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  • Writer's pictureShannon Westblade

Interview with Voyage Michigan Magazine

View whole article here, or read below!

Hi Shannon, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories. My story really starts with my dad’s death. My father, Nick Haan, passed away unexpectedly in 2017. It sent my family into a whirlwind of emotions and logistics – with the most complicated piece of the puzzle the business he ran, Haan’s 1830 Inn Bed and Breakfast. My brother and I knew in our hearts the reality – my brother was not interested in the business, and for me, it was always my dream. The complicated part was that I now had to move my husband, my one-year-old son, and myself across the country (we were living in Montana at the time) to take over the family business. I knew how to run the bed and breakfast. I had grown up in the Inn every summer of my childhood and adolescence, and my career as an adult was in hospitality. But I had no experience running a business, so I had to learn a lot of that fast. Accounting, taxes, managing a staff, inventory, maintenance – I had to learn on the fly. I was lucky – Mackinac Island is a small community that really tries to care for its people, and everyone on the island that I had to learn from was great. No one treated me like the dumb kid I felt like, and they all had a lot of patience when I asked questions or needed help with something. The biggest blessing has been that community – truly the people of Mackinac Island are heroes in my world. It started out terrifying – but I’ve gained a lot of confidence, weirdly especially from the pandemic – I had to make big changes fast and was successful, so it taught me to trust my own instincts.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way? Ha, well I guess in some ways the road has been “smooth,” but there have definitely been bumps. The first day I arrived at the Inn after my dad passed away, I knew I had to step up and take over leadership, but that didn’t go over well with everyone on the staff. One of my dad’s innkeepers actually told a relative that evening that if “that little girl (referring to me) told [him] what to do one more time [he was] out the door.” That was big for me right away. For the next couple of years, I feared that I wouldn’t be taken seriously because I was a young (I was 28 at the time) woman. I struggled to feel confident and comfortable in my role. I still occasionally fear this – as a young woman owning and operating a business that is usually run by retirees, I am very aware of potential biases. And then Covid of course was huge – the hospitality industry was severely shaken and I had to figure out how to make the business work within the pandemic. We made a lot of changes that summer to stay open (and alive!) and like I mentioned before, I really learned to trust my instincts after that. It gave me a lot of confidence in myself. We had a successful season regardless of the pandemic – we were financially comfortable, none of my staff got sick, and my guests were well taken care of. Now I feel excited and more motivated to do big things, and every big decision I’ve made about the business has given me more confidence in my ability.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business? We are one of the few remaining Bed and Breakfasts on Mackinac Island that are family-owned and operated. I’m third-generation owner/innkeeper with my husband, Lucas, and my children are here with us too, we joke they are fourth-generation innkeepers. At Haan’s 1830 Inn we try to cultivate an authentic Mackinac Island experience. The home was built initially in 1830, with additions in 1847 and 1988, and we try to create the feeling of escape to a different time. My grandmother was an antique collector so most of the furnishings and decor are period – but we do this in a way that is comfortable and tasteful rather than “stuffy.” I love to encourage a Mackinac Island pace for our guests. Sit on the porch with a cup of tea and simply watch the carriages and bikers go by, without feeling pressured to “get it all in.” Linger at the breakfast table, lit with antique brass oil lanterns, and help yourself to another bite of something homemade, and discover something new in conversation with strangers. Forget your phone in your room and forget why televisions are so important and lose yourself while hiking in the woods, on trails that have been walked for hundreds of years. I could go into details on the specifics of what you see and get when you stay with us, but I think it’s more than just the physical space. It’s a feeling. I want you, my guest, to feel as though you’ve stepped into the pages of your own romance novel or Hallmark movie. I want you to feel the magic of Mackinac Island and it’s what I strive to bring to life in our business.

What was your favorite childhood memory? I loved Mackinac Island and the Inn when I was a kid, just as I love it now. I loved to sit in the dining room during breakfast and listen to guests from all over the world. I was a little adventurer – and loved to be out and about on the island, which is a safe place to just let kids roam. I hung out at the little horse barn down the street, explored the woods, went swimming in the lake. I loved to go out on my dad’s boat when I was a kid – he would take his friends out for little rides around the island after the sun had set, and there was something about lying on the boats’ bow and looking at the stars while the waves rocked us that has always been pure magic in my mind.

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