• Meet Barry Owens, Doing a 'Tree'-Mendous Job

    FROM THE Winter 2019 ISSUE

    Treetops GM appreciates the hospitality industry’s alwaysinteresting challenges.

It’s been nearly 35 years since Treetops Resort General Manager Barry Owens got his start in the resort industry. The father of three grown children began his career at Garland Resort and stayed there some 24 years before heading to the legendary 2,500-acre Treetops, home to five golf courses, downhill ski hills and more in Gaylord.

“This area is absolutely beautiful,” says Owens, who lives with his wife, Ursula, in Michigan’s bucolic Lewiston. “My work commute is about 23 miles and along the way, the scenery is magnificent.”

A graduate of Kalamazoo College with a degree in economics, Owens says he uses what he learned in school through the course of his job, which includes overseeing some 600 employees. In the past year, the resort’s guest rooms have undergone a $4.5 million renovation.

“The best part of my job is working with a team that relishes accomplishing projects and goals. Anyone who’s in the hospitality business likes to make people happy, whether it’s in wedding planning, meeting planning or setting up golf and skiing events and outings. All of us in this industry find great joy in the fact that we’re providing something very special to people.”

An additional bonus for Owens, who also is a member of the Michigan Travel Commission: He’s in a feel-good industry. “We’re fortunate because we’re surrounded by a good vibe. When guests show up here, they’re in a good mood. The only thing that might bring them down is they got lost or are late for a tee time,” he laughs.

It’s not always a bed of roses in the resort industry, as insiders know. “There’s been some staffing pressures,” he says. “But we’re not complaining— the economy in Michigan is good.” He explains that because Detroit is improving by the day, other regions may experience a downside to that, including staffing at specific levels.

He’s excited about the season’s Skiable Feast, Wilderness Sleigh Ride Dinner, Winter Fest, and Beer and Wine Festival. “I love the food and beverage world,” he enthuses. Not to mention that gorgeous scenery. “We’re located on an incredible piece of property, so sometimes I’ll just grab a sandwich and go out to the north property in the back and enjoy the view. It’s special.” Just like that commute, where “deer and turkeys are our only concern,” he laughs, “and the occasional elk. I can’t think of a time I’ve ever been in a traffic jam up here.”

MACVB Annual Educational Conference finally reaches the shores of Mackinac Island.

As I rode in the carriage from the Shepler’s Ferry terminal to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, my mind wandered to a scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” In said scene, King Arthur and his sidekick, Patsy, approach a castle while galloping and banging coconuts together. After a few moments passed and my mind wandered back to the tree-lined streets of the island, I realized it was the clippety-clop of the draft horses pulling our carriage that brought on my thoughts of Python.


First came COVID. Then came the tornado.

The northern Michigan community of Gaylord was just starting to rebound from the pandemic with its groups and events business as a new season was getting underway when a rare EF3 tornado with estimated wind speeds between 136 and 165 miles per hour struck May 20.

Two people were killed and at least 44 were injured, according to official reports at the time. West Michigan meteorologist Bill Steffen said it was the strongest tornado to strike in the U.S. that month. 


A conference or convention venue might be described by meeting planners as offering ease and convenience for multiple reasons. It may be because its address is easily accessible from numerous compass points. Or perhaps it’s the destination—with a variety of opportunities for activities and entertainment close-by. And of course, it could be that the venue itself offers a peaceful, easy setting with all the comforts you could want. 

Well, at Treetops Resort, it’s all of the above.