Written by Audrey Sochor
No longer a hidden gem of the Thumb Coast, Port Huron faces a resurgence with outside developers arriving to its shores in force. Chuck Reid, the Grand Rapids-based owner behind Sperry’s Moviehouse and CityFlatsHotel, may operate from the west side of the state, but his boots on the ground are heavily made up of local talent like the sunny personality of Rylie Joachim.
Having graduated from Grand Valley State University with a hospitality degree, Joachim herself has ties to the west side. While many of her college friends stayed there, it was important to the St. Clair native to use her education to help her hometown.
“I’m a local girl so Port Huron as always been like a second home to me,” Joachim said. “I’m super excited that even though I did get my education on the west side of the state, it’s really important for me to come home and get back to the community, and be integrated within the community.”
She has done so in her dual roles as both the theater manager at Sperry’s and as the general manager for the incoming CityFlats.
With construction ramping up on the hotel, much of her time is devoted to that project. Joachim said they hope to have CitySide, the back side of the hotel featuring a café, bar and outdoor grill, open to the public within the next 30 to 60 days. Weekends, the local home goods and gourmet food retailer, is also making the move into the CityFlats building this June.
“Transitioning into 2019 we will be opening up the CityFlatsHotel, which will include the thirty-six boutique rooms and also the grand ballroom that’s inside there,” she said.
Both Sperry’s and CityFlats are two of the bigger investments being made in Port Huron, thanks to Reid. Sperry’s was a $10 million plus project and Scott Beedon, general manager at Sperry’s and Reid’s liaison for the CityFlats project, said although they aren’t ready to disclose the total investment, the hotel will be “well north” of what Sperry’s cost.
On a project of that scale (which will eventually employ more than 100 people), many are surprised to learn it’s led by a 26 year old general manager. A self-described old soul, Joachim also thinks her younger age gives her an advantage.
“I’m not afraid to take chances and follow some of the trends,” she said. “I think we need something fun in downtown Port Huron, so we’re incorporating that into the back portion of CitySide and also CityFlats with the modern slash historic. I think it’s a really great combination of both.
“Coming from really young staff at Sperry’s and experiencing that, I think we can really grow from it with the hotel as well,” she added.
The investment is already starting to pay off. The hotel is now accepting bookings for 2019 and Joachim said they have one conference coming to town. Not only will the conference be using the grand ballroom, but attendees will be staying at the hotel within a walkable community, which is what the event organizers wanted.
“So that means they can give business to all other surrounding local businesses, which I’m a huge advocate of,” Joachim said. “I think we are a destination, if we want to make ourselves a destination. I think we have a lot to give in Port Huron.”
While the walkable community and the pristine waters surrounding it draw in visitors, it may also have something to do with who the out-of-towners are dealing with.
“Rylie is a great asset,” Beedon said. “She is a great multitasker and loves to help everyone from our guests to our staff. She has such a strong work ethic you can’t help but be motivated and excited to work with her.”
Having been with Sperry’s Moviehouse since it opened in December of 2016, Joachim is slowly transitioning out of her role there and focusing more on the hotel side of things, which Beedon said was always the goal.
“We hired her at Sperry’s with the idea that she would make a move when the hotel came online,” he said. “This also allowed us a chance to see how she would perform, along with her having a chance to see if she liked our ownership style. Seems to be working well for all of us so far.”
Although her time at Sperry’s will soon be at an end, Joachim learned many valuable skills as the theater manager that will translate to her role as a hotel general manager. It is there she learned how to run a staff, coordinate with booking agents and organize events.
“This has been really, really fun,” Joachim said. “I’ve gotten to know more of the food and beverage world, more of managing a large staff. I never thought I’d be in the movie business but it’s been super fun.”
Sperry’s also has a movie or a genre for every type of personality, so the more than 2,000 people who stop by every weekend to catch a show or grab a bite to eat run the gamut.
“It is fun to see the different demographic and age groups come through. My favorite thing is getting to know everyone,” she added.
Between the two roles Joachim easily exceeds 40 hours a week, and while she tries not to take work home with her she readily admits she spends quite a bit of time on her laptop. Still, she said, it’s a great company to work for because they realize everyone needs a good work/life balance.
“Right now I’m trying to take advantage of those weekends because I know my social life will be drained a little bit, but it’s an awesome challenge and an awesome career change for me,” she said. “I’m excited to just put in the time to amplify my career.”
She also wants to get more involved in the community, so she recently joined the Blue Water Young Professionals because she said they are always involved in great things downtown.
When she’s not busy with work, Joachim loves being on the water, whether it’s spending time on the family boat or paddle boarding. Bike riding is another of her escapes, but her biggest priority is spending time with her family and three dogs: Bruce the English bulldog, Bentley the pug and her “nephew” French bulldog, King.
All three have dominant personalities. “Our house is run by dogs and I’m OK with that,” she said with a laugh. “They can rule the roost.”