If you were to roam the streets of East Lansing 100 years ago, virtually nothing would be as it is now. Countless corporate-owned restaurants and apartment buildings have taken over most of East Lansing. One exception: the Wild Goose Inn.
“If you stood in here back then you’d be right on Grand River,” owner and innkeeper Al Bay said. “We are the only carriage house still standing in East Lansing.”
Bay is a graduate of Michigan State, and saw the inn as an opportunity to give something to the city that it doesn’t have.
“I’ve lived in the downtown area for 45 years,” Bay said. “I still have so many friends and family here and I wanted to give them a destination to come back to.”
The Wild Goose Inn is East Lansing’s only bed and breakfast, and offers a variety of amenities.
“Our place is designed for romance,” Bay said. “We have a room for every season and are working on adding more.”
Bay said the downtown Marriott and Airbnbs don’t bother him.
“They can’t compete with this,” Bay said, pointing to the fireplace and naturally lit jacuzzi in the winter room. “Not to mention, our prices are better.”
Bay is joined daily at the inn by manager Paul Martin, a family friend.
“I’ve been here for 11 years now,” Martin said. “When I came to visit Al, he said the most recent manager had fallen down the stairs and he was in desperate need of help. I’ve been here ever since.”
The inn receives a lot of business from the university.
“When new teachers are brought in for interviews, the university has them stay here,” Bay said. “Odds are a lot of current professors’ first time in East Lansing was right here.”
Some of the residents at the inn are full-time, including Charles Ballard, a college friend of Bay’s who was making chili for dinner.
“I like to say I’m self-employed,” Ballard said. “I work for the Department of Homeland Security, and I need to be able to go on the road any time, any place. This is where I chose as my address.”
Ballard stressed the importance of feeling at home at the inn.
“I’ve got millions of Marriott points, I think I’m titanium or whatever they call it,” Ballard said. “I’ll never stay there again. This place feels like home to me, and when you’re constantly on the road like I am, you need somewhere that feels like home.”
Bay has seen a lot of change in East Lansing, but said he’s confident East Lansing will never lose track of its heart.
“Things may be different now, but what will ever go 40 years without change?” Bay said. “Campbell’s just opened up, there’s an amazing art gallery across the street and a new pizza place opening on Grand River. If I can help keep East Lansing grounded with this place, then my goal will have been achieved.”