2015-04-11 / Top News

New Owners of Mission Point Resort

Wares Want To Be Good Stewards
By Stephanie Fortino


Mission Point Resort’s new owners Dennert O. and Suzanne Ware with their oldest daughter, Liz Ware, (left) Wednesday, April 1. The new business ventures on Mackinac Island are being done as a tribute to Mr. Ware’s mother, Marion Dennert Ware, who grew up in Hart. Becoming involved on Mackinac Island is like coming back to his roots, Mr. Ware told the Town Crier. Mission Point Resort’s new owners Dennert O. and Suzanne Ware with their oldest daughter, Liz Ware, (left) Wednesday, April 1. The new business ventures on Mackinac Island are being done as a tribute to Mr. Ware’s mother, Marion Dennert Ware, who grew up in Hart. Becoming involved on Mackinac Island is like coming back to his roots, Mr. Ware told the Town Crier. Investing in Mackinac Island is not just about embarking on a new business venture, but also about coming home for Dennert O. Ware of San Antonio, Texas. He and his wife, Suzanne, are the proud new owners of Mission Point Resort, having purchased the hotel from John and Jeanie Shufelt in December.

“We visited the Island long before and we knew the general history of the Island. And I think there’s a certain amount of allure, as you get older, to come back to your roots,” said Mr. Ware, who was born in Kalamazoo.


Several new updates are planned for this summer at Mission Point Resort, which came under new ownership in December 2014. Dennert O. and Suzanne Ware of San Antonio, Texas, purchased the 18-acre property, which is pictured from Lake Huron April 2. Several new updates are planned for this summer at Mission Point Resort, which came under new ownership in December 2014. Dennert O. and Suzanne Ware of San Antonio, Texas, purchased the 18-acre property, which is pictured from Lake Huron April 2. Together, the Wares also own Silver Birches, a property surrounded by state park land on the north side of the Island, and nearby Point Aux Pins, two other investments they’ve made since late 2012. Their daughter, Liz, is developing Silver Birches into a small resort. The two cottages at Point Aux Pins, at the half-way point around the island, is also undergoing restoration and will serve as their private residences, Mr. and Mrs. Ware living in one cabin and their daughter and her family living in another during the summer.

“This place is kind of magical,” Mr. Ware said, “and when you saw the possibilities of restoring that (Silver Birches), it was really exciting.”

“We certainly felt it was lovely out there and it needed to be preserved,” Mrs. Ware said of Silver Birches. “We’re from San Antonio, we do a lot with the community there, but we’re not really from there. And Denny, I think, wanted to feel that he could come home.”

The two see their involvement on Mackinac Island as a tribute to Mr. Ware’s mother, Marion Dennert Ware, who grew up in Hart in northern lower Michigan.

When talking about his mother, Mr. and Mrs. Ware started chuckling. Mrs. Ware explained, “We’re laughing because the only pocket of Dennerts we’ve ever run across is in Hart, Michigan, and there’s tons of them.”

From his birth in Kalamazoo, Mr. Ware and his family moved to the East Coast for a time and lived in Pennsylvania. Eventually, the family returned to Indiana and he attended high school in Indianapolis, where he met his soon-to-be wife. Mrs. Ware is originally from Indianapolis. An old, used Latin schoolbook brought the two together, as Mr. Ware purchased Mrs. Ware’s old textbook that included her translations written on the pages.

“It got me through second year Latin,” Mr. Ware said, “and I thought, ‘I’ve got to meet this girl!’”

The two started dating shortly thereafter, “and with a few brief pauses, we’ve been going together ever since,” Mr. Ware said.

Last year, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and when you meet them, you can tell they’ve been together a long time. They finish each other’s sentences, lovingly boast about the other when the other is being modest, and if you’re lucky enough, they’ll share stories of special family vacations.

Mr. Ware was graduated from Purdue University with a degree in chemical engineering. During the Vietnam War, he worked in the aircraft industry, and then transitioned to the medical industry. For many years, he worked for DePuy Medical Devices, an Indiana-based orthopedic company, and eventually started working in diagnostics.

For four years, Mr. Ware worked in Europe, expanding the medical devices company. There, they lived and traveled to many places, including Bavaria, France, Italy, and Holland. It was in Europe that Mrs. Ware found a renewed passion for bicycling, and rode about 2,000 miles in a year. She’s been able to rekindle that pastime on Mackinac Island.

“Here it was, 20 years later,” Mr. Ware said, “and Liz said, ‘Well, you have to have a bike.’ And (Mrs. Ware) got that funny shaped blue bike, and it’s just like she was born on it.”

Mrs. Ware adores riding her bicycle on Mackinac Island, and still can ride four round trips from Silver Birches to downtown in one day.

After moving back to the United States from Europe, Mr. Ware headed the medical devices company in North America. In 2006, they moved to Texas, where Mr. Ware ran another small device company that he helped grow to what he calls a “mid-sized company” over the next seven years. He continues to serve on medical device company boards and works with nonprofit organizations.

Among his other accomplishments and interests, Mr. Ware was heavily involved in the Boy Scouts of America and even served as president of the Alamo Area Council in San Antonio.

“He can start a pretty mean fire,” Mrs. Ware quipped, and he knows much about knots.

Fine arts and education are also hugely important to the Wares. Mackinac Island “Sort of brings it all together,” Mr. Ware said.

In addition to his other ventures, Mr. Ware served as the chairman of the San Antonio Symphony and currently serves as the vice chairman of the Bexar County Performing Arts Center Foundation Board of Directors. Last year he received the Distinguished Humanitarian Award from the San Antonio Academy.

