Our series on the faces of “Working Leelanau”
By Norm Wheeler
“Knock, knock; Housekeeping!” That will be the mantra for the dedicated group cleaning and laundering their way through the busy summer season under the direction of Kristin Frodl, housekeeping supervisor for Leelanau Vacation Rentals (LVR) in Glen Arbor. Frodl is a Suttons Bay graduate from Lake Leelanau who used to knock around doing two or three jobs at a time.
“My family owns Maple Hill Builders, so we would do contractor cleans when they finished a building before the owners moved in,” Kristin said. Then she spent time working in management at Chemical Bank before getting this one big job in April 2018. “The first year I sort of flew by the seat of my pants,” she admitted, “but this year is definitely going easier because I know what everything looks like.”
Kristin directs a staff that includes five year-round employees, but becomes much larger this week with the addition of six full timers who join the three part-time J-1 international student workers who are already here. “The J-1 workers come on a student work visa for a certain allotted time,” Kristin explained. “Of the three already here, one works at Anderson’s Market and two work at Cherry Republic (CR), so this is their second job.”
The population of J-1 workers has been growing in Glen Arbor over the past few years as businesses struggle to find enough help for the super busy summer season. “Besides Anderson’s, CR, and LVR,” Kristin added, “Crystal River Outfitters is also hiring some J-1 folks. We really need and appreciate these people.”
Kristin’s crew must clean and maintain LVR’s approximately 150 properties. “Around half of our properties are at The Homestead. The other half of them are places around Glen Lake and Glen Arbor, but we also have rentals in Empire, on the way to Leland, in Leland, and two up in Northport. Right now many are two- or three-day renters, so we may have to turn over those spaces up to three times a week. The last week of June everything pretty much turns into weekly rentals, so then we will have to turn over 90-95% of our properties from Friday through Sunday.” Adding the 15 subcontractors who clean some of the weekly rentals, Kristin says, “Right around 30 people accomplish all of that work in three days, including the two women who work fulltime in our laundry facility. I would be nowhere without them.”
LVR set up their laundry facility about 15 years ago across from the Glen Lake Fire and Rescue building on State Street. When I stuck my head in there for a quick picture I found Shawna Llewellyn and Mary Sobbry busy washing and folding crisp white sheets. They were quick and efficient with their hands even as they remarked about the coming rush of business ahead and the pleasure they take in their job. The congenial atmosphere was clear as Kristin got the two to tell me some stories about their time cleaning rooms. “We find iPads, cell phones, car keys, food,” Mary explained. “I guess it’s up to the cleaner’s discretion if they want to keep the food. We’re happy when they leave us a bottle of wine or two,” she winked.
Shawna explained how found items are taken to the office where staff figure out who was staying in the room and how to contact them. “They usually realize what they’re missing and call by the end of the day they left,” she said. I ask if renters are good about tipping the housekeepers the way they do the wait staff and bartenders in the restaurants and taverns around town.
“It’s not a fixed thing to tip housekeeping,” Kristin said.
“It’s hit and miss, pretty sporadic. We are ready, and I’m more ready than last year knowing what lies ahead,” she added. “We’re set up for a busy summer with one of the best teams we can put together!” So although you may not see the people who are doing this important work, folks, remember to tip the housekeepers!