when people would be comfortable traveling again,” Fery says. And a funny thing happened; while business travelers dropped off for a while, the locals showed up.
“We started seeing this high rate of staycations,” he says. “Our guests weren’t coming on a plane, these were families who were working remotely with kids who were still in school, learning online who just wanted to come and get out of their own places. I’m still amazed.”
Locals (and non-hotel guests) can enjoy the spa and pool areas at The Grand America with the purchase of a $100 treatment or spa service. Find out more at The Grand Spa’s website. (P.S. Want to make the best out of your spa trip? Click here for some tips.)