For only the fourth time in the 115-year history of Cartier Mansion, the yellow, Italian-brick, neoclassical-style structure located at 409 E. Ludington Ave., there is a new owner.
Chris and Jenna Simpler recently purchased the historic building from Gary and Sue Ann Schnitker who are retiring from the hospitality business.
For the Simplers, it is a homecoming of sorts as Jenna was born and raised in Laingsburg, which is located in the central part of the state.
The Simplers have extensive experience in the hospitality business spending the last five years opening and operating historic properties for a hospitality company in the Poconos.
“One of our passions was to have our own property one day,” Jenna said.
“We had a pretty detailed wish list of what we were looking for in a property,” Chris said.
The couple worked the wish list for about six years, and the Cartier Mansion hit all of the marks. The list included being within minutes of a downtown where guests can walk to shopping, restaurants and the beach and being within a few hours of major metropolitan areas, according to Chris.
“I think COVID-19 put things into more of a perspective for both of us,” he said. “This gorgeous property came on the market and caught our attention. It was an opportunity to come back to Michigan and be close to family and friends.”
Jenna said from the moment they arrived, it has felt like home.
“We are honored to be part of such an important piece of Ludington history and excited to take this property into the next level,” Jenna said.
Although the Simplers will continue to run Cartier Mansion as a bed and breakfast, there will be some changes coming. One includes having it open year-round, according to Chris.
“You need to be flexible and creative and smart with promotions. There’s plenty to enjoy in the winter if you look for it,” Chris said. “We are also looking options with the carriage house and some of the rooms and spaces inside the building.”
All of those details will be forthcoming in the spring, according to the Simplers.
The couple said they want to tackle the discerning tourist market. They think there is a space in Ludington for people looking for a great place to stay and they want Cartier Mansion to be one of those places.
“Some of the modern conveniences that have been upgraded include blazin- fast high speed internet,” Chris said. “It is what travelers have come to expect. Commercial grade internet with smart TVs in every room.”
Every room has individual heating and air conditioning. That is something that the Schnitkers put in and had the foresight to see for their travelers’ comfort, according to Chris.
“We believe that the experiences with COVID has turned on tens of thousands of people from Green Bay, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit Indianapolis, Columbus to Cleveland who are now going to come back year after year,” Chris said. “Ironically, while COVID has had an adverse impact on many industries, including hospitality and restaurants in some ways it has re-opened our communities to people who have rediscovered Ludington we are looking forward to next 10 years and more to being twice as busy as before.”
The couple plan to maintain all of the standards and more that have been set before them by Gary and Sue Ann Schnitker, who owned the mansion since 2005.
Chris and Jenna are very passionate about this industry and getting involved in the community.
“It very important to us to be able to give back,” Jenna said. “We’re really looking forward to serving on boards and getting involved wherever we can. The people of Ludington have made us feel at home from day one and giving back is just how we are wired.”
“We have always been heavily involved in community organizations, boards of directors and church,” Chris said. “We believe you have to give back to the community in order for it to be successful.
“This is a magical place for sure,” Chris said.