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MSU Today

“Inclusive exclusive” University Club celebrates traditions and makes memories

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Karen Grannemann is CEO and general manager of the University Club at Michigan State University. She joins Spartans Athletic Director Bill Beekman on this segment of MSU Today.

“It's really a very special place,” Grannemann tells Beekman. “It's a home away from home for many of our members, who often call us their ‘Cheers.’ We're a private club that offers services and programs for those who value quality experiences, personalized service, and a lovely atmosphere. It's interesting we can talk about what we are physically, which is a private restaurant, a banquet facility, a fitness center and a spa and a beautiful new outdoor pool and hot tub complex. But I always like to talk about what happens at the club because that's much more significant than the physical facility itself. We're a place where traditions occur and where generations of families have made memories together. We're a place where connections happen, both business and personal. And we have a staff that's passionate about delivering those quality experiences. People often tell us that we've got the best food in town, and we certainly agree with that.”

Grannemann explains how the pandemic is altering operations.

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Credit University Club of MSU
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Karen Grannemann

“The pandemic has robbed us of the opportunity to provide the traditions our members have come to cherish. If we can’t be open to provide these traditions to our members in person, we were going to deliver them to them anyway. We’re committed to that. We've been doing carry out meals, of course, like many restaurants have, but we've also been doing virtual wine tastings and craft and cocktails carry out. Our bake shop has gone into high gear to produce sweets for our members.

“And then we get into those holiday events like the gingerbread house workshops. We had seven workshops scheduled and they were all sold out when we were mandated to close a week or so ago. And so we went into high gear and converted all those reservations to kits and packed up all the candy and the icing and everything else and our members are picking them up and taking them home. We sent out over 500 Thanksgiving dinners out the door. We weren't able to do our Halloween party so we staged that as a whole series of small outdoor things like pumpkin carving and a costume parade and trick or treat event in the parking lot. A pet costume party. Just anything we could do to try to still deliver that experience, but under extenuating circumstances.”

Grannemann explains the reciprocal agreements the UClub has with over 500 clubs around the world, its relationship with the Forest Akers golf complex, and membership requirements.

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“We’re referred to as the inclusive exclusive club. We are a private club. Our services are only available to those who join, but there are no barriers to joining. The University Club was started in 1929; last year celebrated our 90th anniversary. It was started as a faculty club, thus, that's the origin of the University Club name. Over the years, we have evolved to be very focused on the community as well. We kind of have that town and gown environment where it's a wonderful mix of university administrators, professors, support staff, as well as everybody from the governor and mayor of Lansing to business people and professionals. Anybody who wants to enjoy the services and the experiences that we offer is welcome to apply for a membership.

“My favorite part as the general manager is the relationships that are built at the University Club and the wonderful people that belong there and engage in the activities together. I've seen families that start off just sitting next to each other on chairs at the pool become lifelong friends. It's kind of like those friendships you make through your kids' schools that just last forever. And that's what the club does. You grow up together and you celebrate life's milestones together. You share life's tragedies together. We send cards to our members when they're ill or when they've lost a loved one. It's a special place, that's all I can say. And that's my favorite part.”

MSU Today airs every Sunday morning at 9:00 on 105.1 FM, AM 870, and however you stream at home. Follow and subscribe from Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts.

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