In preparation for the upcoming tourist season, the Wares recently spent about a week on the Island, getting to know the ins and outs of the hotel business. General Manager Bradley Mc- Callum will run the day-to-day operations at Mission Point Resort, they said, and he has been helpful providing an education in the hospitality industry.

After a busy day of meetings on the Island, Wednesday, April 1, Mr. Ware reflected on this new venture.

“Bradley runs the hotel, and for that I am immensely grateful,” he said. “I am fully retired at home, but I have a very busy schedule now. I have a certain attraction for it. I’m not sure what the motivation is to own it, but we do. And I’m taking it very seriously, and I want to do a very responsible job of maintaining it, strengthening it, and making sure that we provide an excellent experience for visitors who come to the Island and stay here.”

“We may be new to it, but he’s learning fast about the hotel business,” Mrs. Ware said of her husband. “Bradley will run it, and Liz will run Silver Birches, and we will come and stay in the Wolf Cottage (at Point Aux Pins) once in a while, once it’s done, and ride our bicycles around the Island.”

Investing in three properties on the Island was not something Mr. and Mrs. Ware planned, but grew out of somewhat serendipitous opportunities.

“None of us ever planned to buy any of it,” said Mrs. Ware. “Silver Birches just happened. Then Point Aux Pins just happened. Mission Point just happened.”

Mr. Ware agreed, adding of Mission Point Resort, “It took a little time to get it done, but it was not part of my game plan.”

Mission Point Resort attracts a variety of guests from different socioeconomic statuses, cultures, and backgrounds, Mr. Ware observed.

“Our intention is to provide a hotel that meets a broad spectrum of needs, and we’d like to do it in a very nice way.”

Some improvements now going on at the resort include updating some rooms and bathrooms.

Several changes are also being implemented at the hotel’s restaurants and bars. The hotel has contracted with local Michigan microbreweries to create unique beers that will only be offered at Mission Point Resort. And the restaurants will feature whitefish caught near the Island in Lake Huron, as they have also recently partnered with a St. Ignace fish company.

Other changes will be visible on the grounds this summer. Mission Point Resort has hired a new horticulturist, John VanEtten, who will live and work there, overseeing the resort’s 18 acres of property. Mr. VanEtten has many new things planned, including a cocktail garden that will supply herbs for cocktails unique to the resort’s restaurants.

Mrs. Ware, in particular, is excited about the gardening opportunities at Mackinac Island, and she spent the entire morning April 1 talking over plans with Mr. VanEtten. Although modest about her gardening proficiency, Mrs. Ware is a Master Gardener in three states.

“We bonded,” Mrs. Ware said, simply, of her time with Mr. VanEtten.

Some of her future plans for upcoming activities include touring more of the Island’s gardens.

“I’m just so overwhelmed by the beauty of it,” Mrs. Ware said of the flowers on Mackinac Island. “And I find it so fascinating because the winters are so terrible, and yet the flowers here are so exquisite.”

The Wares are also fascinated by Mission Point Resort’s varied history as part of the Mission District neighborhood. The resort once served as the home base of the Moral Rearmament (MRA) movement and even housed the short-lived Mackinac College.

Mr. Ware said the resort is “an important part of the Island’s modern history, and we’d like to preserve that.”

“Interesting,” has become one of Mrs. Ware’s most frequently used terms since spending more time on Mackinac Island. She is enamored with history and is endlessly fascinated by the new things she’s learning on Mackinac Island. From the long history of the Boy Scouts of America service camp at Fort Mackinac to the Victorian summer cottages and the long history of the Native American people, she says she loves it all.

“It really is a very unique place in America,” she said.

Suzanne Ware is also interested in preserving and restoring historic structures, which likely has its roots in the old farmhouse the family purchased and restored in Warsaw, Indiana. A Civil War veteran constructed the Italianate farmhouse between 1867 and 1869, using bricks he made onsite. The house was 113 years old when the Wares bought it. It had only a few lights and electrical outlets and its heating system was limited.

“We’ve always lived in older homes that have been kind of the residential equivalent of Silver Birches, that have needed a lot of love and care,” Mrs. Ware said.

In the 1980s, using an inheritance, Mrs. Ware purchased and restored about a dozen small houses in the Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis. She has a long history of volunteering on historical boards and societies, including about 20 years serving on the Indiana State Library and Historical Board.

“As a family,” she said, “we’re very interested in historical preservation,” and that includes their daughter, Liz.

“My daughter inherited my really awful ways,” Suzanne Ware said, thinking of when Liz first saw Silver Birches. “I remember when she called. She said, ‘Oh mother, you won’t believe it. It is so beautiful. It is so beautiful.’ And I have to say that when I first came out here and saw it, I really cried. It really is beautiful.”

“Well, it will be again,” she continued. “It will be strong. It was beautiful, but not too strong.”

Now that they’ve made significant investments in Mackinac Island, the Wares want to become responsible members of the community, helping to restore and create iconic hotel experiences that help draw more tourists and more attention to the entire Island.

When speaking about Mackinac Island’s role in Michigan’s promotional tourism efforts, Mr. Ware said, “This is sort of the cornerstone; this is the jewel in their crown. And to be able to participate in enhancing that jewel, that’s kind of a fun thing to do.”

“We’re very happy to be here,” Mrs. Ware said of Mackinac Island. “We consider ourselves very lucky. It’s a brand new, exciting adventure, and we’ll try to be good citizens. We’ll try to do good things.”

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I'm very excited to see what

I'm very excited to see what the Ware's will do for my favorite place on earth. The craft beer enterprise is also interesting to me as my husband and I had hopes of operating a micro-brewery/meadery on the Island in the next 5 years. We're hoping to make a trip to the Island in mid-summer if time permits and have already booked our annual stay for this fall.
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