For Christine Bradbury, an event planner by trade, planning the perfect event is an obsession, but she’s got a pretty demanding client coming up.
Engaged to be married later this year, the 34-year-old Dayton native will come face-to-face with herself, as the bride-to-be.
“I know too much about wedding planning,” she said, laughing, “I’m going to be a nightmare.”
Enthusiasm, plus a little luck, has helped put Bradbury in her current position as general manager of the Oregon Garden Resort in Silverton. Her employer is counting on a lot of both in the coming year.
In September Moonstone Hotel Properties, owner of the resort and manager of The Oregon Garden, tapped Bradbury to replace Lynda Gill, who left to run another property after overseeing the launch of the resort.
The move came as a bit of a surprise to Bradbury, but one she felt prepared for. Since joining the staff in March 2008, Bradbury has done a little of everything at the resort, from tending bar to catering banquets and greeting guests at the front desk. She was also involved in the hotel’s opening, in October 2008. It was an intense flurry of activity and uncertainty, she recalls.
“We opened the door and it was just a madhouse,” she said. “We had no idea what to expect opening night.”
Now, Bradbury’s biggest challenge is to help the Cambria, Calif.-based company turn resort and adjacent garden into a profitable long-term venture. Since purchasing the resort property in 2006, and taking over management of the garden and its $8 million in debt, Moonstone has struggled to bring the venture into the black. Bradbury said much of the difficulty lies in the timing, launching a luxury vacation resort on the eve of the largest economic recession in modern memory.
“When the property was in the planning phases, it was a completely different world,” she said. “It was very difficult opening a hotel at that time, [when] the first thing people are going to cut out is going on vacation.”
But there has been progress, she said. During the summer the resort occasionally achieved 100 percent occupancy . “We’re definitely moving in the right direction for both of our properties to be self-sufficient.”
Moonstone owner Dirk Winter is committed to his long-term vision for the property, she says. The company’s other six boutique hotels along California’s central coast all exhibit the owner’s passion for horticulture and beautiful ornamental landscaping. Oregon Garden Resort is Moonstone’s largest location. Bradbury counts Winter’s son and daughter, who also work at Moonstone, as valuable resources.
The resort’s 106 employees, both full- and part-time, share the commitment, Bradbury said. “Everybody here just really wants to make this work,” she said. “We believe in the property.”
Bradbury discovered her love of event planning after graduating from Oregon State University in 1997.
A stint with a high-tech consulting company led her to Bridgeport Brewing in Portland, where she spent six years as assistant brand manager, managing corporate events and advertising before joining Moonstone.
It’s this background she brings to her role as general manager, as she seeks not only to run the hotel, but grow the brand.
“[I enjoy] using the skills I have in marketing, building strategic partnerships, building events to bring people here to the resort, because it’s important to us,” she said. “We want to keep the hotel full, that’s obviously what my job is, but we also want to create different events, and community events, that can help everybody feel very much a part of our property.”
Last year, the resort had a very busy summer, Bradbury said. It hosted multi-day events for the Oregon Groundwater Association and the Episcopal Diocese of Portland, among other groups. The Woodburn-based WellspringHeart also brought in week-long retreat programs.
However, planning successful events to appeal to the resort’s Silverton neighbors has been more elusive, Bradbury admits.
“I’m still trying to get a feel of what it is that will strike a chord with people, that will help people feel welcome here,” she said.
It is a balancing act, to appeal to both statewide and local tastes. Often what pleases one will put off the other.
Giving an example, Bradbury said the resort booked nightly music acts for the lounge. Conventioneers liked wandering in from the restaurant to enjoy a nightcap. But for Silverton residents trying to meet with friends, the music distracted from their conversations, she said.
It is more difficult for a hotel to draw regular customers from its community base. However, Bradbury says the resort continues to offer aggressively priced packages, such as discounted stays with complementary spa treatments or breakfast buffet, especially during the week.
She wants residents to view the resort as a “staycation” destination or a place to unwind during the week. The accommodations are designed to foster a friendly atmosphere.
Bradbury and her staff also have worked to supply the resort restaurant with local foods, and bring in local vendors such as Seven Brides Brewing Co.
For her part, Bradbury is involved with the Silverton Chamber of Commerce, and regularly meets with local business owners.
The resort has a valuable relationship with Silverton, she says, that is mutually beneficial to both and must be encouraged to grow. For Silverton, the resort offers a place to stay that will encourage more tourists to come see the town. Silverton business owners report seeing increased traffic through their doors since the resort opened, Bradbury said.
And the town is vital to the resort. Sending guests by Silver Trolley downtown to see the murals, shop the stores and meet the people is a large part of what the resort offers to its guests. “Without that, we’re kind of a one-trick pony,” she said.
The resort has enabled Bradbury to move down from Portland to be with her fiancé. For this fourth-generation Oregonian, reaching out to the town is more than business.
“I live here, in Silverton. I’m going to make this my home for a long time. My fiancé has two young boys … and this is where we’re going to be, where we’re choosing to build our life and our family.”